In many professions, it is not uncommon for a newcomer to the field to be placed under the care of an established and seasoned professional. This professional is often charged with the task of helping to train, advise, and share practical experience with the new person in the organization. This process is commonly known as mentoring, and the professional who is responsible for the care and nurture of the newcomer is referred to as a mentor. Here are some examples of how a mentor goes about providing support.
One of the most important roles of a mentor is serving as a teacher to the novice. Mentors share their body of experience, relating what they have learned in ways that will connect with the newcomer. The range of experience often includes such valuable information as industry basics, some solid facts about how the corporation works, applications of the goods and services produced by the company, and tips on how to perform individual job responsibilities. Along with this official type of mentorship, the mentor may also serve as an unofficial advisor on such matters as which employees in the company should be watched with a close eye, and who tends to be trustworthy.
Mentors do not take the new employee through a basic orientation and then leave them on their own. The work of the mentor will continue well after the employee is past the usual ninety-day probation period for employment. That is because the mentor also functions as a counselor for the new employee. When there is frustration with an incident in the workplace, or a matter comes up that requires a different approach, the employee may wish to sit down with the mentor and talk through the situation. As counselors to new employees, mentors help the novice to draw not only draw on past experience for answers, but also help the novice to discover a new way to apply older principles.
Finally, mentors function as advisors. While counseling involves helping the novice discover answers, advising places the mentor in a position to provide a feasible course of action that is relevant to the situation. For example, if the novice is completely stumped as to handle a collections issue with a client that is about to go bankrupt, the mentor can probably provide the new employee with a step by step process of what needs to be done. Offering advice when unusual situations occur is a common part of the work of the mentor.
Being a mentor is not for the faint of heart. The responsibility requires knowledge, solid communication skills, and a great deal of patience. At the same time, being a mentor can be extremely rewarding, as there is a great deal of satisfaction in watching your former charges grow in prestige and competence over the years.