A Fed’s Guide to Mentoring

Do you remember your first job and how you were able to thrive in the new role at work? Your drive, initiative and passion for doing great things kicked started your career. In addition, your ability to reduce the “workload learning curve” may have been the result of the support of a co-worker, team leader or senior staffer looking out for you. In business terms this person is referred to as a mentor.

A mentor can be a formal or informal career adviser who may help you wade through the myriad of office politics and work requirements. For example, if you are having an issue getting a new idea heard by office leadership, a mentor may be able to steer you towards the actual power source that has decision making capability as well as interest in your initiatives.

A successful mentor/mentee relationship starts off by communicating your goals for the collaboration. Then schedule mentor meeting times, stretch assignments as well as networking opportunities that will meet your work schedule availability. In addition, if the mentor/mentee relationship is not mutually beneficial due, be honest about the lack of connection by using open and honest communication. Think about what you have learned and then move on without judgment.

Mentors are great in helping people find their career path by engaging in honest dialogue about the mentee’s overall career aspirations. Sometimes that means realizing that your career goals may change directions from the work you are currently focusing on at the office. Recently, an unexpected mentor at work suggested that I write out my 5-year plan and socialize it with decision makers that I know at work. The goal is to let leadership know that I have a career plan that I want to move forward and plan to achieve it within a specific time frame. Also, when you write down your goals, you become motivated to move toward the direction of success.

Moreover, some mentors have the ability to listen to your work concerns and suspend judgment at the same time. A mentor is not there to solve your issues. Also, a mentor serves as a guide by encouraging their mentee into resolving their own issues by tapping into inner their inner strengths. As we move toward the New Year, consider becoming a mentor as part of your new year’s resolution.

Tracey Batacan is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Douglas Brown

Good post! I’d suggest caution on one point: if you have an internal mentor and things are just not working out, you may want to consider whether open and honest communication as to why this isn’t meeting _your_ needs is what the mentor really wants. This might be a good opportunity for saving face.

Tracey Batacan

Douglas, thank you for the feedback. I understand the caution about open dialogue and include a caveat about leveraging tact to ensure both people save face.

Cedric King

Good job with the post!!! I think that my concern at this point is the following: How do you advise a member that is seeking a mentor in an organization that does not offer one?

Tracey Batacan

Cedric, that is a great question. I find it helpful to seek mentors that are in the career field you are interested in by participating in industry associations and other external functions. Mentors can be informal mentors who are outside your agency or organization and still provide some great life lessons. Many of the mentors who’ve been valuable to my career goals were informal, leaders who helped me take my initiative to a new height.

Laura Free

Great post! I really appreciate the first part that explains what a mentor is–sometimes we get hung up on formal mentoring that we don’t see those informal mentors who have helped shape our careers. I can say from personal experience that those informal mentors have been the most influential people in my career. How can you find an informal mentor? Search out people who know and respect your work, have connections within the organization (and an interest in helping you make connections), and be a resource to them. Whether it’s a link to a professional development organization, a useful link or news article, or a mutually motivating coffee break, don’t underestimate what you have to offer!

Tracey Batacan

Good Day Laura and thank you for the feedback. Yes, finding an informal mentor takes bit more work since the ability to rely on a formal mentor program to secure a Mentor is not an option. However, I was able to find mentors by showing initiative to take on work outside of my comfort zone. For example, learning new skills on projects that will help me grow in my profession will result in meeting a diverse group of thought leaders. Your drive and ability will impress them enough to want to support your career goals. Many of my informal mentors are former professors, community leaders, nonprofit executives and others who work outside of my formal organization.
One other thing about informal mentors is respecting their time and contributions to your endeavors. Ask the potential mentor if she/he is willing to be available from time to time to share their insights on your career goals. Once they say yes, share a draft of your informal mentoring goals and meeting sessions with your potential informal mentor to gain their buy-in. And keep moving forward. Good luck to you.