Benefits from Mentoring: Having a "Safe Space"
Regardless of how often managers and administrators tout the latest and greatest ideas and opportunities for changing workplace culture or processes, without buy-in from staff on workplace initiatives, implementation of innovative ideas is simply not going to happen.1 The good news this year is that higher education IT employees have a positive perspective on mentoring—a majority of respondents agreed that mentoring and being mentored can contribute to their professional growth (figure 1).2 When asked about perceptions of what mentoring can do for their careers, 81% of respondents—whether they had engaged in mentoring or not—reported that "giving advice as a mentor" provided at least some contribution to their professional growth, and 56% reported it was a great or moderate contribution. Eighty-five percent also reported that "obtaining advice from a mentor" provided at least some contribution to their professional growth; 65% reported it was a great or moderate contribution.3 Of those respondents actually engaged in a mentoring relationship, most reported benefits—71% of higher education IT mentors and 86% of mentees (or protégés) reported that mentoring had made a moderate or great contribution to their professional development.
These results reflect a workforce that sees mentoring relationships as a value-add to their careers, indicating that higher education IT administrators who want to create a culture of mentoring will discover that the buy-in to such an initiative is already present in the workforce. Indeed, 82% of those higher education professionals surveyed also reported that they would like to participate in an EDUCAUSE mentoring program as a mentor, a protégé, or both.
The top-ranked perceived benefit of mentoring identified by CIOs, managers, and staff (around 70% by each) was "having a safe space/sounding board for problems or challenges" (table 1). These results support mentoring as an opportunity for protégés (and perhaps mentors) to vent, address workplace issues, or check perceptions and perspectives within a nonjudgmental space, where it's ok to speak freely. This is a space with "no dumb questions" (or perhaps even "no dumb comments").4
Table 1. Perceived benefits of being in a mentoring relationship
|1st||Have a safe space/sounding board for problems or challenges (70%)||Have a safe space/sounding board for problems or challenges (72%)||Have a safe space/sounding board for problems or challenges (71%)|
|2nd||Give back to the profession (68%)||Have access to high-quality professional advice (59%)||Have access to high-quality professional advice (63%)|
|3rd||Have access to high-quality professional advice (58%)||Give back to the profession (50%)||Build reputation/networking (50%)|
|4th||Pursue personal fulfillment (42%)||Build reputation/networking (43%)||Give back to the profession (40%)|
|5th||Build reputation/networking (35%)||Pursue personal fulfillment (40%)||Pursue personal fulfillment (37%)|
CIOs and managers reported that giving back to the profession is a benefit, which bodes well for mentees seeking manager and executive-level mentors. This suggests "a rising tide lifts all boats" perspective,5 whereby developing talent and developing mentor skills may aid the profession overall or, more locally, the CIOs' and managers' own institutions and IT departments. For staff, expansion of networks is a key area that can increase career development. For example, among women in the technology sector, the lack of professional networks was perceived as a barrier to career development.6
Higher education IT employees who engage in mentoring relationships aspire to IT leadership positions, suggesting that they may perceive mentoring as a stepping-stone to executive positions. Significant differences were found between those who were in a mentoring relationship versus those who were not and whether they aspired to be in an IT executive position. Fifty-nine percent of those who identified as a mentor and 56% who identified themselves as a protégé also reported that they aspire to hold an IT executive leadership position immediately after their current position. Only 17% of those who reported not being in a mentoring relationship (and showed no interest in being in one) reported that they aspired to an IT executive leadership position. Although career advancement depends on growth in technical skills, experiences such as mentoring may also be a deciding factor in achieving an executive position. Among those who have engaged in mentoring, a majority see it as an activity that will likely help them achieve these career aspirations.
See, for example, "The Value of Establishing a Mentoring Program Within Your Organization," Kent State University, The Center for Corporate and Professional Development.↩︎
Galanek, Gierdowski, and Brooks, The Higher Education IT Workforce.↩︎
On a 1–5 scale with 1 = no contribution and 5 = great contribution.↩︎
Jennifer Zeidler, "The ROI of Mentoring Young Talent," Forbes, August 30, 2018.↩︎
See, for example, Margie Warrell, "Mentoring Matters: How More Women Can Get the Right People in Their Corner," Forbes, June 24, 2017.↩︎
Barbara Orser, Allan Riding, and Joanne Stanley, "Perceived Career Challenges and Response Strategies of Women in the Advanced Technology Sector," Entrepreneurship & Regional Development 24, nos. 1–2 (2012): 73–93.↩︎