January 20, 2014
Being the first month of the year comes with a lot of responsibility. January is a test of resilience for billions of New Year’s resolutions. It’s a fresh start, a chance to change the future, and an opportunity to give back. Appropriately, January is National Mentoring Month, so the month is in essence a celebration of positivity, and that is the very embodiment of a mentoring program.
Mentoring programs can be invaluable for associations. Both mentors and mentees receive immeasurable benefits, and it’s good for your industry’s future to encourage those who have achieved success in their careers to share their knowledge. Currently, Kellen Company client New York Women in Communications Foundation’s Mentoring Program is in its fifth year of successfully matching student and young professionals with mentors who provide “real world” information, encouragement, advice, and access to an invaluable network of support. The success of the mentoring program is in large part due to the volunteers who manage and implement its many working parts.
While there are a number of ways to administer a program, here a few tips to help you get started:
- Define the goals of your program and secure volunteer support. Consider forming a committee or task force to lead the effort. A good first step is identifying someone in your organization who has a passion for helping others succeed. Things to consider include how many people should be mentored and who they will be, how to recruit mentors, how often pairs will meet and the desired length of the mentoring matches.
- Build a comprehensive application. Forget the basics. You’ll want to know everything you can about the mentors and mentees who are applying to the program. Think of the application as a personal profile and include open ended questions.
- Be a smart matchmaker. Leave yourself plenty of time to match pairs. Consider giving mentees a say in the process by allowing them to choose a mentor or provide their top three choices. A great way to match pairs is to host a Speed Mentoring event. Similar to speed dating, speed mentoring is a unique opportunity for mentees to meet one-on-one with a number of mentors to get to know each other and discuss professional strengths and challenges within a certain time frame (usually 3-5 minutes). Once the rounds have ended, the group gets back together to discuss their impressions and select a match.
- Prepare participants for success. Draft and distribute a set of guidelines for both mentors and mentees. Have them sign an agreement as an extra layer of responsibility. Throughout the program, provide tips and best practices in the form of weekly or monthly prompts to help participants stay on track.
- Recognize and reward. Formally recognizing involvement can be a great motivator for participation. Consider mentor/mentee ribbons or pins at your next event. Not only will it raise awareness to the program, you’ll likely attract new participants. NYWICI Foundation also gives an annual award to the best mentor in the program.
- Share successes. Throughout the program, shine the spotlight on your successes! If your organization distributes a weekly newsletter, highlight a particularly successful pair in your next issue. The more you highlight the value of the program, the more participants you’ll attract.
- Ask for feedback. You’ll want to know if the mentoring program is a success. Consider capturing feedback through the use of surveys. Ask participants how well the mentoring program met their goals and if they have any ideas for improving the program. You don’t have to wait until the end of the program to send a survey. Consider a mid-year survey and implement changes as necessary.
- Closure is important. It’s no secret that mentoring relationships can flourish for years. However, as part of the formal program, it’s a good idea to set up a system of checkpoints that indicate when goals have been reached. However, don’t be afraid to invite pairs to participate in the program again the following year. Consistency is important when it comes to mentoring, and the last thing you want to do is see a match end before both participants feel like they’ve accomplished their goals.
A one-on-one mentoring relationship can be life-changing for both the mentor and mentee. Your organization has access to members in the same industry that can guide and support one another in their careers. Consider setting up a program to facilitate these relationships and give your members a great benefit.