Imagine trying to navigate a rocky path in the dark, with no map. That’s how many people feel embarking on new careers. Many turn back, or don’t go as far as they could. That’s where mentoring can help. A mentor ‘s role in the workplace extends beyond teaching skills – a mentor can be a guide along a career journey. While mentors might not be able to smooth the path entirely, they can help with overcoming obstacles, preparing for twists and turns, and providing a ‘heads up’ for what may be looming in the distance.
The surprising origin of mentoring
The concept of the mentor can be traced back to ancient Greece, to the Homeric epic poem The Odyssey. Before Odysseus, King of Ithaca, heads off to battle, he entrusts the education of his son Telemachus to his old friend, Mentor. The popular perception holds that Mentor was the model guardian, offering supportive counsel. But if you read the text, you’ll notice that not only does Mentor slack off on his duties, he presides over mayhem and chaos. With no one else to turn to, Telemachus trusts him. The goddess of wisdom, Athena, can’t bear to see Telemachus led astray, so she shape-shifts into the guise of Mentor and offers sage advice. It’s Athena’s intervention that gives meaning to our modern understanding of mentoring.
Why mentoring is crucial to career success
Mentors today need not be shape shifters, but it helps if they can be perception shifters. For example, a recent study on Women in the Workplace by Lean In and McKinsey & Company found that 1 in 3 women have considered changing or leaving their jobs in the past year, and 42% of women feel burned out. While the reasons for this dissatisfaction are various and complex, a common thread is the perception of being ‘stuck’ and undervalued. A mentor can provide not only frequent feedback and recognition but can help people avoid the pitfall of feeling ‘stuck’ by offering guidance on how to advance in the company.
Having a mentor can also assist with achieving goals. The mentoring relationship could provide support for consistent goal achievement, leading to higher performance and advancement throughout the organization. Achieving goals could help staff accelerate their ascent up the corporate ladder and increase employee retention.
Big picture benefits of mentoring programs
Mentoring isn’t just about boosting careers, and it’s not just the women who are mentored that benefit, according to a recent study by DDI. Businesses reap the benefits of mentoring programs due to increased productivity and reduced turnover, as well as knowledge and skills transfer within the organization. Participating in mentoring programs helps both the mentor and mentee build core leadership skills such as working through problems, negotiation, and interpersonal skills which strengthen the entire organization.
Mentoring at MSLLC & PCS
Management Solutions and Project Controls Solutions strongly believe in the value of mentoring and have implemented a formal mentoring program. This program provides employees with three mentors: the supervisor, a ‘cultural’ guide who has been with the organization a long time, and a ‘peer’ guide who is in the same department in a similar role. Having a mentoring team not only provides feedback and validation to the employee, but also helps employees maneuver around any perceived ‘roadblocks’ and clear a path toward success.