Written by Jarin Eisenberg
There is a renewed focus on the importance of mentorship in today’s business culture, and for good reason. Mentorship is essential to an individual’s development, and with today’s emphasis on establishing diverse and inclusive workplaces, the need for mentorship is crucial to helping those who would not normally sit at the table gain access to a seat.
Mentorship should be thought of as a tool individuals and companies can use to further their goals and objectives. We tend to think of mentorship as something that happens organically, like two unsuspecting lovebirds meeting in the aisle of a supermarket, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Through policies and specific intent on fostering an environment of collaboration and curiosity, companies can help their younger, less experienced employees grow their personal and professional skills. Research suggests that both the mentor and the mentee benefit from mentorship; studies have found that both are more likely to get promoted, receive an increase in salary, and are more likely to stay with a company as compared to those individuals not in a mentorship program. This is likely why 71% of Fortune 500 companies have mentorship programs.
Shifts in Mentorship
There are new ways of thinking about the mentor-mentee relationship. One shift is that a person should not have one transformational mentor, but many mentors throughout their career. Nowadays, young professionals are encouraged to create an advisory board of mentors: people whom you can call upon at different times who each offer a different perspective and skill set. The other shift is that the mentor doesn’t have to be someone ‘much older’ with decades more experience than you, but rather look to your peers in your company and beyond for guidance and support.
How Mentorship Has Impacted My Career
Mentorship has played a vital role in my career. For every success I have celebrated, I can always point to a decision, a piece of advice, and think ‘this wouldn’t have happened if.’ Each of those ‘ifs’ represents a different person who helped me along the way. When I was an undergraduate at the University of South Florida studying sociology, it was the department chair that guided me through those confusing and often emotional times. She spent countless hours helping me improve my writing skills, a skill that has proved to be foundational for my career. She also helped me understand the graduate school process and determine what program might be the best fit for me. When I applied for graduate school at USF, I didn’t earn the GRE score needed to receive a graduate assistance scholarship. Fortunately, she advocated for me and my work ethic, and I was able to participate the first term which gave me the opportunity to show the team my abilities and in the end, earn a full scholarship.
In my current position as an executive director for a non-profit organization, I rely heavily on the mentor-mentee relationships I have built. Several of the seats on my mentor advisory board are held by my peers and, as the studies suggest, they have proved to be an invaluable resource. We tell each other about different community events, introduce each other to people that might be helpful in achieving one another’s goals, provide a support system for one another, and help each other navigate the politics and the personal of being a young professional.
Mentors in Online Learning
For students in an online degree program, do not dismiss the opportunity to form mentor-mentee relationships with your professors and classmates. As a student in a classroom with individuals from all over the country, many of whom who are professionals in their fields, the opportunity to share job openings is rich. In addition, your professors want to share their experience with you. Do not be afraid to email them and ask them about their field, how they came to work in their current position, how they balanced working and having a family. The classroom environment, online or otherwise, is a safe place for exploration – it is a space that encourages, perhaps demands, curiosity. Use that to your advantage and take a proactive approach. Though the manifest function of a classroom is to acquire a set of knowledge needed to pass a course, the latent function is socialization in an academic environment, and to provide opportunities for connection amongst peers and professors. Make sure you are putting yourself in a position to get the ‘full’ college experience.
Jarin Eisenberg is executive director of Melbourne Main Street and an instructor at Florida Institute of Technology, where she previously was coordinator of online degree programs at the Bisk College of Business. To learn more about Eisenberg, read our interview here.