Why you should get on board the mentor ship.

Author:Martin, Lynnie

There are many ways in which a person can learn and develop through-out his or her career. Having or being a mentor provides an interactive and custom-designed education. Mentoring offers invaluable benefits to both individuals, as well as to the organization that employs them.

What Is a Mentorship?

"When a person takes the time to share the gift of knowledge and experience with another, they share the gift of a lifetime."--Jennifer Cunningham

The mentor-mentee relationship, in its most basic form, is one person taking the time and effort to share knowledge, experience, and wisdom with another person. Mentorships can be formal or informal, but usually they are broken into two main categories.

  1. Senior-to-junior mentorship. In this type of mentorship, an up-and-coming leader is advised and counseled by a more experienced individual. The relationship is based on developing the junior individual, but often the senior individual learns and benefits just as much from the mentorship.

  2. Peer-to-peer mentorship. This mentorship is common among students and serves many purposes. Students pair up to check each other's work, thus leading to real-time feedback of errors and mistakes. They also are able to learn leadership and team working skills, often solidifying a recent lesson as they teach it to another student.


    Both formal and informal mentorships occur in the federal government. Informal mentorships often occur via networking events: co-workers, students, and other participants develop relationships and can learn and grow from these connections. Formal mentorships have specific expectations and guidelines, which provide consistency and dependability throughout the relationship and ensure that both sides benefit from the partnership.

    For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has a formal mentorship program that can be either peer-to-peer or senior-to-junior. This program gives mentees a list of possible mentors to choose from based on the preferences they enter into a computer matching system. More about this particular program can be found at https://mentoring.hhs.gov/. The site also gives a thorough summary of mentoring-related reading materials.

    The Office of Personal Management's (OPM) new Pathways Program, which seeks to bring new talent into government, primarily calls for senior-to-junior formal mentorships. One can be both a mentor and a mentee at once; also, there is no age limit for either role. (See p. 45 sidebar for tips to senior leaders on preparing to be a mentor and deriving knowledge from the experience.)

    The Pathways Program

    The Pathways Program will be the main tool agencies use to channel new people into the government workforce pipeline. There will be three pathways: the Internship Program for current students; the Recent Graduates Program for those within two years of graduation from a higher education institution, trade school, or PhD program; and the Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program for those with a master's degree or higher.

    The goal of the Pathways Program is to recruit more students and recent graduates with higher education degrees...

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