Mentoring on a personal and professional level is something that has been done for years. But recently, there have been some changes as it relates to mentoring. Mentoring has evolved in three fundamental ways:

First, it has evolved into specialty areas of one’s development needs. I recommend every high performer (a must to attract ideal “future-state” mentors) to identify 3 independent individuals as mentors: one within your company who clearly understands your role, realm of responsibilities, challenges and opportunities; one within your industry who is familiar with the bigger picture outside of your purview; one completely outside of what you do to give you an independent perspective on your particular assets and areas for improvement. This “triangulation” gives you the best possible perspective on any inflection point in your career.

Second, it has evolved in a much more balanced approach between hard and soft skills. Emotional Intelligence and Strategic Relationship Planning have become as critical as the technical skills to succeed, grow personally and professionally, and to engage and influence others often without authority.

Third, it has evolved into formal and informal structures, cascading mentoring programs as well as “reverse mentoring” opportunities. Formal mentor / mentee events are still held several times each year, yet it is highly encouraged to meet and engage informally as the need arises. Cascading mentoring programs connect a senior mentor with a mentee who also mentors a junior person; this 3-tiered model allows for a cascading effect of best practices down the organization. Reverse mentoring is younger or newer employees showing “old dogs” some new tricks – particularly in Web 2.0.

While mentoring programs have evolved in recent years, their purpose has stayed the same. Sharing knowledge, insight and wisdom that one person has with another person benefits everyone who is involved in such a program.

It is so important to know why you are getting involved in a mentoring program, what you want out of it, and which program to choose from. Stay tuned for the next week’s article regarding the questions to ask yourself about a mentoring program.

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