I began my career as a project management assistant in consulting. Working from a site cabin on a big construction site was my first assignment. The guidance I got while learning a technically dominated craft was invaluable. It meant having someone to explain what was going on in meetings, lead me through important procedures, and bounce ideas off of. We’ve all felt like an impostor at some time in our life; having a mentor may help you overcome those thoughts through cultivating empowerment.
It’s no surprise that informal mentoring was identified as the most significant technique for educating and certifying personnel in a study conducted by Association for Project Management, with some organisations even allocating budget for mentoring.
However, because not every company has a mentorship programme, I would advise anybody, regardless of their professional stage, to be proactive and form mentoring connections with individuals from whom you want to learn. This applies to mentors and mentees alike.
There is a prevalent belief that mentoring should take place within a company or that working with an external mentor will put you in competition. This is completely incorrect.
Both internal and external mentors and mentees have their time and place, depending on your objectives. I’d want to use this opportunity to discuss the advantages of each, as well as how you might combine the two.
Indirect mentorship is also quite powerful. Those we may not have the opportunity to meet can teach and guide us. Find your mentors, follow their careers, communicate with them where you can, and absorb inspiration as needed.
Having a mentor in the same organisation as me when I started working as an assistant project manager in real estate meant I had someone in-person who could communicate what was going on in real-time. Having someone who understands the organisation’s internal procedures and culture is crucial at the outset of a career.
Internally, you may try to have that conversation with a more senior member of your team first. Working with colleagues on other teams, on the other hand, allows you to be exposed to and learn from other difficulties. Mentorship with coworkers may help you be more present in your organisation in addition to being a type of induction.
With present coworkers, indirect mentorship, in which you observe those close to you without necessarily engaging in a dialogue, works particularly well. While it may be highly successful with external individuals, such as on LinkedIn, having an established awareness of the context and business culture can help you a lot in your own firm.
There are also significant benefits to approaching employees outside your organisation, which is now easier than ever thanks to the rising acceptance of remote working and supporting technologies.
Importantly, you are free to discuss any difficulties with your mentor as long as they are within the terms of your relationship. An external mentor can provide neutral counsel and insight if you’re having problems with coworkers or just don’t feel comfortable talking about certain things internally for any reason.
Furthermore, seeing is believing, as the saying goes. Minorities in an industry need to see people who look like them in action. You may need to search elsewhere to locate people who are similar to you, whether in terms of gender or other factors such as diversity of mindsets.
I frequently found myself wanting to do things differently from my managers during my career. Without mentorship, I would not have earned the courage to present these ideas, thus depriving the projects I was working on of the unique perspective I intended to offer to them.
Finally, there will be challenges in your profession, career, or growth that will require a specific lens through which to view them. This may need a completely new perspective or one that is more akin to your own; in either case, it may necessitate thinking outside the box.
External collaborations aren’t only for mentees, in my opinion. The longer you work in a field, the more likely you are to get into a rut and benefit from the viewpoint of a mentee in a different field. Innovation is aided by a diversity of viewpoints and experiences.
People frequently discuss mentoring and reverse mentoring, in which younger employees mentor more senior colleagues, but I believe that every mentoring relationship is a mix of the two. If you’re a mentor and you’re not getting anything in return, you might want to reassess your strategy.
Mentoring benefits not just the persons engaged, but also the companies they work for via professional growth and knowledge sharing. Employees who participate in mentoring are more interested in their job and concerned about the well-being of their coworkers.
Rather than being considered a potential threat to your organisation, collaborating with external mentors should be viewed as an opportunity. This helps both you and your employer as long as you are growing to your maximum potential.
Ewelina Kruk, Incendium Consulting associate director, is a Chartered Project Professional, mentor and member of Association for Project Management (APM).