Look for a Mentor in your New Job

questionsYou’re in a new job. You have a new boss. You know what your new job entails.  But what’s missing? A mentor to occasionally meet with, ensuring you’re on the right track. If you’re a manager, how can you mentor the new hire, without usurping the employee’s boss? As a new employee, why should you find a mentor in your new job?

In my last job, we were ramping up headcount, creating a new department. We hired a guy, who had the daunting task of being the first employee in this department. His success was dependent on how much direction and structure he would receive from his boss and team members. Thinking that he wouldn’t think to find a mentor in our company, I took an interest in him because of the impression he made with me during the final interview round.

Random Acts of Kindness, Mentoring from afar
We were an early stage company, so there wasn’t much product documentation for this new hire to review. I gave him my sales reference manual, so he could learn about the product from the sales and marketing perspective. The manual  included:

  1. Industry & Company Overview: product training, target audience, business goals, feature set, Solution Development Prompters (SDP), and product information sheet & collateral, etc.
  2. Competition: profiles, strengths & weaknesses, & positioning
  3. Sales Tools: sales presentation, sales presentation, demo presentation w/ notes, sales presentation, product demo, ROI financial dashboard, ROI financial dashboard sample report and ROI terms and definitions
  4. Mechanics/Administrative: pricing, pricing FAQs, pricing policy, online demo, online demo policy, standard proposal template – channel partner, and online demo calendar
  5. Technical Aspects for Sales: technical FAQs, hosting and security overview, and hosting escalation and response times
  6. Our Client Services (Implementation and Support): overview of CS, IT Scope & Effort Estimate, proposed kickoff agenda, training agenda, systems reporting tool overview, overview of maintenance services, and sample system integration specification
  7. Sales & Marketing Programs: target audience: national accounts – existing accounts, target audience: large qualified prospects – existing pipeline, and target audience: new prospects – larger prospects

When I did this, he was speechless and grateful. A week later, I realized that he may not know what books he should buy to get an understanding about his new job function, as I suggested in my interview with him. compelled to research in Amazon.com, I purchased the right book for him. Again, he couldn’t believe that I went out of my way to help him. One of my direct reports finished a new sales tool, listing the product features from A-Z. I asked her to email it to the new guy. Again, he was touched. Random acts of kindness on my part? Yes and no.

Finding a Mentor is Intimidating at Times
I’m aware that my peer, his boss, was slammed.  My peer was too busy to do little things like this for the new guy, so I helped from afar. From my perspective, it was the best way to get the new guy up to speed, helping him get results sooner. I cared about his results, since I was an executive team member. I also realized that the new employee may not realize that I had taken an interest in his job transition, so he wouldn’t think to loop back with me for recommendations on how to successfully transition into his job.

I welcomed him into his new job during his first week, I let him know that my door is always open and to stop by. Did he accepted this offer? Nope. Am I surprised? Not at all. I suspect that my part of the office, which was next to our controller and CEO was a bit scary for him. I would have been scared at that age. I did outreach through my team or by my own actions, to help him transition into his job.

What can Managers do?
Lessons learned? From the management perspective, if you have a natural curiosity or empathy for a new hire, offer guidance or lessons for success in your company. Obviously, you don’t want to circumvent the manager or your peer of the new person, but help the new hire with a few little things that will help them be successful out of the gates. Do what you can without undermining the boss or your peer.

What can employees do?
From the knowledge worker perspective, if you’ve just landed your new job, think about who you clicked with during the interview process. Loop back with them, finding any excuse like, “Thank you for making my job interview process positive…I’m so excited to be here…BTW, do you have any suggestions on how I can hit the ground running? Any key factors for success that you’d see?” If think this person would make a good mentor, then just ask. Chances are they would be open or could periodically offer advice. Some managers or fellow knowledge workers really do believe in giving back by helping others to be successful. Don’t be shy, just do it and see what happens. Who knows, it may turn out just like you hoped it would.