When Megan Lynn, SHRM-CP, was six months into her HR career, she had a rough time managing a difficult relationship with a supervisor. “Employees go to HR to resolve issues, but who do HR professionals go to when they have a problem?” asks Lynn, an HR generalist at BNBuilders, a design and construction company in Seattle. Then she found the answer: other HR practitioners.
In 2014, Lynn was matched with mentor Karren Eckwortzel through the mentorship program of the Lake Washington HR Association (LWHRA), a mega chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in the Puget Sound area. Eckwortzel is HR director at Integrus Architecture in Seattle and has more than 15 years of HR experience; she is also the 2018 LWHRA SHRM chapter president.
“One of the biggest benefits was to have a safe, confidential environment to discuss my thoughts, feelings, questions and professional aspirations,” Lynn says. “Karren … built my confidence, taught me how to handle crucial confrontations and gave me a voice. Karren was one of the first people I contacted when I passed my SHRM-CP exam.”
Like many HR professionals, Lynn found mentoring to be a powerful tool for building her network and keeping pace with a rapidly evolving profession. It can be particularly valuable for solo practitioners who may feel alone in their organizations—or anyone who wants to grow by cultivating good old-fashioned relationships. “In our world, where everyone is connected and has 20 billion text messages, no one is talking,” says Evan Guzman, head of marketing and strategic partnerships at Washington, D.C.-based Veterati, an online platform that pairs military mentees with civilian mentors. “People feel isolated,” he says.
Twenty-nine percent of organizations have formal mentoring programs in place, according to a November 2017 research study by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), and 37 percent have informal ones. Many more opportunities are available through professional organizations such as SHRM or Web-based services like Veterati.