What is Peer Mentoring and Why You Need to Engage in One

elevate-753477-unsplash_700x.jpg

According to My-Peer toolkit, peer mentoring is a relationship, which has mutual benefits for all parties involved, and is generally used to help a less experienced person achieve their goals by being [sic] receiving assistance and guidance from a more experienced person.

I will redefine peer mentoring as a mutually beneficial relationship that usually takes place between two or more peers who have lived or are living through similar experiences and rally to inspire, empower and elevate each other.

For as long as I can remember, I have engaged in this form of relationship, but never defined it as an “official” mentor-mentee relationship. Lately, I’ve begun to realize that this is probably the most underrated form of mentor-mentee relationship out there as I have experienced first hand how effective it is. When you think of a mentor, you think of the traditional style where you find an individual who is where you want to be in your career or life (specific or related) and try to form a relationship with them. Usually in hopes that they can give you some insights into how you too can achieve their success. There are obvious benefits to this type of mentor-mentee relationship, however, , I’d also like to shed some light on peer mentorship and why you should engage in one.

At my current company, Shopify, I have a personal branding club (PBC) where we meet every other Tuesday at lunch to discuss our professional and personal careers. Since the inception of this club, I have found myself to be a better worker and more conscious on building my professional and personal brand (I’ll discuss the importance of personal branding in another post). In the club, we’re all pretty early in our tenure at Shopify (ranging from 5 months in to 2+ years in) but we’ve learnt so much from each other that I believe I wouldn’t have learnt from a traditional mentor-mentee relationship. One thing most people don’t realize is that you and your peers are usually going through the same thing, albeit sometimes at different paces, and can really help to level up each other. As an example, when I wanted to approach my lead about my career path and what I envisioned, my personal branding club was instrumental in the approach I took and dare I say, the success of that conversation.

Peer mentoring can happen through any medium — it could be at work with a group of co-workers, your professional network or even close friends. Think about your current life and the people around you and the types of conversations you have as it pertains to career or personal life. I bet you didn’t even notice you were probably engaging in a form of peer mentoring. I’m sure we’ve all given tips to a friend about an upcoming interview, or how to negotiate for a higher salary based on the fact that we’ve once been there, read an article about it, studied it, etc. You most likely saw it as a friend helping another friend, which is essentially peer mentoring. When I think of my personal life, I have more peer mentors than I do traditional mentors. My close group of friends and co-workers are one of the smartest and driven people I have ever been blessed to call friends and co-workers. We always elevate each other and come up with creative ways to achieve our dreams. Your peers can also help you with getting a new job and give you access to resources to become a better professional and person all around. As another example, I was referred to my current role by my very close friend (shout out to Toni) and I have since referred other people to Shopify and other companies I’ve worked for in the past.

You’re probably wondering, “that’s all great but how do I engage in peer mentoring? Do I just ask my friends and/or co-workers and form this type of relationship?” The answer is yes, and no. Here are some tips on how to engage in an effective peer mentoring relationship:

1.KNOW WHAT YOU WANT OUT OF THE RELATIONSHIP

You first have to know what you want out of the peer-to-peer mentoring relationship. Without knowing this, you won’t find it effective and it will essentially be a waste of your time and everyone else’s time.

2.FIND PEERS WHO WANT SIMILAR THINGS

Once you figure out what you want, find peers who want similar things. Remember, it’s a give-and-take relationship so you need to find people who share similar goals. For my personal branding club, we all wanted to discuss our personal brand and career. We all want to do more in work and outside of our day-to-day and so it was a perfect match.

3.MAKE IT “OFFICIAL”

Set a cadence on how often you want to meet. I suggest every week or every other week. By having a consistent way of meeting, you will be able to keep the momentum going. It doesn’t have to be in an official setting so feel free to make it fun by meeting for brunch or dinner.

4.SET GOALS AND KEEP EACH OTHER ACCOUNTABLE

My personal branding club started tracking our goals on a spreadsheet (sounds cumbersome, I know, but it works), and we keep each other accountable for the next time we meet. We have separated our goals into two week goals (since we meet every two weeks), short term goals (quarterly) and long-term goals (1 year+). These goals include both professional and personal goals. This also helps you measure how you’re doing as an individual.

5.KEEP IT SMALL

This is the most important. Just like you will have a one-on-one traditional mentor-mentee relationship, ensure your peer mentoring group is small. It doesn’t have to be as small as two people, but I say try to keep it under 10 people. The more people are in your group, the harder it is to make it efficient. My personal branding club is currently at 6 people and we plan on capping it at 10.

Now that you have some tips on how to engage in an effective peer mentoring relationship, it’s time to go out and start and/or join one. Go to networking events, speak with your co-workers, speak with your friends. I have no doubt you will find it extremely useful. I love when people of the same mindset, who also share similar goals gather together. This was one of the reasons why I started a book club last year, the personal branding club, and launched TFHW. I know how instrumental my peers were to my current success and will continue to be in my future success and I believe everyone should have a chance to experience that.

Leave a comment below - I would love to hear from you!

Written by Victory Omotayo