Are you interested in becoming a mentor, or finding a mentor to help with your professional development? If so, check out a free new IEEE Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD) webinar aimed at helping mentors and mentees find each other. Its goal is to establish successful partnerships through IEEE's 5-year-old Web-based Mentoring Connection program.
IEEE partnered in 2005 with the Training Connection—a small business in Prince William, Va., that helps organizations establish and manage career-development strategies—to develop the program. The IEEE Mentoring Program was launched in 2006 for young IEEE members seeking career guidance, as well as seasoned IEEE members with experience and advice to share. The program is open to any IEEE member above student grade, and participants are encouraged to commit at least two hours per month to be either a mentor or mentee. So far, approximately 3000 members have enrolled in the program, and about 25 percent of them are currently partnered with a mentor or mentee. The new webinar was launched this year as a way to encourage more members to participate.
Kathy Wentworth Drahosz, founder and president of the Training Connection, hosts the webinar, Mentoring Connection Program, along with Jennifer Sellers, the company's program manager.
Drahosz attributes her own career success to guidance she received from others."I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for some incredible mentors in my life—people who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself and who cared enough to invest time in my development," she says in the webinar.
TAKING THE FIRST STEP
IEEE members interested in the program can visit the Mentoring Connection Web site and log in using the group ID IEEE2006 to fill out an application and create a profile. Mentees should give detailed information about their career situations as well as skills they'd like to hone and occupations they want to pursue. Mentors should describe their professional background, qualifications, and skills.
"Mentors should be proven leaders in their roles as executives, managers, consultants, or researchers," Drahosz says."They should be able to communicate effectively and be willing to share career successes as well as failures."
IEEE members looking for help are typically recent college graduates, often in their first or second job, considering graduate school, or thinking about shifting their careers in a new direction. Mentors can help expose them to different ways of thinking on the job, problem solving, coping with setbacks, navigating the corporate structure, and making a smooth transition from the classroom to the workplace.
Mentorships are designed to help young professionals not only increase their technical know-how but also sharpen their "soft skills," Drahosz says. Those include interpersonal communications and relationships, the art of giving presentations, and project management.
MAKING A MATCH
IEEE members interested in finding a mentor can sign up and browse through the profiles of several hundred members who have volunteered. The program generates a suggested-match list based on information members supply. Mentees can narrow their search by career field, gender, and geographic location.
A mentee can send a message to a prospective mentor to request an arrangement. If the mentor accepts, the next step is for the pair to create and follow a plan designed to help the mentee achieve his or her goals. A prospective mentor who declines a request is encouraged to direct the mentee to someone who might be a better match.
It's not always easy to find a mentor, Drahosz says. "For some shy or reserved mentees, going through the mentor-matching process is going to feel like a stretch," she says."The bottom line is that the rewards are definitely worth the extra work."