For Whom Will the Mentoring Be Provided?
© 2001, Barry Sweeny

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Unfortunately, the term "mentoring" has almost lost its meaning. This has happened because the term has been applied to so many situations. The result of this may be that your organization applies the term mentor to every form of support, regardless of how intensive it is or what is expected from the mentoring. That approach is not the best practice.

There are two ways to consider the implications of this question:

In other words, how we decide the answer to the question "For Whom Will the Mentoring Be Provided?" is based on a number of factors:

These all must be considered when determining what level of support to provide and who should provide it. Let's consider each of these factors one at a time.

The Prior Experience Level of the Protégé

Young Beginning Employees?

Career Change Beginning Employees?

New But With Prior Related Job Experience?

> Little or no prior paid professional experience

> Little life experience

> Generally open to learning

> Generation X or Y? More open to learning from peers than the more experienced staff.

If so, use facilitated, structured peer support group strategies with training, 2nd year employee panels at orientation, etc. to use the peer influence as a good influence.

> Adequate orientation and the assignment of a mentor will be critical.
> No prior experience in this job?

> Prior training for this job?

> May have considerable applicable content knowledge

> Considerable life experience

> May be unprepared for challenges

> May feel they have to prove themselves and so may not be as open to help

> Adequate orientation and the assignment of an experienced mentor will be critical.
> If recent prior experienced, the protégé may need little assistance.

If so, consider just orientation to the organization and assignment of a guide.

> If no recent experience, protégé may be unprepared for what's expected today, and may be unaware of own need for support and growth.

If so, provide orientation and assign an experienced mentor to provide support.

Some Further Thoughts

Besides considering the protégé's differing levels of prior experience, the level of support provided, the goals for mentoring, and the extent of the need for support of the protégé should all be considered.

Therefore, one of the options to be considered for this question is an opportunity presented by use of two levels of mentoring. Such an arrangement might use a "Buddy" or a "Guide" and a "Mentor", each with a different level of responsibilities, training and expectations. In such a dual role system, the Guide assumes less challenging, orientation responsibilities, while the Mentor assumes both the orientation and the more intensive and challenging roles of facilitating the protégé's professional growth.

Some examples may help clarify this issue.

Protégé's Prior Job Experience

Protégé's Time in Your Organization

Goal(s) of the Mentor Program

Title of Support Provider

When a protégé has recent prior experience in the job... ...but is new to your organization... ...and the goal of the mentoring program is only the orientation and initial support of the protégé... ... it is better to call that support person a "Guide", and to reserve use of the term "Mentor" for a more challenging, professional development kind of role.
When a protégé has little or no recent prior experience in the job... ... and is new to your organization... ...and the goals of the mentoring program include both orientation and initial support, as well as the professional development of the protégé... ... the support person should be described as a "Mentor".
When a protégé has little or no recent prior experience in the job for which they are being prepared... ... is a current employee in your organization... ...and the goal of the mentoring program is the professional development of the protégé... ...the support person should be described as a "Mentor".

Not only does the dual role approach allow matching mentor or guide expectations to the needs of the protégé, the dual roles pay added benefits when it comes to selection and matching of the mentor and protégé. This is especially true when the ideal mentor cannot be found and an ideal match cannot be made. In that case, both a local guide for orientation and a mentor with the job experience (but who may be at a remote site) can provide the team mentoring support needed for protégé success.

Finally, if incentives and/or stipends are paid for the role of mentor, and every protégé, regardless of prior experience, receives mentoring, there can be issues raised concerning equitable pay. Splitting levels of support to the dual guide and mentor roles and providing differing levels of stipends or incentives for different responsibilities can help you avoid such potential problems.

You have my permission to duplicate this information as long as you:

1. Keep the author and copyright info, graphic header, and source info on the page
2. Do not sell it or provide it as a part of paid professional services.

© 2004, by Barry Sweeny, Best Practice Resources, 26 W 413 Grand Ave. Wheaton, IL 60187

630-668-2605, Cell 630-842-2991, email and web site at <>.