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There’s No Match.Com for Mentorship

Dating sites spout all sorts of algorithms on love. They say if you join their dating service, their computers will crunch the numbers and find you the perfect match. Sometimes it works. But when it comes to government mentorship, finding the right person isn’t so calculable. There is not a match making algorithm for mentorship. So how do you succeed? Tom Fox is the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service.

He told me, during GovLoop’s State and Local Spotlight interview, that just like in dating you have to “play the field to get the right mentor.”

“There is no easy way of identifying a mentor. It is really a process of trial and error, very similar to the process of trying to find a significant other. You have to play the field a little bit to find the perfect mentor. My advice is to look around both within your agency and even elsewhere to identify people that you admire and then see if you can grab them for a fifteen minute informational interview,” said Fox.

Fox’s 3 Reasons Why Mentorship Matters:

  1. “Traditionally mentorship has been important as a way of figuring out the formal and informal rules that can insure your success. A mentor can be essential for showing you the ropes and providing you some advice and counsel around how to make sure you are doing a great job and continue advancing in your career.”

  2. “In today’s environment a mentor is even more important, because of all the turmoil we are experiencing. A mentoring relationship is really a safe place for you to share some of your concerns and frustrations about an agency’s actions. A mentor can also give you a great frame of reference on how to deal with these troubling times.”

  3. “Even more importantly as you try to figure out how to navigate the ever changing terrain we are operating in right now, an experienced mentor who has seen this type of thing come and go in the past can be very valuable in helping you navigate the current environment.”

Can mentorship be stop-gap for the lack of training dollars?

“There is no substitute for formal training, but mentoring can help fill the gap. Especially if the training dollars are short, mentorship may take on a greater portion of the time that you spend developing yourself in order to advance your career. Don’t simply discount mentorship as the lowest cost option, it may be one of the best options if you find the best mentor or mentors,” said Fox.

Benefits of a formal mentorship program?

  1. “Because it is a formal program being run by your office, participating in the program indicates to senior leaders that you are serious about investing time in developing yourself and understanding how to succeed within the current operating environment.”

  2. “You are more assured of finding someone who has the right knowledge, skills, background, experience to be a good and effective mentor. In theory, a formal program is vetted and has prepared folks to be an effective mentor.”

“Being a mentor is an opportunity to give back. I don’t know anybody who has not been the beneficiary of mentorship at one point or another in their careers. It also gives you an opportunity to keep your eyes on the up and coming talent. In this ever changing landscape, the most precious commodity any agency has is the people. Getting a chance to build relationships and get to know some of the talent that is out there, is really valuable. Finally, you might learn as much from a mentee as you will share with them,” said Fox.

What should your parameters for a mentorship agreement be?

  • You need a clear commitment. You have to invest the time to make the relationship work and be beneficial.

  • Each party needs to give a little, if they expect to get a little. You need to think about what you are able to offer.

  • Make a regular point of renewing or concluding your commitment to one another.

If you enjoyed our GovLoop’s State and and Local Spotlight interview, you can more interviews under keyword “emily’s corner.”

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Great title – made me click. 😉 But there IS a Match.com for government mentoring. You can find it here:


The system matches people based on a set of competencies that both mentors and proteges fill out. We then combine that automatic matching in the system with a highly personal touch, assisting participants to confirm the suitability of their matches or helping people who are having trouble finding that “just right” person. Readers of this post can sign up at that link or email me at [email protected] to learn more!