There is much debate among scholars about formal and informal mentoring. Some theorists argue that a true mentoring relationship cannot be systematically created because it is fundamentally an informal, interpersonal relationship of such depth that it is rare. These scholars frequently resort to myth and emotional language in describing mentoring which only adds to its aura of mysteriousness and inaccessibility. In essence, what they seem to be saying is, “If it happens to you it will be powerful and very beneficial; if it doesn’t, you can only wish for it.”
The counter argument is that formal mentoring, like any relationship, can be established provided one understands what a mentoring relationship is and proceeds with a sense of integrity and professionalism.
A third model emerges which is a combination of both and which I refer to as “strategic mentoring”. Strategic Mentoring features elements of both informal and formal mentoring. Strategic Mentoring is created and structured by the mentoree to harness the power of mentoring to achieve specific career and professional goals. Unlike informal mentoring which is mentor generated, in strategic mentoring, the mentoree actively seeks out a prospective mentor taking into consideration how important the issue of “chemistry” is and determining one’s own level of comfort. Unlike formal mentoring, in strategic mentoring, your goals are what define the relationship but you create a structure in which you and the mentor will work together to achieve identified goals. In summary, strategic mentoring combines the relational aspects of informal mentoring with the structured aspect of formal mentoring to create a kind of hybrid.
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