It's National Mentoring Month and a great chance for us to talk about our Mentoring Program at Net Friends. Professional development is a valuable opportunity for businesses to support their employees towards career growth, and even anticipate customer needs and expectations. The guidance and resources that an organization invests in their workforce can directly advance the operational maturity of the business and improve their effectiveness in serving customers. Investing in professional development through mentorship is a powerful strategy that can strengthen the competitive advantage of the business.
When new hires begin their Net Friends journey, they are introduced to a lot of new faces across multiple departments. They are also establishing themselves on a new team and in a new role, while getting the hang of core business tools. The best way to build confidence early in this experience is to have a mentor that serves as a sounding board you can regularly turn back to with questions and reflections.
The Role of the Mentor
Workplace mentorships play a key role in increasing the success rate of new hires during their initial onboarding period. The ideal mentor is a non-manager, who is also not a direct team member. By having a degree of separation, they can add real depth to a new employee’s experience. Mentors can be viewed as a business buddy, thought partner, peer advocate, credible workplace guide, and career cheerleader.
A mentor fills in knowledge gaps with institutional insights, company and customer history, productivity tips, and recommendations that make adopting new business tools and technologies more seamless.
A mentor helps you workshop ideas and raise issues without the concern that a performance review is on the horizon. They guide you towards articulating strengths and identifying opportunities for improvement. A manager, by contrast, sets expectations, oversees tasks and procedures, and generally deals with work output. Both the manager and mentor will invite the mentee to express how they are feeling about their role and how they’re perceiving their tasks. However, the mentee is more likely to feel comfortable expressing a wider range of perceptions to their mentor than they would to their manager.
From a mental health perspective, it’s important to be able to process and work things out with someone who isn’t going to conduct your performance reviews.
With remote work, a mentor is even more critical to helping new hires forge strong bonds across departments and discover a sense of place at work. They model the company’s core values and encourage new staff to pursue collaboration with peers. Mentors can also help mentees gain greater visibility and translate the value of their successes up the management chain. A good mentor can and should advocate for their mentee whenever an opportunity arises.
The First 30 Days of Mentorship
Following the initial onboarding program, a new mentorship engagement should prioritize:
- Introductions: Start by establishing the “why” behind the match up. This way, the mentorship pair can identify any complementary career histories and can acknowledge any common ground from which they’ll build rapport. When pairing mentors and mentees from across departments, you also gain an even more dynamic arrangement that reinforces cross-team collaboration.
- Expectations: The mentor should prompt and guide their partnership towards naming expectations and identifying specific growth areas the mentee is interested in focusing on in their first 90 days.
- Established Check-Ins: Regularly scheduled weekly or bi-weekly mentorship meetings will help with tracking the mentee’s progress and establishing consistency for reflection. The mentor will have numerous opportunities to observe and help identify roadblocks the mentee is facing to guide them back on track.
Career Advice from Net Friends Mentors & Mentees
We asked staff in our mentorship program to share insights they’ve gained in their IT career that have been pivotal to their success. Here’s what they expressed:
“Play the long game. You aren't going to win them all, and that's OK. But if you stay in the game long enough and align yourself with the best in the business, people will get the idea that 'hey, this guy is here to stay.'”
– Bob Casey, Mentor
“Some of the best advice I've received so far is to always stay curious. Exploring new and unfamiliar topics, tools, and technologies, paying close attention, and asking good questions are all key on the road to becoming a more knowledgeable and skilled technician.”
– Robert Edens, Mentee
“One piece of advice that I have been given time and time again, is to never be afraid to ask questions. Asking questions to better understand a process or how to do something can impact professional growth in a positive manner as you learn to take on new tasks and responsibilities. In IT, where so much is changing all the time, being able to ask questions can be a key to success.“
– Emily Orlick, Mentee and Mentor
“When you fail at trying something, you learn what not to do the next time. It’s only when you don’t try at all that you never succeed in accomplishing your goal.”
– Jerome Henley, Mentor
“Bob explained and modeled that listening carefully to a customer’s primary concern is imperative to providing a good resolution. It also allows you to properly help resolve their IT issues in a meaningful way.”
– Jamal Chow, Mentee
“Whether you’re in IT, Healthcare, Government, or Retail, nothing shows you’re ready to step up to the plate better than actively listening to the pain points of a client. Always being understanding of the person on the other side of the phone call/ticket/email and genuinely wanting to resolve their issue, no matter the scope, will set you apart as a tech, and help your organization shine in a great light.”
– James Lopez-Stone, Mentor
“One thing that both Patrick and John mentioned regarding pursuing certifications at Net Friends is ‘Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is simple a part of learning.’ Whenever I start a new job, fear of failure creeps up in the beginning, so hearing that put me at ease and helped me focus even more on my tasks, as opposed to worrying about failing.”
– Ryan Bond, Mentee
“About 4 years ago, John kindly pulled me aside and let me know that I apologize too much. Once that was called to my attention, I realized it was all over the place, especially in written communication. It was a crutch as much as anything and it put me at a disadvantage when communicating with peers and clients. I’ve since tried to excise apologetic language from my communication, except in the rare cases where an apology is warranted.”
– Will Roberts, Mentor
“Any time I reflect on my career, I always take into consideration the nature of this job and what it takes to succeed. I am 110% certain that the pursuit of knowledge and the willingness to learn past your comfort zone will ensure that you have a long and prosperous career in IT.”
– James Lopez-Stone, Mentor