What is formal mentoring?

formal mentoringLast week, we wrote a post on informal mentoring. In today's post, we will define formal mentoring.

Initiated by an organization, formal mentoring features specific guidelines and structure to the relationship.  The relationship lasts a finite period of time (usually from 9-12 months) and is focused on specific organizational objectives. Most often, the mentor is selected for the mentoree based upon compatibility between the profiles of the mentor and mentoree in conjunction with the specific goals of the program. Mentors are often at a level or two higher than the mentoree, although a peer can be a mentor as well.

The benefit of this type of relationship is that it provides access to key people within an organization who have specific skills needed by the mentoree.  This provides for a more focused approach.  In addition, training allows both participants to understand the relationship and to use it more effectively. 

This is how people described a formal mentoring experience: 

I learned a lot from my mentor during the course of our relationship. He was very accessible and was willing to listen to my concerns and help me in any way possible. I enjoyed the experience and hope that my mentor gained as much as I did.” 

~mentoree in banking


“At first my mentor and I didn’t have much in common which forced us to work harder at this relationship.  On the other hand, that was a good thing because we became friends which was an added benefit of being in this program.  I learned a great deal which I will be able to utilize as I grow in  my career.”

~mentoree in publishing


“I enjoyed working with my mentoree in helping him accomplish his professional goals.  We met according to the program guidelines and I believe he felt the relationship was worthwhile.  I did not feel emotionally connected to my mentoree which I would have preferred.  I would serve as a mentor again but I prefer a more informal relationship.”

~mentor in technical industry 


As you can see, formal mentoring differs significantly from an informal relationship.  The biggest difference in this model is its lack of emotional intensity.  The relationship is often more businesslike and will not necessarily lead to an emotional connection that is characteristic of the informal model. 

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Topics: Mentoring Programs, Mentors & Mentorees