January 12, 2016 — I am one of the lucky few to have a best friend at work. My co-worker, and yes, best friend, and I have been able to develop our careers due to each other’s support, guidance, and mentorship.
Of course not everyone has a best friend on the job, but there are extensive benefits to having a peer mentor who you can confide in at your company. Because they understand the intricacies of your workplace, peer mentors can be educated and supportive partners. Their advice is rooted in experience and insight into your particular situation at the company. With an authentic peer mentor, you can develop a powerful and mutually beneficial alliance.
But how do you know you have found the right peer mentor? See the checklist below, based on my own peer mentoring relationship.
You can trust her. Trust isn’t realized overnight. It takes time, it takes bonding experiences, it takes reliability and consistency. Because she understands your manager and company, your peer mentor is someone with whom you can be open about your experiences, but also someone who can bring you back to the tangible. She has the ability to advise you on what you can do to improve your situation and how you can overcome an obstacle.
She is honest. Your peer mentor’s role is not to evaluate your performance, but to instead coach you as a fellow team member. She can provide candid and truthful feedback that directly relates to your work and your role. Whether it is helping you soften an email or guiding you on how to address a difficult team member, her honest advice is embedded in knowledge of both you and your organization.
She is a high performer (like you). It is important to identify traits and qualities that you admire in your peer mentor and determine if you can emulate them while maintaining your authenticity. My peer mentor is extraordinarily poised and absolutely fearless; she flawlessly executes. As we continue to advance in our careers, I want to develop these abilities in myself. Having a peer example is helpful, as she provides tactical advice on how to hone characteristics that come easily to her but less so to me.
She is going through similar “life events.” Our work and personal lives are intertwined, and the current status of one often impacts the other. A peer mentor who is going through similar life events, such as coping with aging parents, trying to establish a dating life, or making career changes, allows you to strategize together on how to maximize overall life goals and happiness.
When looking for mentors, do not be afraid to look at the person sitting beside you. Peer mentorships can provide collective insight, perspective, and growth that you would not be able to gain with any other type of mentor.