When we think of mentoring relationships, we most often imagine older, management-level individuals mentoring younger, entry-level ones. But peer-to-peer mentoring can be just as effective, if not more so, with each person learning from and supporting the other. Peer mentors “get” each other’s issues—with work projects, colleagues, challenges, higher-ups and goals—in a way that others may not.
As a peer mentor, you’ll reap some—or all—of these benefits:
- Talk openly and candidly about strengths, weaknesses, goals, fears, difficult people, day-to-day issues and more.
- Get organization-specific feedback. You each understand your organization in a way that outsiders don’t. And if your peer partner is in a different department, you can share an “inside-outside” perspective.
- Acquire feedback from your partner on your short- and long-term goals.
- Be exposed to new ideas, new skills and topics outside your area of responsibility.
- Become invested in each other’s success, and cheer each other on through, highs, lows and everything in between.
- If either of you leaves the organization, you can become important outside resources to each other.
To establish a peer-to-peer mentoring relationship:
- First, find the right coworker—someone at your level, with similar career objectives, whom you trust and feel comfortable with. Honesty is vital to being able to offer frank feedback about behavior, attitude and performance.
- Set up a time and place to meet to discuss work issues. But don’t hesitate to call on each other when challenges occur in the moment.
- At each meeting, share information about the nitty gritty of your jobs. Ask questions about current projects, issues, roadblocks and goals. Listen closely to the answers. Discuss at length. Then, reverse rolls.
- Identify what you each see as your areas of weakness as well as skills and strengths. Soon, you’ll trade ideas about how current tasks can lead to future growth.
- After a time, broaden your network to people in other areas of the company, or even outsiders, for even greater perspective.
In short, peer-to-peer mentoring can be a wonderful way to obtain a sounding board, valuable guidance and positive support. You may even develop a strong friendship, one that lasts as you move on to other jobs and/or other organizations.