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Mentoring helps employees make career connections

Thinking that working with a mentor would help advance your career?

One of the advantages of employment at Emory is Mentor Emory, a program that matches peer career guides — or mentors — with protégés or mentees.

The free program is available to faculty and staff across the University through a formal nomination or self-nomination process; 50 individuals are chosen to participate each year.

Once selected, mentees are matched with a mentor based upon common goals and expertise and participate in a series of program activities and one-on-one monthly meetings.

"We've had executive leaders, directors, managers, public safety officers, IT and finance professionals, and administrative professionals who have served as mentors. Each year they give back their time and expertise to help someone else. They are the true heroes of the program," says HR Learning Services' Anadri Chisolm-Noel, who has led Mentor Emory since 2007.  

She works with mentors in the program while William O'Neal, who joined her in 2010 as co-leader, works with mentees.

Mentees range from new professionals seeking support in establishing their careers to mid-career professionals seeking advice on their career goals.

Participants tell their stories

Mentee Kendra Turner, financial analyst at Oxford, says "the mentor program at Emory has had a very profound effect on my career. I give total accolades to my mentor, Gary Cruze [senior instructor in Emory Continuing Education], who listened to my ideas and concerns for career enhancement and advancement in several areas, and patiently met with me and guided me."

Turner considers the best part of the program "the lifelong connection made with your mentor." 

Jay Flanagan, senior manager in University Technology Services, who has been a part of Mentor Emory for the last three years, says the program "has only gotten better and better. The mentees are excited and actively work to enhance their experience in the program. I have learned as much from them as they have from me.  

"I have had the opportunity to not only meet with others within my own department, UTS, but also other departments like Admissions and the Emory Police Department."

He praises the program leaders for making meetings "relevant, interesting and up to date with the latest information to help make our experience a good one."

Ed Moseley, senior business manager in the Office of Communications and Marketing, has been a mentor to two people with different goals. One was unfamiliar with how higher education worked and wanted to learn the ropes; the other wanted to move up the career ladder.

"The mentors share tips and seek and give advice," says Moseley. Because mentees "tend not to be in your area" of career, "you can be extremely objective and quite honest and direct."

Moseley thinks participating in Mentor Emory is a good way to be part of the Emory community. He stresses that people of various ages and stages of career can benefit. "You should never be afraid to seek career advancement," he adds.

Sonia Parra Zuña participated in Mentor Emory in 2009 as a mentee with a mentor from the School of Medicine.

"I was fortunate to find a mentor and a 'brand ambassador' to help open doors and bridge new partnerships with key health care professionals to gain industry knowledge," says Parra Zuña, senior financial analyst in the Department of Emergency Medicine.

Her mentor has also motivated her to give back to Emory. "I provide my resources to the University's Latino Task Force facilitated by the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services," she says. 

Promotions and career moves

In addition to networking opportunities and professional connections, the program has led to career growth.

"From 2008 to 2011, 24 percent of mentees received promotions and nine percent had lateral opportunities," Chisolm-Noel says, explaining that Learning Services continues to assess the program to see how career advancements may be attributed to Mentor Emory participation.

Mentor Emory runs every year from February to August. The structured program provides a workbook and guest speakers, who discuss topics such as networking and resume building.

Each Mentor Emory group meets four times during the term. "We suggest the mentor and mentee meet twice a month regularly," she says, "and often they do."

Begun in 2002 when the President's Commission of the Status of Women asked Human Resources to help launch a pilot program to increase the number of women in senior leadership roles at Emory, the program expanded in 2007 to include men. Participation increased by 58 percent, Chisolm-Noel notes.

However, a shortage of mentors can slow program growth.

"I think that people assume that only someone in a senior leadership role can serve as mentor," she says. "We've had mentors who were not in senior roles but had a specific skill or quality who were great mentors."

"Ultimately, the mentor must have a willingness to support the professional development of another person… we can help them develop the skills to coach the individual," she adds.

Among the trends she's seen recently: "More people are 'bringing' their own mentors to the program. In other words, some employees have already contacted someone on their own and they ask to participate in the program together.

"Recently, I've encouraged people create a mentoring network: an informal resource of two to three people who serve as informal mentors.  Perhaps one of those people will become your 'official' mentor, but at the very least you have expanded your sphere of connectivity," says Chisolm-Noel.

Learning Services is also exploring different formats for the program, including virtual and team mentoring — the latter being particularly popular in corporate settings.

Does she have a mentor?

"Oh yes!  It is essential to have people who serve as guides for your career. When I first came to Emory, I participated in the Mentor Emory Program and had a great mentor," Chisolm-Noel says.

"Today, I have a combination of internal and external mentors, some spanning back several years. It's important to have people who can offer feedback and coaching to help shape your career."

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