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Christina E. (Chris) Correale

    Introduction

    You need a mentor because a mentoring relationship will help you learn more in a shorter period of time than doing it on your own. A mentoring relationship may help you learn:

    • Your technical competency area.
    • How things get done within your organization.
    • How the environment your organization operates in affects decisions and decision makers.
    • How to get ahead, etc.

    This article on mentoring contains three parts, information sources on mentoring, my views on mentoring, and a mentoring model.

    Information Sources on Mentoring

    The Department of the Army (DA) has "official" publications on mentoring. Here's where to go to find this official information:

    • DA Pam 690-46, Mentoring for Civilian Members of the Force (This is a how-to guide for mentors and associates (sometimes known as mentees)).
    • DA Pam 690-43, A Supervisor's Guide to Career Development and Counseling for Career Program Employees. (Chapter 7 of this DA Pam is a how-to guide for supervisors in their role as mentors - it also contains information that would be helpful to mentees).

    There is also a very short section on mentoring in the "Trail Guide for Army's Future Leaders" which may be found at http://www.cpol.army.mil. Click the Library button, followed by Civilian Personnel Guidance, Messages, Memorandums, Army Regulations and Pamphlets. This is a PowerPoint presentation and the mentoring section is on slide 9. Be sure to view it in slide show format and click on the highlighted word "mentoring."

    I recommend that you at least skim the above publications for background information.

    There are numerous sources of "unofficial" information on mentoring. I will not list any here, but an Internet search will net you plenty to read on mentoring. Use a variety of sources for information and challenge yourself to read at least one article on mentoring published by a Fortune 500 company or published in a professional journal such as the Harvard Business Review.

    My Views on Mentoring

    This is simple; everyone needs at least one mentor. Why? A good mentor can help you:

    • See that you have blind spots (yes, we all have them, including me).
    • Learn the organization's culture (i.e., the unwritten rules and norms).
    • See the big picture.
    • Plan your career.
    • Serve as a sounding board, etc.

    A mentor can also challenge you. It is NOT your mentor's job to get you a promotion, an award, or other recognition; it's your job to earn them.

    Early in your career, you will need a mentor to help you with what I call content (these are the practical, technical things you need to know to do your job that you didn't learn in college). As you become technically proficient in your chosen career area, you will need a mentor who can help you with process (how things get done in your organization and who has the power to see that they get done). Generally, there is no clear demarcation of time when you go from the first type of mentor to the second. Most likely, you will gradually transition from a technically oriented mentor to an organizationally oriented mentor. You may have both types of mentors at a time.

    It is good to have more than one mentor. I credit Mr. Don Basham, formerly of the Lower Mississippi Valley Division of the Corps, for developing this concept of a Board of Directors for your career. Here's how he sees your Board of Directors:

    • Technical expert - helps teach you technical competencies.
    • Organizational advisor - provides organizational advice.
    • Career advisor - helps plan long-term professional growth.
    • Role model - demonstrates effective leadership practices.

    Mentoring Model

    This mentoring model (also credited to Mr. Don Basham) is an example of how to get started with mentoring and to keep the process going. The model consists of these steps:

    • Conduct a self-assessment - this step will help a mentor decide how to work with you and will serve as an icebreaker in your discussions with potential mentor(s). See appendix D, paragraph D-5 of DA Pam 690-46 for how to conduct a self-assessment.
    • Research potential mentor prospects - what are they known for, considering the Board of Directors descriptions above? Also, does the individual possess the characteristics of an effective mentor? (See para. 2-1b. of DA Pam 690-46 for advice on how to assess this.)
    • Approach the prospective mentor to determine their receptiveness to serve as a mentor for you.
    • Negotiate a plan for how you and your mentor will work together, i.e., informally, formally, in person, by phone, how frequently, and for what duration, etc.
    • Work the plan.
    • Assess your progress in the mentor/associate relationship periodically. In other words, what are you getting out of the relationship and is it helping you?
    • Continue with the mentor/associate relationship or revise it.

    Conclusion

    I hope you enjoy and learn from the mentoring relationships you form during your career. I have, and they have been the most rewarding professional relationships of my career so far. I am available by phone at (410) 962-4646 or by email for anyone who wishes to discuss mentoring.

 
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