Talent Development Glossary Terms
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What Is Mentoring?

Mentoring is a reciprocal and collaborative at-will relationship that most often occurs between a senior and junior employee for the purpose of the mentee’s growth, learning, and career development. Often the mentor and mentee are internal to an organization, and there is an emphasis on organizational goals, culture, career goals, advice on professional development, and work-life balance. Effective mentors often act as role models and sounding boards for their mentee and provide guidance to help them reach their goals.

Mentoring can be formal or informal. In an informal environment, mentees set goals, but they are usually not measurable and the relationships are unstructured. For a formal mentoring relationship, there are actionable and measurable goals defined and set with determined requirements.

Mentoring is not coaching and not counseling. Mentoring relationships are based upon advice giving and direction while coaching is not. Counseling is a paid-relationship in which underlying mental or psychological issues are addressed with solutions given by a medical professional.

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Why Is Mentoring Important?

A good mentor can help the mentee become more effective at work, learn new skills, develop greater confidence, and make better decisions for their overall career growth.

Mentors report many benefits as well, including satisfaction from seeing others develop; expanded generational and cultural perspectives; strengthening of technical, leadership, and interpersonal skills; and continuing to experience new ideas and insights.

mentoring diagram: one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring, peer mentoring, distance or e-mentoring, reverse mentoring, speed mentoring

Mentoring Techniques or Models

One-on-One Mentoring: This type of mentoring is the most traditional of all the types of mentoring. Only the mentor and mentee are involved in this type of mentoring, and it is usually a more-experienced individual paired with a less-experienced or much younger mentee.
Group Mentoring: In this model, one or several mentors work with a group of mentees. Schools and youth programs often apply this model because there may not be enough time or resources to have one mentor for each participant.
Peer Mentoring: Participants in this model are from the same role or department or have shared or similar experiences, whether in their professional or personal lives. These peers pair up to offer support for each other. This can be a group or a one-on-one mentoring relationship.

Distance or E-Mentoring: With such advanced technology, the mentorship relationship no longer has to be face-to-face. Using online software or even email, participants in this type of mentoring can connect virtually without losing the personal touch.
Reverse Mentoring: This mentoring relationship is flipped from the traditional model. Instead of a senior professional mentoring a more junior employee, the junior employee mentors a more senior professional. This relationship is usually for the younger or more junior professional to teach the skills or a new application or technology to the more senior one.
Speed Mentoring: This type of mentoring is a play on speed dating and usually occurs as part of a corporate event or conference. The mentee has a series of one-on-one conversations with a set of different mentors and usually moves from one mentor to the next after a brief meeting. The mentee should come prepared with questions for advice from the senior level professionals.


Where to Find a Mentor

Enroll in a Mentoring Program: If you are in a formal mentoring program, you will be matched with a mentor. These could be within your organization, a social group, an alumni network from your alma maters, or a professional development organization of which you are a member.

Ask Your HR Department: Make an appointment with your HR manager or director and ask them to match you with an internal senior leader or director. Have a list of what your goals are and your must-haves from the mentor planned out beforehand and give that to your HR manager.

Find a Professional(s) You Respect: Create a list of five to 10 people you admire and with whom you are connected. Consider what in their experience you respect and admire the most. You may have more than one mentor for different skill sets you are looking to develop further. For example, there could be one person you admire and want as a mentor in public speaking, another for writing or publishing, and another for leadership development.

Ask a Trusted Friend or Colleague: Get matched with someone in your friend or colleague’s network. Preferably the person matching you knows you very well and can relay your ambitions and goals to your potential mentor. It’s also preferable to have someone in mind or someone who you have previously met or know in some capacity.

Get Involved With an ATD Chapter: Many chapters have formal mentoring programs that are offered as a benefit of membership. In general, chapters are a great way to build your network and make local career connections, including mentors. Use the chapter locator to identify the chapter nearest you, and reach out to chapter leadership to learn more about the mentoring options available through the chapter.

Be wary of asking your boss to be your mentor. While your boss seems like a natural fit in many instances, there could be a lot of disadvantages to having your boss as your mentor. For example, your boss may not tell you honestly that leaving the company is your best option for career growth or they may not push you to ask for a raise or promotion for fear of their budget. Remember that mentoring is focused on long-term growth, not day-to-day performance.

Do not ask random strangers on LinkedIn or at conferences you are attending to be your mentor. Be sure you are connected in some way to this person other than blind admiration.

Building Your Mentoring Skills

Whether you are looking to be a mentee, start a mentoring program at your organization, or become a mentor yourself, ATD has what you need to excel. ATD understands the value of mentoring and how this relationship can skyrocket your career growth and development as well as be used as a powerful development tool for your organization. ATD has numerous offerings about mentoring for talent development professionals. For access to even more resources, including practical tools and templates, research, and insights, you’re invited to become an ATD member. Learn more.

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Additional mentoring resources

Essentials for Developing a Mentoring Program

Discover, identify, design and train mentors in providing mentoring experiences in this course from ATD.

Publications on Mentoring

Browse our mentoring books and publications.

Mentoring Videos & Podcasts

Take a look at our videos from mentoring subject matter experts, webcasts and other recordings from past ATD conference sessions on mentoring.

Mentoring Job Aids & Tools

Assessments, templates, maps and checklists that guide you through how to perform a variety of mentoring tasks.


Read insights and new perspectives from subject matter experts on mentoring and mentoring programs on the ATD website.

TD Magazine Articles

Read our TD Magazine articles on mentoring from some of the leaders in mentoring.

Connect with ATD