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What is Mentoring?

Mentoring is when an experienced individual helps guide and develop the successes and goals of a less experienced person. In her article, How to Be an Amazing Mentor: 12 Ways to Make a Positive Impact on Others, Lindsay Kolowich describes the mentor as a trusted advisor who can be counted on to always have the mentee’s best interests in mind. Typically, the mentor is an employee within the same company as the mentee. It is the responsibility of the mentor to hold the mentee accountable for achieving his goals. Mentoring is a partnership where both parties benefit; the mentee gains experience, insight and growth, while the mentor gains recognition for the successes of their protégé.


Mentoring is closely related to coaching and to sponsorship, but there are some key differences between these three practices, as outlined by Stephani Mager of TrainingIndustry in Coaching, Mentoring, and Sponsorships: What Does it all Mean?. Mentors and sponsors are similar in that they typically work at the same company as the individuals they are helping. However, sponsors take it further with the involvement in the success and development of the individual, using their power and influence within the company. Like mentors and sponsors, coaches also help employees grow and develop. Unlike mentors and sponsors, however, coaches are typically from outside of the company and their involvement typically occurs over a shorter period of time.

Why is Mentoring Important?

Mentoring is important because it benefits the mentor, the mentee and the company for which they work. Since the mentor is responsible for holding the mentee accountable to achieve his goals, this increases the chances of success. When the mentee has success, this benefits not only himself, but his mentor and their company as well.

Let’s imagine that a new hire has started a role as a receptionist in a doctor’s office. An unauthorized person has just called and requested personal information on a patient. The new receptionist knows that HIPPA prevents releasing this information, but he is becoming flustered by the caller, who is being extremely persistent. The receptionist puts the caller on hold and asks his mentor for advice.

This is an opportunity for both the mentor and the mentee to benefit.  The mentor helps the newly hired receptionist handle the crisis situation, providing him with a “broken record” strategy of explaining why he can’t provide the information but asking if there is anything else they can assist with, until the caller realizes she will not get what she wants and hangs up.

Although the mentor has helped provide the mentee with the solution, she lets the mentee employ the solution to gain valuable experience. The mentee is thankful to the mentor for the assistance and has gained confidence and experience so that he is better able to handle similar situations in the future. The mentor has benefitted by gaining appreciation by the mentee and also recognition by others in her company for her ability to successfully train others.

Mentoring can transfer internal knowledge and experience from experienced to less experienced employees. Mentoring can also help develop leaders and help other employees improve their skills.

Stay tuned for Tips for Mentoring Employees: Part 2, to learn how to become a successful mentor.


Alex Weisberg serves as an Instructional Designer on the Professional Learning and Instructional Design team for NC State Industry Expansion Solutions (IES). His focus is on working with subject matter experts to design, develop, and assess training content to ensure it is engaging and effective. Prior to joining IES, Alex worked at PTC as an Education Editor Specialist. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University. His experience in adult education spans over 6 years working with subject matter experts to improve and develop training materials.