IT Mentorship Programs, Do They Work?

This is a guest post by John Yurkschatt, director of the IT Services Practice Area for Direct Consulting Associates (DCA), an IT consulting and staffing firm.

It is often in conversations with leaders in the IT industry that I hear references to past mentors and how someone else played a significant role in their success.  The more successful people I meet, the more I hear individuals speaking of their mentors or those they are mentoring. BLN001_JOHN YURKSCHATT_E_4X5.jpg

I am a huge believer in a strong mentorship program.  To this day, I make sure that I am continuously mentoring as well as being mentored.  Although I have experienced success in my career, I am humble enough to realize that luck and good circumstances can often play a bit of a role.  Now, if I can identify where I need to get better, improve, and develop additional tools, I can benefit from being on both sides of a mentoring program.

The opportunity to share success stories, horror stories, and times where we’ve hit the proverbial brick wall can benefit everyone, especially the mentee.   Mentorship programs require humility, an eagerness to learn, and an eagerness to grow.  A successful mentorship program requires both parties to share openly, freely, and put knowledge/insight into practice.
There are four types of IT mentorship programs:
•         Career Mentoring: Assists mentee’s with the opportunity to work towards a predetermined career path.  This type of mentoring is designed to allow individuals to work from point A to point B with the help of the mentor assisting with that development.

•         Networking Mentoring: Enables individuals to meet others in the market place to allow for idea and name sharing.  Often times this type of informal mentoring leaders to insight and knowledge transfer.

 •         Orientating Mentorships: This type of mentoring usually begins within the first few weeks that a new employee is at an organization.  Orientating mentoring allows for newer employees to become acclimated into a new climate/culture/work environment much quicker.

  •         Untapped Potential Mentorship: My favorite type and often the most challenging.
Untapped potential mentoring takes place when an average or underperforming employee has a fantastic skill set or potential but has other components of their being preventing them from reaching their potential.  

Without question, there are numerous types of mentorship programs, but nearly all try to accomplish the following:  

-Foster personal & professional growth
-Create and/or develop a sense of career awareness
-Generate a thirst for knowledge
-Instill a desire to be great

In today’s IT marketplace, mentoring programs are often put on the backburner due to a shortage of time and availability.  However, mentorship programs should not be taken lightly. In fact, a study done by Sun Microsystems University Mentoring Program followed the career progress of mentees over a five year period and it showed that mentees were 20% more likely to get a raise sooner than other employees and were promoted five times more often than those who did not have a mentor. 

Here are 4 ways mentors help mentees get ahead faster:

1.      Talent Development: Everyone wants top talent.  A mentoring program can allow an organization to use its top performers to help others grow into top performers.

2.      Knowledge and Contacts: Mentoring programs often lead to introductions, networking events, and knowledge transfer.  As top performers progress in their careers, it is often more about who you know than what you know, to help get to the top.

3.      Wisdom/Insight: One of the most important aspects of a mentoring programming is preventing the mentee from making the same mistakes the mentor has made.  If it took the mentor 10 mistakes before they earned their promotion, sharing that insight could lead the mentee down a much quicker path to reaching new heights.

4.      Improved Performance: A good mentor will provide you with valuable feedback or make suggestions that will enable you to improve your skills or to experience personal growth, ultimately leading to your improved performance.

As an organization, if a mentoring programming can help our new hires, average, struggling, or even most successful employees continue to grow, it will in-turn, allow our business to grow and will continue to push that ceiling even higher.  About 70% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs because the results give them a competitive advantage. If an organization not only values the success of their business, but also the relationships and long term growth of their employees, the organisation will likely better retain top employees.

To conclude, mentorships can be invaluable.  The wisdom, insight, or development that employees gain today, may lead to a career track that may have never been possible.