Formal & Informal Mentoring: Definition & Differences

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  • 0:00 The Need for Mentoring
  • 1:32 Informal Mentoring
  • 2:52 Formal Mentoring
  • 4:20 Example
  • 4:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nick Chandler
This lesson looks at mentoring as a form of training in which people can receive the advice and guidance needed to make up for a lack of experience and knowledge. We will explore both formal and informal mentoring.

The Need for Mentoring

When you start a new job and lack the knowledge and experience, it can be pretty overwhelming. Think of a student with no work experience who lands a high-flying job in the banking industry. Learning about the industry will take time, and mistakes might be made because of a lack of experience. To avoid this, a company might decide to use a mentor. A mentor is a person with experience, knowledge and advice that can be shared with another person. Mentoring is a form of training in which knowledge and experience are shared by the mentor with the mentee, the person who is getting mentored, for professional and personal development.

Mentoring is an effective way of passing on experience and developing people. We see it a lot in sports when the coach uses his experience and advice to develop each team member. Who was the mentor of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg? None other than Steve Jobs (Apple CEO and tech guru). Whether or not you're into fashion, you must have heard of Yves Saint Laurent, but did you know that Saint Laurent had a mentor? He was another world-renowned fashion designer: Christian Dior. Mentees often owe a lot of their success to the advice and guidance of their mentors. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi says that she is a product of great mentoring and has actively looked for mentors so that she may achieve her personal and professional objectives.

There are two main types of mentoring: informal and formal. Each type has a different process with different goals.

Informal Mentoring

When two people get on well together, then one might take on the role of mentor with the aim of developing the other. Think of a family in which a father or mother offers some advice and guidance to his or her children. In fact, center for the Boston Celtics, Bill Russell, in the '50s and '60s, always said that his mother was his greatest mentor, and baseball legend, Cal Ripken Jr., saw his father, Cal Ripken Sr., as his mentor. Informal mentoring starts from the relationship between the two people, and so the actual mentoring process is not structured. Often, the mentor and mentee in informal mentoring will continue with a long-term friendship even after the mentoring process is over.

As it's informal, aims and expected outcomes are rarely planned, although both the mentor and mentee might have expectations of possible outcomes from the mentoring relationship. Likewise, the duration of this process might not be fixed. In the cases of Bill Russell and Cal Ripken, the parents might not have been considered experts in the fields of baseball and basketball, but the life lessons they passed on helped both of their sons in their sporting careers.

If we consider informal mentoring from a business perspective, then there are no organizational benefits planned; but, of course, this does not mean that there won't be some positive outcomes from informal mentoring.

Formal Mentoring

In formal mentoring, the mentoring process is started with a certain business objective. Imagine a person is to be promoted to account manager in a different market in which he or she has no experience. An objective might involve the mentee understanding who the key players are and how to deal with competition or customers in this new market.

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