Project Management Institute

Set Your Course

Don't Wait for the Perfect Mentor or a Formal Mentoring Program to Emerge

The value of mentorship is well-established. But many employees either don't have a mentor or are less than happy with their organization's formal mentoring programs. Feedback collected by InHerSight from more than 150,000 female professionals across 28,000 organizations found that, as of February, employees ranked their satisfaction with mentorship programs dead last on a list of 14 fixed metrics (including things like salary and management opportunities). And Deloitte's 2016 Millennial Survey found that just 61 percent of millennials have a mentor. About the same percentage of employees in this generation feel their leadership skills are not being fully developed. In some countries, such as Brazil, Singapore and Thailand, the latter figure exceeds 70 percent.

Younger project managers might not have the time or capacity to advocate for creating or improving a formal mentoring program at their organization, but that doesn't mean all hope is lost for those seeking to strengthen their leadership skills. More informal professional development approaches have emerged.

Mastermind groups: These peer groups meet regularly to workshop professional challenges and hold one another accountable on development goals. In this style of peer-to-peer mentoring, looping in more senior project professionals is less important than having a mix of perspectives weigh in.

Personal board of directors: The main distinction between finding a mentor and having an informal board to bounce ideas off is that there's less pressure to find one person who represents the ideal future career path, according to Dorie Clark, an adjunct business professor at Duke University and author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future. A personal board could comprise current colleagues (both junior or senior), a former co-worker and even a past professor—anyone who might have relevant leadership wisdom and skills to share.

Micro-mentoring: Given the ubiquity of social media—as well as millennials’ more casual attitudes toward career advice—members of this generation sometimes seek out micro-mentors. Rather than scheduling regular meetings or phone calls with one mentor (or members of a personal board), people use this ad hoc approach to tackle specific problems. It might involve a flurry of focused interactions with one experienced project pro around a single challenge—such as inspiring a team to think more strategically or convincing a sponsor a project's business case is flawed.

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