Peer mentoring (also known as co-mentoring) has enormous benefits for both parties and it can be a really powerful tool for self-improvement, facilitating learning and ultimately advancing your career in the direction you want.
Firstly, let us establish exactly what we mean by peer or co-mentoring. Simply it is when two people who are similar in professional experience share knowledge. Sometimes, one person has been through a particular process that the other is about to go through and so the relationship is about helping and advising the other. But the beauty of peer to peer mentorship is that it doesn’t have to be rigid and enables both parties to truly benefit.
How do I find a peer mentor?
Usually, these types of relationships begin organically. Asking people “Will you be my peer mentor?” might come off a little weird without a little warm-up first. However, there are things you can do to kick the process off. Start by thinking creatively about your own contacts first, old and new. Is there anyone you click with, admire and trust? Build relationships at conferences or industry events and of course use social networks such as LinkedIn to connect with others. Choose someone who is close in experience to you so you feel equal as co-mentors and ideally you’ll have different yet complementary skills so you can both build up your knowledge base.
“The Strength of Weak Ties”
It is really important you don’t choose a direct competitor or someone in your company to be your peer mentor. It’s simply not possible to give your all when you feel competitive with someone or where there is a conflict of interest. Plus, to make this work you need the freedom to be completely honest. Utilize “the strength of weak ties” to find those acquaintances who you are loosely connected to. This will widen your perspective and open up new opportunities from a suitable professional distance (and if you are not familiar with this theory be sure to read up on Mark Granovetter’s seminal work).
Be clear about your goals
Don’t make it your peer mentor's job to think about what you need. Be clear with your peer mentor about what you want to achieve - an introduction or advice about a specific project for example. It is essential that you have both thought about your own careers and where you want to be. Think big and have a 3-5 year career plan to solidify what you want to achieve. Not only will this give your relationship some structure it also gives you clarity on your career goals and what you need to work on, making it more likely you will succeed.
So, we’ve established some great benefits from peer mentoring - clearly defined goals, increased knowledge, a source of support and building far-reaching relationships that can take you further in your career. Keep in mind that to get the most out of this you need to be accountable, keep in regular contact and be prepared to give and receive honest, constructive feedback. Good luck - this could be one of the most rewarding chapters of your career!
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