Workforce Wonk

By Alyah Khan

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What are the ingredients of a successful mentoring experience?

Most federal employees have had a mentor at some point, but it might not have been the greatest experience for one reason or another.

In the context of federal employment, a mentor can provide tremendous value to a younger or new employee who is unfamiliar with the agency's structure and processes. Yet formal mentoring programs often fail because people are mismatched.

Given that mentoring is a great idea in the public and private sectors, the question then becomes: How do you make mentoring a successful endeavor for both parties?

While contemplating that question, here are a few more: What qualities does a great mentor or mentee possess? What problems should a mentor address? And should agencies establish formal mentoring programs or encourage employees to set up those relationships on their own?

I will be asking experts for their opinions on those questions for an upcoming article on mentoring in the government. But I’d also like to hear readers’ thoughts on effective mentoring strategies and have them share their personal experiences.

What advice would you give to other feds interested in becoming a mentor or mentee?

Priscilla Guthrie, former Intelligence Community CIO at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in an interview that she believes it’s up to the mentee to take the lead in the relationship by defining clear goals and arranging a schedule to meet or chat over the phone and follow up.

Guthrie said the best mentors are people who have a broad understanding of the world and aren’t competitive with the person they are advising. “If you pick someone who is not comfortable with themselves, they tend to not be as good a mentor,” she said.

According to Guthrie, mentoring is a “significantly underutilized opportunity” in the federal government. What do you think?

Posted by Alyah Khan on May 12, 2011 at 12:20 PM


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