Mentorship is critical to personal development and growth and can provide valuable lessons to mentors and mentees. Traditional mentorships work under a teacher-student dynamic, with the mentor providing the benefit of experience and wisdom to the mentee. In peer mentoring, the mentor and mentee roles are less rigidly defined, allowing both parties to gain from the arrangement.
Peer mentoring has long been a tradition in academic environments, particularly in high schools and universities. However, many workplaces are beginning to adopt peer mentoring as an opportunity for workers to learn from each other on a more level playing field.
Peer mentoring is a mentorship method that encourages a give-and-take dynamic where two employees offer advice, learn from each other and experience professional development.
“In a peer-mentoring relationship, each person involved can be both teacher and student, and both parties are empowered to shape their learning context,” explained Virginia Fraser, former U.S. marketing manager at Insights. “Professionals receive the support they need from a peer while getting the perspective from a mentor.”
While your peer mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be at your exact job level, there is a distinct advantage to mentoring and being mentored by a person with roughly the same experience you have, according to Sarah Callaghan, former SVP of marketing at Rah Rah.
“You face similar challenges in terms of the work at hand, office politics and … reporting lines,” Callaghan noted. “Your peer mentor truly understands your strains and obstacles and can help you face them in a positive and productive way.”
Fraser said peer mentorships develop organically from trust-based professional workplace relationships. This trust creates an open environment where colleagues feel comfortable offering feedback about behavior, attitude or performance.
In turn, recipients of this feedback are more open to advice because they know the other person genuinely wants to see them succeed. Fraser noted that when this dynamic occurs, teams can establish a system of interpersonal checks and balances independent of the group leader.
Finding the right teammate is the first step. Fraser recommends considering someone who shares your work experience but can offer a unique perspective on the everyday and long-term challenges you face.
“Often, it’s helpful to find someone who has a very distinctive background and view … to offer an increased level of exposure to diversity of thought,” Fraser suggested.
You should consider how your experiences match up or differ and use that to your advantage. Remember that this relationship is meant to push and develop you in your role, so don’t look for someone whose life or career experiences are identical to yours.
You should also seek out an honest peer mentor. Your mentor and you should trust each other and feel comfortable being candid. It’s also essential to have similar career goals.
“Peer mentorship needs to have a foundation of trust, respect and similar objectives,” Callaghan advised. “Use those commonalities as a way to introduce the concept of peer mentorship as a mutually beneficial activity.”
Agreeing on a mutual vision with your peer mentor means addressing specific issues:
Your mentor and you must be there for each other whenever challenges and questions arise. Asking for help can be difficult for some people, but going to your peer mentor is essential when you run into workplace conflicts or face tough decisions, like whether you should take a career risk.
“Reinforce success by asking for the necessary guidance from your mentor,” Arteaga advised. “Help reinforce your learning experience by actively engaging in role-playing onboarding exercises on a regular basis.”
Ensure you’re receptive to your mentor’s requests of you in this give-and-take relationship. It’s critical to be open to offering and accepting advice, guidance and suggestions and practicing leadership skills. You both should get the most benefit possible from this relationship.
Career success depends on a willingness to learn. Because you and your peer mentor are likely at similar career levels, you may need to reach out to more experienced colleagues occasionally when your issues exceed the scope of your peer relationship’s knowledge and understanding.
Peer mentoring is relatively easy and accessible. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship with two individuals acting as mentees and mentors. Other popular mentoring arrangements include traditional mentoring relationships and coaching. Here’s how they differ from peer mentoring:
Peer mentoring can lead to valuable relationships where both parties benefit. Take these steps to find the right mentor:
Finding a peer mentor can be as simple as joining forces with a like-minded colleague. However, many businesses are helping build and support these relationships.
According to research from Gallup, nearly 60 percent of chief human resources officers (CHROs) have mentoring and sponsorship programs to address diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Additionally, 92 percent of Fortune 500 companies provide mentoring programs. Such workplace programs are excellent ways to find peer mentors and build mutually beneficial workplace relationships.
Still, only about 40 percent of employees report having a workplace mentor, and only 23 percent have a sponsor. Taking advantage of any available workplace opportunities is crucial to employee growth.
Peer mentoring is an excellent opportunity to learn from other professionals while sharing your knowledge. Instead of focusing solely on navigating your career path, you also get to foster someone else’s career dreams and ambitions. This relationship can spark motivation, fuel your confidence and help you open new doors.
Peer mentoring is an accessible option for professionals, but not everyone takes advantage of it. Seek peer monitoring opportunities through your network or business to start your journey today.
Sammi Caramela contributed to this article.