When people think of mentoring they often imagine a wise, experienced person passing along knowledge and advice to someone more junior. And while that might be true in some cases, it’s not the only case.
In fact, Peer mentoring or Co-mentoring is a relationship in which both people are committed to learning from each other and helping the other one reach their goals. It’s a supportive relationship between two people of similar seniority/experience, sharing that knowledge and experience. It also provides an opportunity to get a different perspective. First made popular by universities, peer mentoring is starting to get more play in professional environments as well.
While your peer mentor doesn't have to be at your exact work level, there is an advantage to mentoring and being mentored by a person who has roughly the same amount of experience that you have. You both face similar challenges, you can truly understand your peer mentor; his goals, obstacles, and challenges. You can both share your experience and help the other navigate and learn from your successes and failures. Both participants work as equals which can be less intimidating than traditional mentoring.
How to find the right Peer Mentor
If you want to start a peer mentorship, the first step is to find the right Peer Mentor. Consider someone who shares work experience with you but can offer a different perspective on the challenges you face. It's helpful to find someone who has a different background. Remember that this relationship is meant to push you so don't look for someone whose career experiences are identical to yours.
Define the purpose of the relationship
Defining each person’s goals is an essential part of any mentoring process. At the beginning of the peer relationship, both individuals should discuss what they want to accomplish and get out of the relationship. Like in any kind of relationship, communication is key. You both need to be on the same page.
The structure of your meetings should also be discussed - you can decide to take turns each session to act as mentor/mentee with the mentee coming prepared with a dilemma they want to work through. Or you can both address a problem together in a session similar to a brainstorm,
Peer mentoring is a mutual learning experience, a mutually beneficial relationship that can advance your career and the career of your peer mentor. It's a great environment for co-learning, knowledge sharing, and mutual support.