Types of Mentoring Functions

Mentoring is just-in-time help, insight into issues, and the sharing of expertise, values, skills, and perspectives. Mentors function as a catalyst—an agent that provokes a reaction that might not otherwise have taken place or speeds up a reaction that might have taken place in the future.

Career Definition Mentee Advantages Mentor Advantages/Risk
Sponsorship Actively nominates junior colleague for desirable lateral moves and promotions Builds reputation and obtains job opportunities Viewed as having excellent judgment, known for finding and developing talent; can enhance or damage mentor's reputation, depending on how mentee performs
Exposure/Visibility Gives junior colleague responsibilities that allow for the development of relationships with key figures Learns about other parts of the organization and organizational life at a higher level, increases personal visibility, and gains knowledge about future opportunities; socializing force Can enhance or damage mentor's reputation, depending on how mentee performs
Coaching Outlines specific strategies for accomplishing work objectives and achieving career aspirations; shares understanding of important issues and players Provides informal knowledge of organization, broadens perspective, and enhances ability to navigate in organization Passing on knowledge confirms the value of experience; feels effective; ensures that personal view of the future is carried on
Protection Shields from untimely or potentially damaging contact with senior managers by taking credit or blame in controversial situations or intervening when mentee is ill-equipped to achieve satisfactory resolution Reduces risk, yet can be supportive or smothering; also may prevent exposure that could enhance reputation; balance can be more difficult to find in cross-gender relationships Confirms ability to positively intervene and use clout; however, can be self-serving if used to build own reputation at expense of mentee's growth
Challenging Assignments Assigns mentee challenging work, supported with training and ongoing performance feedback Essential technical and managerial skills developed through work, supported through learning difficult tasks Can relieve senior manager of tasks; receives support that allows attention to other tasks
Psychosocial Definition Mentee Mentors
Role Modeling Senior colleague's attitudes, values, and behavior provide a model for the junior colleague to emulate Through dialogue about tasks, common organizational concerns, and career issues, the junior person learns approaches, attitudes, and values held by the model; helps redefine who he or she is professionally Identification and transference help senior colleague see the value in his or her own experience
Both individuals derive a sense of self from positive regard conveyed by the other Junior colleague is provided support and encouragement; basic trust is established and, given a foundation of acceptance, risk-taking is encouraged, allowing for experimentation with new behaviors As senior colleague faces aging and end-of-career issues, the junior colleague offers support and appreciation that enables the senior to find value in what he or she has to offer
Counseling Enables an individual to explore personal concerns that may interfere with a positive sense of self and career accomplishment Junior colleague derives comfort in discovering that doubts and concerns can be shared confidentially Sharing insights enables senior colleague to review previous points of decision during earlier career stages and provides a basis for feeling valued
Friendship Social interaction results in mutual liking and understanding, with enjoyable informal exchange about work and nonwork experiences Allows junior colleague to feel like a peer Senior colleague can maintain connection to more youthful parts of self and extend connection with next generation