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Reach Out and Mentor Someone

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: There’s a young employee with great potential in my department. Can I offer to mentor her, or do I need to wait for her to ask me?

A: It is entirely appropriate for you to make the offer. In fact, your talented young staffer will probably find it highly motivating when she learns that you think she has great potential. She may be hesitant to ask you to be her mentor, assuming that you already have a lot of responsibility and not a lot of time. If you make the offer, she will probably jump at the chance.

If your organization has a formal mentoring program, volunteer to be a mentor and ask the coordinator to approach the person you have in mind to see if she wants to participate. If you don’t have a program, suggest to your leadership that they begin one, pointing out that mentorship programs help organizations attract, engage, and retain good talent. Millennials, in particular, have shown a strong interest in mentoring and often cite opportunities for mentoring as a reason for accepting a job offer.

If you don’t have a formal program, you can still work informally with staffers who have demonstrated great promise. Just be careful not to show any favoritism when assigning projects or giving formal recognition for work done in your department.

If the person you want to mentor is your direct report, it’s easy to get started. In fact, you don’t necessarily need to call it mentoring. Just pass on information you think the person would benefit from and assign her projects to expand her skills, based on the strengths and potential for development that you’ve observed in her.

Millennials have shown a strong interest in mentoring and often cite opportunities for mentoring as a reason for accepting a job offer.

If she doesn’t report to you, start by talking with her direct supervisor about your interest in mentoring her. Most likely, the supervisor will agree that both the employee and the organization will benefit, and he or she will help set up the mentoring relationship.

When you meet with the employee, offer to serve as a mentor, but make it clear that the decision is up to her. If she would rather not, graciously bow out and consider whether someone else might benefit from working with you.

Serving as a mentor is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things an experienced professional can do, and it’s a smart way to develop your organization’s talent. I hope this works out for you!

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]

Coaching and Mentoring Employee Training