Each year, colleges and universities across the country officially confer the degrees of their graduating class and send their newly minted alumni into the workplace. The field of career development is no exception to this flurry of transition and excitement. New career development professionals are getting ready to join the ranks of k-12 institutions, colleges and universities, community agencies, nonprofit organizations, human resources departments, and other organizations in the field. These new professionals have been trained through their academic programs, internships, and other learning experiences; however, they will still have a learning curve as they begin their new roles. In addition to learning the basic tasks of the job, new career development professionals will have a number of other needs including looking for ways to adjust and connect to a new organization, team or geographic location, learning the culture of their new organization, and finding a new support system within their new context (Ellingson & Snyder, 2009).
Socialization and mentoring are two key elements that may help recent graduates begin to build a foundation and acclimate into their new environments. Socialization is a learning process and is the manner by which new employees “acquire the social knowledge and skills necessary to assume an organizational role” (Van Maanen & Schein, 1979, p. 211). Mentoring in the workplace is a developmental relationship between professionals, often a new and a seasoned professional, “where the seasoned professional is able to provide advice, support, and guidance focused on skill acquisition and career development” (Williams, 2013, p. 31). Mentoring relationships can be formal or informal and provide a number of benefits to those involved in the relationship. Approached cohesively, socialization and mentoring can have an impact on the success of new professionals. In fact, new professionals in a variety of industries credit their job satisfaction and retention in a position to experiences they had in mentoring relationships early in their careers (Chao, 2009; Eby & Lockwood, 2004).
Below are five suggestions on how administrators, managers, and supervisors can begin to prepare their organizations to provide quality mentoring and socialization experiences for new career development professionals.
1. Create a Formal Mentoring Program: While informal mentoring relationships are generally created organically with no outside help, formal mentoring programs are formed by having an external facilitator create mentoring matches and setting up guidelines for the relationship, including how often the pair should interact and what types of interactions they should have. Formal mentoring programs also typically have a preconceived set of goals and outcomes and will last for a predetermined amount of time. Providing this formal program for new career development professionals can assist them in their initial socialization. It also allows them to intermingle with colleagues with whom they might not otherwise cross paths and also provides an initial system of support while they continue acclimating to the new environment.
2. Provide Networking Opportunities: Create opportunities for new employees to interact and network with both new and seasoned personnel in the organization. These opportunities can be formal or informal, allowing people with different comfort levels and social tendencies to find their comfort zone. The might include social events such as a team lunch outing, family picnic day, or trip to a local sporting event. These opportunities will allow people to meet and form relationships on a variety of levels. This may help new professionals feel more connected to the organization.
3. Develop Mentor Training: Educating mentors on the potential benefits and challenges of mentoring relationships, as well as providing practical tools and strategies for how to help develop the skills and abilities of new career development professionals, can have an significant impact on the overall mentoring experience for both the mentor and the protégé. Topics for these trainings might include how to have critical conversations and provide development feedback, how to provide challenging opportunities to a protégé who is still developing new skills, and how to assist a protégé with problem solving and goal setting.
4. Provide Additional Training Opportunities: By organizing in-service trainings for new professionals, you will help them not only achieve success with their day-to-day duties responsibilities, but will also help develop skills that will benefit them and the organization in the long run. Many organizations have a required orientation program that guides new hires through general paperwork, benefits, and company policies. Going a step beyond this and offering programs such as how to work through conflict with co-workers and supervisors, how to network successfully and build lasting professional relationships, and how to find opportunities to gain new skills can provide employees with continued personal and professional development, thus keeping them motivated and producing quality candidates for internal recognition and promotion.
5. Understand the Benefits of Mentoring: The benefits of mentoring are not just for the new professionals. Benefits exist for the mentor and the organization as well. Benefits for the protégé include general guidance and support, increased promotion opportunities, development of skills and knowledge, and improving confidence and performance on the job. The mentor benefits from the relationship by feeling more confident in their own abilities and having a general sense of professional rejuvenation. Additionally, mentors tend to feel more connected to research and best practices in the field as they seek to acquire new information to share with their protégé. Finally, organizations have the benefit of increased staff productivity, greater recruitment capabilities, a more skilled pool of employees, and reduced staff turnover (Ehrich, Hansford, & Tennent, 2004; Ramaswami & Dreher, 2007; Scandura & Pellegrini, 2007).
Mentoring experiences can vary greatly since each individual mentor and protégé bring a unique background and set of experiences to the relationship. There is not one specific set of guidelines you should follow in order to provide all of the benefits previously listed; however these suggestions are provided as basic guidelines for how to integrate more purposeful mentoring and socialization opportunities for new career development professionals into your organization.
Chao, G. T. (2009). Formal mentoring: Lessons learned from past practice. American Psychological Association, 40(3), 314–320.
Eby, L. T., & Lockwood, A. (2004). Protégés’ and mentors’ reactions to participating in formal mentoring programs: A qualitative investigation. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 67, 441–458.
Ehrich, L. C., Hansford, B., & Tennent, L. (2004). Formal mentoring programs in education and other professions: A review of the literature. Educational Administration Quarterly, 40(4), 518–540.
Ellingson, K., & Snyder, B. (2009). Voices of experiences. In M. J. Amey & L. M. Reesor (Eds.), Beginning your journey: A guide for new professionals in student affairs (3rd ed.) (pp. 1–14). Washington, DC: National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.
Ramaswami, A., & Dreher, G. F. (2007). The benefits associated with workplace mentoring relationships. In T. D. Allen & L. T. Eby (Eds.), The blackwell handbook of mentoring: A multiple perspectives approach (pp. 211–232). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Scandura, T. A., & Pellegrini, E. K. (2007). Workplace mentoring: Theoretical approaches and methodological issues. In T.D. Allen & L. T. Eby (Eds.), The blackwell handbook of mentoring: A multiple perspectives approach (pp. 71–91). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Van Maanen, J., & Schein, E. H. (1979). Toward a theory of organizational socialization. Research in Organizational Behavior, 1, 209–264.
Williams, A. L. (2013). Mentoring in student affairs: An interpretive study of experiences and relationships. (Order No. 3586239, North Carolina State University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 1-176.
Dr. Amanda Williams is the Director of Career and Academic Advising for the College of Design at North Carolina State University. A higher education professional with over 10 years of experience in career services and student support, she recently completed a Ph.D. in Educational Research and Policy Analysis with a dissertation titled "Mentoring in Student Affairs: An Interpretive Study of Experiences and Relationships". Amanda is currently serving as President-Elect/Conference Chair for the North Carolina Career Development Association. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org