If you’ve ever taught something to another person, you know that teaching is a great way to solidify and extend your own knowledge. Mentoring is one model of teaching. Usually it is on-on-one. Typically it is focused on one aspect of work or business. Traditionally it is an older-to-younger relationship. But two other models are particularly useful in today’s work landscape:
- peer mentoring
Co-mentoring involves a pairing wherein each person sets out to learn from the other. A stereotypical co-mentor setup might involve a younger/just-out-of-school partner who brings knowledge of technology and an older/experienced partner who explains how systems actually work in practice (rather than theory). This might be how you do cross-training.
Peer mentoring might have the same “I’ll teach you about X if you teach me about Y” setup as co-mentoring, but the partners have a more equal-in-influence-or-experience status. If more people are involved, this might take on a mastermind or study group structure.
To find a mentor or mentee, you can search among the people you know, or contact your professional association (or school) to help match you up. Mentorship often forms organically: you find a helpful, knowledgeable person who you look up to and they keep answering your questions. It tends not to be structured and to let the mentee (or apprentice) lead the direction. Coaching, on the other hand, is more structured and the “mentor” plays a stronger role in directing development of the “apprentice.”
How long mentoring takes depends on the goal of the relationship as well as the needs and availability of both the mentor and apprentice. In the workplace, a mentor typically reviews the apprentice’s work and helps them navigate the workflow and workplace dynamics. It might involve a few email exchanges, regular “coffee break” discussions, or a flow from “supervisor” to career-long touchstone.
You might look for a mentor for a particular goal: business development, moving into a new market (subject, location, or product type), or developing new skills.
Have you had a mentor? Have you been a mentor? Most editors still learn the trade on the job rather than through a school program. Mentoring his how we’ve become editors. It’s how I learned the job, and I still check in with my first mentor from time to time, even though she has retired. I hope you’ll tell us about your experiences and share your advice. Log in to leave a comment, or join us over on Facebook or Twitter.
Check the other posts in this series on professional development opportunities for mid-career and senior editors.