Informal Mentoring
HealthAugust 18, 2022

Informal mentoring: The importance of carrying someone with you

By: Christie Cavallo, MSN, RN, EdDc, CNE, CNEcl

As we interview people for positions at our workplace, one of the main things I look for in their curriculum vitae is articles and presentations. I am not looking for the number of articles or journals where their work was published, or the titles of their presentations, but instead the number of authors. More specifically, did they collaborate with other colleagues in their work or go at it alone? Are they the sole author of their work, always the first author, or are they in a list of authors with various positions?

This speaks volumes to me as to whether the person is working with their colleagues or going at it alone.

Mentoring is defined by Alleman (1984) as “a relationship between two people in which one person with greater rank, experience or expertise teaches, guides or helps others to develop both professionally and personally ”(p 329). Successful mentoring relationships have been proven in nursing to help fill the practice gap, improve job satisfaction, promote collegiality, establish team building and improve clinical and academic performances (Matin, 2017). Formally establishing mentors for new employees and new graduates starts a bond intra professionally that nurses desperately need to be successful and forbear the very nature of their emotionally and physically demanding roles as health care professionals.

Even if your workplace has a formal mentorship program or whether it does not, we should be thinking about how we can carry someone with us. Informal mentorship is when an experienced person chooses another person to pour into. The difference here is the term “chooses”.  This should be on the minds of every experienced person and can be a bond that benefits the mentor as well as the mentee. Start thinking today about someone whom you can mentor and about how you can take one or all these steps to become an informal mentor to a colleague.

Invite someone to lunch

You are saying, wait a minute, I am going to take them with me by eating together? Yes! A lot of great relationships and conversations start with food. Get to know the other person. Ask them how they are doing in their new role. Listen to their concerns and interests. Share your uncertainties as a new employee in your role. Agree to meet again the next week.

Share a task with someone

We all have tasks we have to accomplish: a report to write, a webinar to attend or a conference to go to. Invite someone to join in! It is over tasks such as these that relationships are formed, and valuable tacit knowledge is shared. You will find that your new informal mentee is just waiting to be asked to join in and you will automatically have common ground for future opportunities.

Send emails

Your informal mentee will love opening their inbox and seeing an email from you. Send them resources that have been valuable to your profession. Share with your mentee how this resource has helped you to practice or kept you up to date on latest trends. CC them on an email thread so they can be involved in seeing how decisions are made or conversations transpire about topics.

Offer your assistance

Let a new person at your workplace know you would love to help them when they complete their tasks they have been assigned. Then when they ask, be available. A time sheet can be an insurmountable task if one has never done that form before. Do not wait for the person to ask.

Expand their network

Introduce your informal mentee of other people and inform them of their roles in the organization. Networking is an important skill for any employee to be a part of as we do not do our jobs successfully alone. By expanding their network, the mentee will someday be prepared to carry someone with them, also.

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Christie Cavallo, MSN, RN, EdDc, CNE, CNEcl
Expert Insights Contributor for Wolters Kluwer, Nursing Education
Lippincott® Nursing Education
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