Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Brainstorming A Professional Mentoring Program At Work

"I'll write something up and schedule a meeting to discuss it further." Those were the last few words I said before closing the car door. The topic of our discussion was professional mentoring.

This isn't the first time I talked about organizing a mentoring program at work. In fact, I brought the idea up to our previous Chief Information Officer before he left the company. For whatever reason, the program never materialized but I'm still interested in learning from our university's experienced employees.

The concept of mentoring isn't new to me. Over the years, I've had the opportunity to learn from a Chancellor, Vice President for a Fortune 500 company, Chief Information Officer, and Entrepreneur. Those were my formal mentors, but informally I've had other professionals guide me in one way or another.

Just the other day, I had a gentleman ask me if I was currently under someone's counsel. I explained that my previous mentor was retiring and now open to the idea of further enriching my experiences. He continued by saying that I had a lot of potential and that he was interested in guiding me through the professional maze of advancement. With an impressive resume like his, I was honored to know that he thought of me.

All this talk of mentoring got me thinking about how I would proceed. What should I present to our leadership? Who would be interested? What would the program do? How often would mentors/mentees meet? With little to no answers, I decided to simply blog about it.

Why A Professional Mentoring Program?
As an Information Technology Manager, I aspire to one day move up the corporate ladder. Clearly, there are opportunities both in and outside this company but it starts with experience.

As I mentally look around my own division, I see guys that have spent years in private and public organizations. They have strategically moved from one place to another and learned a few things. I would like to capture those lessons before they retire or continue a career elsewhere. To facilitate a transfer of information from one person to another, I think an organized program would help.

How Would A Professional Mentoring Program Work?
In my head, I imagine the program to include a number of higher ranked officers, directors, and managers who would shed light on a series of topics. Those topics could range from leadership to professional etiquette. We could discuss strategies for communicating with company executives and open the door for socializing.

Now, I understand that most executives and experienced leaders are busy, so I don't see taking a great deal of their time. I assume a well planned session where mentees could share their goals, ask questions, and receive advice from visiting mentors would be a great place to start.

As the program matures, there might be sessions devoted to specific topics and an opportunity to put those lessons into practice. Maybe the program would allow for shadowing and one-on-one discussions.

The goal of this program would be to help younger and less experienced employees learn how to be more professional and prepared for leadership opportunities. In working with company executives, those individuals who progress through the program will learn the ropes and demonstrate their ability to lead.

Current officers, directors, and managers may use this program to shape the next generation of officers, directors, and managers. This program can provide current leadership with the assurance that the company will be in good hands once they leave.

As I see things today, there is very little knowledge transfer between the older and younger generations. I fear that our leaders of today will be gone and we would have learned nothing from them.

To hear one Deputy CIO tell it, "We don't know what you don't know." On the flip side, we don't know what we don't know until faced with a situation that challenges us. Maybe that's where it all begins.

So, what do you think? What has been your experience with mentors? Have you ever been in a program? If so, how did it go? What did your program do? How does one get it started?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Leave me a comment in the section below.

Image by: Loyola University College of Business 


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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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