Feeling stuck in your career? Have a brilliant idea for a program but aren’t quite sure how to implement? Want to master core skills or learn new skills to turbocharge your climb?

If you’re serious about changing the direction of your career and taking it to the next level, then you’ve come to the right place. This month SF IABC rolled out a newly revamped Mentoring Program, an invaluable Chapter benefit that offers participants professional guidance in the field of communications.

SF IABC members Courtney Sims and Sarah Wehren Kooiker re-designed the Chapter’s existing Mentoring Program to assist a broad range of communicators at various stages in their careers. With three levels of commitment — eight weeks, six months and 12 months — the program remains focused on meeting mentees where they are with appropriate short, medium and long-term support and now offers stage-appropriate guidance to get them where they want to go.

Understanding the value of mentoring to ramp up potential and exceed career goals puts the Chapter in excellent company. Research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 70% of Fortune 500 companies supported mentoring as a useful tool to retain talent and boost employee satisfaction. Communications professionals know they must keep their skills constantly updated and retooled to remain relevant. Mentoring programs keep employees on top of trends in the marketplace, help sharpen skills, provide necessary perspective on corporate culture and encourage experts to share what they know. Research from the National Institute of Health has also found that adults learn best when they are involved in diagnosing, planning and implementing their own path to success.

The Chapter’s new Mentoring Program is both dynamic and flexible, focusing on three key areas of growth for the mentee:

  • Business acumen,
  • Professional development and
  • Networking

In the redesign, Courtney and Sarah recognized the importance of relationships that enhanced skills while leveraging experience and fashioned the new program to work for people at different points in their careers. They kept the eight-week session to target young professionals who might need basic fundamentals — quick and easy tips to follow — and added six-month and 12-month options to appeal to communicators in more advanced stages of their careers.

The six-month program is designed to assist a Chapter member who is likely two to five years into his or her career and needs support in switching jobs or transitioning into a new role.

The 12-month program is specifically designed for those who know what they want to accomplish and what they need to do to get there. It’s a level of change that doesn’t lend itself to a quick fix. The year-long support option is designed to provide in-depth check-ins and develop core competencies that will establish the mentee as an expert in a space.

Courtney and Sarah expanded the existing program based on their own positive experiences in both mentor and mentee roles. Last spring, Courtney participated in the Chapter’s eight-week program and was paired with a mentor who had deep experience in change management, helping her reach a very specific career goal.

“I knew I wanted to hone my networking skills and become more intentional about my connections with people, so I came prepared with questions to all our meetings. I used my mentor’s knowledge and expertise and really applied what he suggested. What I learned and practiced has helped me gain confidence about diving into an organizational culture and has shaped my career in a very positive way,” she says.

Mentors benefit too and there’s plenty of research to prove it. A recent Sun Microsystems study found that mentors were six times more likely to advance in pay grade. Retention rates were also 69% higher for mentors and ROI for mentoring programs exceeded 1000%.

Sarah, SF IABC’s Executive Board member for Member Outreach, believes there are two important reasons to participate in the Chapter’s Mentoring Program:

  • Chapter mentors come from very different industries with different dynamics and offer a collective library of experiences they are ready and willing to share. Whether a mentee is younger or older, Chapter mentors are keen to share what they’ve learned.
  • Mentoring is an excellent way to demonstrate leadership skills. For example, if a mentee is struggling to understand his or her boss, a mentor will very likely have a broader perspective on organizational behavior that helps refocus one’s mindset.

Sarah is currently mentoring at her company and finds it enhances her own work experience. “When you see people succeed and get what they wanted because they put in the time, it’s very rewarding,” she says. “The beauty of mentoring through SF IABC is that your advice isn’t confined by loyalties to any given company. If it’s warranted, you can be honest about, for example, a situation you see as unchanging and advise your mentee to consider broadening her horizons.”

Sarah believes that, ultimately, mentoring is about generosity. Mentoring programs can create deeper connections, especially important in a data-driven world where technology may actually close us off from one another. “I do feel passionately about helping our younger generation understand some of the changes in the field and how those changes have impacted the ways we communicate. Mentoring doesn’t have to be older versus younger. I’ve learned a lot from all generations. Mentoring allows us to keep sharing what we know and that’s how we all get better,” she says.

To learn more about the SF IABC Chapter’s Mentoring Program, contact Courtney Sims or Sarah Wehren Kooiker with your questions at: sfiabcmentorship@gmail.com.

Maggie Harryman is a freelance copywriter who specializes in long-form writing, including case studies, white papers, website content and ebooks for the real estate, finance, technology, medical device and wine industries. She lives in Sonoma County and works throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.