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Why You Should Go Out of Your Way to Find an Awesome Peer Mentor

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Imagine…You just had an invaluable meeting with one of your mentors. You feel really stuck at work, unsure whether to take that great promotion or follow your passion with the startup that asked you to join their team. Your mentor went through a similar dilemma, and their advice was fresh and honest.

Now, what if we told you that your mentor was not a senior leader in your field, a professor or your boss? Rather, your mentor was your peer—someone at the same level as you in their career. But, you ask, how can a peer be a mentor, and why would I even want a peer mentor?

Here are four reasons why you should have a peer mentor and some key steps to building a peer mentoring relationship that will last a lifetime:

1. They’re at the same stage of life you are

Mentors are the people you can turn to when decision-making gets tough. The advantage of peers is that only they understand what it means to be a Twitter-obsessed Millennial in a recession economy in ways that senior mentors cannot.

Maybe you’re both experiencing unemployment after college, or trying to figure out how to manage your online brand to reflect both your personal and professional life. Because your peers are confronting these same dilemmas, they’re equipped to empathize with the factors influencing your decision-making process.

2. They’re fluent in the new way of working

We live in an age of rapidly evolving technology and social media, which has impacted the way we work and live. Your peers are more likely to be excited about embracing these new technologies and work habits, whereas you might have to convince older generations of their value. Can Pinterest really leverage your brand capital? Who knows—but a peer mentor will be more likely to encourage your exploration of these emerging tools.

3. They’re safe sounding boards

Voicing your ideas, doubts and insecurities to someone who is at the top of their field is valuable, but it’s also incredibly intimidating. Sometimes it’s best to start with someone whose prestige or seniority won’t cause you to hold back. If you don’t feel comfortable pitching your idea to an older mentor, work through your thoughts with your peer mentor first.

4. Your peers will be the leaders of tomorrow

Your classmates, fellow interns and coworkers may be at the bottom of the totem pole today, but years down the road, you’ll all be at the peak of your career. Forming meaningful relationships today means you won’t have to reconnect for advice, collaboration or a favor later on.

So, how should you go about finding a peer mentor?

Start by thinking about the different communities you’re a part of and look for potential peer mentors in colleagues, friends, classmates and members of associations in your field.

When selecting a peer mentor, be sure to ask yourself what kinds of skills, knowledge and experience they have that would be valuable to you—and, conversely, what you have to share with them. If you have specific expectations, be upfront about these at the outset.

Lastly, remember that peer mentorship is about creating a genuine and sustained relationship for mutual growth, not just networking through someone. There is a distinction between the two.

Mentorship is ultimately about collaboration, sharing ideas, asking for feedback and not being afraid to ask for help or advice. Whether you are mentored by your peer or the CEO of your company, don’t forget to be open, honest and giving in return.

Special thanks to Zoe Schlag for her peer mentorship and contributions to this article.

Hila Mehr is a social enterprise fellow based in India. Follow her at hilamehr.wordpress.com and @HilaMehr.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=604750009 Vanessa Fiorido

    peer mentor= friend, no?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1057290076 Hila Mehr

      Vanessa – Hopefully they are your friend too, but a peer mentor can also be someone that you reach out to for advice or support without a prior friendship.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002939295860 Elizabeth Stuetze

    One more thing to remember…choose mentors who reflect your values and morals. If you are looking at a potential mentor, and they are not someone who you would cosider trading places with, keep looknig.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002939295860 Elizabeth Stuetze

      @[100001563511654:2048:Molly Margosian], @[100001436932475:2048:Carol Sheaffer] and @[100002372600061:2048:Tonya Dyer] you may not know it but you are this in my world.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001436932475 Carol Sheaffer

      AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001563511654 Molly Margosian

      Thank you Betsy!!! Right back at ‘cha :)

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002372600061 Tonya Dyer

      Thank you Besti! I <3 YOU!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003559773549 Christina Wood

    Awesome post! I’m a huge fan of mentoring because the bottom line is that no one gets to be great without first watching someone else’s example.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003559773549 Christina Wood

    By the way, I would highly recommend Alexandria Robbins’s Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis. She talked a lot about the importance of mentors, particularly for professionals in our 20s and 30s.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005090621275 Yin At

    The problem is you met a peer mentor who is not good at the new technologies as well as work habits. He just push rubbish to you to increase your work burden but not help you seeking further appropriate suggestion from seniors.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005090621275 Yin At

    A leader or senior soes not seem to accept rubbish idea in the same time add work load to his junior in his team.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005090621275 Yin At

    Mentorship is ultimately about collaboration, sharing ideas, asking for feedback and not being afraid to ask for help or advice. Thanks this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005090621275 Yin At

    If I am entored by the leader of my institute, don’t forget to be open, honest and giving in return.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=693845046 Razwana Wahid

    Hila – this is an excellent idea but one that would be difficult to approach just a friend for. The word ‘mentor’ is a little dry – how about ‘excellence comrade’, ‘supremacy sponsor’ or ‘awesome agent’.

    Just kidding.

    No matter what title they are given, I’d never actually thought of the merits of being mentored by someone at the same stage as me in life (not necessarily the same age…). I’d say the benefits of having a peer-mentor over one that is at a different stage in life is, aside from the empathy factor, they can give you a different perspective on similar experiences. Something I aim to seek more of…..

    – Razwana

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=600333437 David Thomas

    Good Article, Hila. Our college uses peer mentoring as a part of our professional development processes. A follow up article might be suggestions for structuring the relationship for the best results:
    1. Peer mentors should meet regularly, i.e. a monthly lunch.
    2. Peer mentoring should mean that both sides share their goals and ideas. It’s not a one way street.
    3. Peer mentors should arrive with written goals, objectives and concerns and review the document occasionally.
    ETC. Thanks again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000331218262 Frank Ortega

    my question is…how to find one when you are lonely wolf, besides in my experience I happen to encounter the ones who think they are Spielbergs with an extreme ego. For me it’s actually frustrating.

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