I love having someone I can ask stupid questions without feeling totally ridiculous. I'm extremely fortunate to have Hilary on my team -- we do almost the same job, she has previously returned from leave so understands my experience and she's a great mentor. Hilary is acting as my "peer mentor" for my transition back. No one has assigned us as such, but it's pretty obvious. She's the person I'll call each day with questions about why something happened, who I need to talk to about an issue and general guidance about our day-to-day jobs. Of course my manager will also be there for support, but I don't expect him to make the time for me that she can. Plus, she knows more about what we do each day, since she actually does it. :-)
Some best practices I've found in this role and others:
- Pick (or hope you're assigned) a peer mentor you're comfortable with. When I first started at Microsoft, I asked for a specific peer mentor because I knew I could ask him lots of questions. He had been very helpful when I was an intern, so it was likely that'd happen again.
- Be proactive about finding one. Not every company will assign you a peer mentor. Not every group in Microsoft will either. But peer mentors can be extremely useful to making you successful very quickly and are worth asking for.
- Make this an enriching experience for both parties. Be sure that the mentor's manager knows and is ok with them spending time with a mentee. Learning about onboarding a new employee could be a great experience for an individual contributor who wants to eventually be a manager.
- Value your mentor's time. Take notes during your meetings. Don't ask the same question twice. You don't have to do what they say, but do consider their opinions on topics. Thank them! :-)
- Schedule a regular meeting time or agree upon your communication preferences. Does your mentor prefer to meet in the mornings? Only via email? Not on the phone? Be sure you have similar expectations on the requirements and how you'll work together.
- Have fun! You probably started this job because it sounded interesting and fun. While you may be overwhelmed now, try to remember that you'll soon be contributing alongside your mentor, rather than just taking their time.
Have you had a peer mentoring relationship? I'm sure I've missed some key tips... Do you have any best practices to add?