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January 31st, 2014 by

EPRRTC-EffectivePracticesby Kathleen Lee
Employer Assistance and Resource Network

January is National Mentoring Month, which promotes awareness of mentoring programs and ways individuals can lend their support to assist young adults succeed in employment and in life. With well-established programs available across the country, formal mentoring promotes positive outcomes, such as improved self-esteem, social skills and knowledge of career opportunities.

Mentoring is a process where one person facilitates the development of another by sharing resources, expertise, perspectives, and values. At its essence it is a trusting relationship, formalized into a program of structured activities, that allows mentees to build skills and knowledge while also attaining goals for career development. Conversely, it provides the opportunity for the mentor to see his or her skills and knowledge in a new way. Mentoring brings value to everyone involved in its practice. Mentees can gain wisdom from someone who has traveled the path before them, while mentors can enhance active listening and coaching skills and invest themselves in someone who seeks learning and knowledge for their professional development. To this end, mentoring can contribute to employee recruitment, growth, and retention while establishing an organizational culture that is attractive to candidates who bring enthusiasm, energy, innovation and commitment to the workplace.

To attract and employ diverse candidates including individuals with disabilities, many companies are utilizing mentoring and internship programs to build talent pipelines. Eric SoHayda’s experience in the financial sector provides a great example. As a graduate of Seton Hall University’s Stillman School of Business with a Masters of Business Administration and a concentration in Finance, Eric participated in the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) and was hired by Prudential as a summer intern. Through a national mentoring program, Eric was matched to a financial mentor from Ernst & Young (EY). Eric was quite fortunate to secure a corporate internship and have an experienced mentor to help guide him through the internship and, ultimately, launch a new career.

According to Eric, mentoring has allowed him to sustain and improve his personal and professional skills. Through his relationship with his mentor, Eric polished his academic experience into workplace skills such as developing an “elevator speech” and answering interview questions, as well as gaining career advice. When Eric started working with his mentor, he had several interviews lined up and was able to discuss with his mentor in great detail how to answer questions – as well as what his mentor would look for in a candidate. These conversations provided Eric with an opportunity to bounce off ideas and to talk to someone who had been in similar situations. Eric shared difficulties he encountered during the interview process and his job search while his mentor provided encouragement and advice. His mentor gave him career advice he couldn’t find on Google. He applied the advice, determined his future plans and searched for the right networking opportunities. According to Eric, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” All of this helped him convert from a Prudential intern to a full-time employee as a Senior Customer Service Associate and Data Analyst in October 2013. Prudential gained an ideal employee with valuable competencies acquired from his educational, mentoring and work experiences. This seamless transition is becoming more common in corporate America as indicated by the 2013 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Internship and Co-op Survey, which illustrates that employers will draw approximately 35% of their new college hires from their internship and co-op programs.

Eric credits his mentor for helping him gain a tremendous amount of knowledge, skills and strength.  Understanding the unique perspectives and challenges of a new college graduate with a disability, his mentor gained new insight on disability and found the entire mentoring process enlightening. In the end, it was truly a win-win experience.

How can mentoring help your company seek and retain diverse talent?

  • Expands leadership abilities and understanding of diverse workers
  • Improves awareness of personal biases, assumptions, and identifies areas for improvement
  • Extends collaboration among employees from different generations and cultural backgrounds
  • Creates a culture of acceptance and inclusion

The positive effects of mentoring are clear. It can provide the mentee, mentor and the company with a win-win relationship. Mentors provide career guidance, build skill sets and pass on organizational knowledge, while mentees gain valuable guidance for their careers. Think about the mentors in your life, and take time out to thank them for making a difference in your career.

Browse EARN’s resources on mentoring at www.askearn.org.

 

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