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Mentoring

NRCS Mentoring Overview

The NRCS National Mentoring Framework offers NRCS employees the opportunity to further their professional development by learning new skills and sharing experiences and knowledge with fellow NRCS employees.

In a traditional mentoring relationship, the mentor, typically a successful and respected professional, works with the protégé, usually a less experienced but highly motivated professional, to grow and advance in the organization. The relationship generally requires a high degree of trust and openness between the mentor and protégé, as the protégé shares his or her goals and challenges with the mentor to provide focus for the relationship.  In turn, the mentor shares his or her experiences, knowledge, and advice with the protégé in order to support the protégé’s individual development

 NRCS Arkansas Mentor Program

What is Mentoring? Training Orientation and Follow-up
Program Objectives Mentors
Ground Rules Protégés
Program Length Time Requirement
The Matching System Application Procedure

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a partnership between an experienced employee (the mentor) and an employee who desires additional personal or professional knowledge (the protégé). The mentor is willing to guide, support, answer questions, provide referrals, and share experiences with the protégé. The partnership is based on trust and confidentiality. 

Mentoring does not replace or is not a substitute for the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Civil Rights Program, and Career Counseling, or other personnel development programs. Employees with concerns in those areas should contact the appropriate program manager.

Program Objectives

The Arkansas NRCS Mentor Program is designed to achieve a number of objectives, related to career development, improving diversity, and improving morale.

Career Development Objectives:
  • Help employees improve their job skills and abilities in non-supervisory, supervisory, and management positions.
  • Support career enhancement by providing employees with resources, guidance, and networking opportunities.
  • Support the orientation of new employees at all levels.
  • Improve present job skills and abilities of employees, which will increase productivity and potential for career advancement.
  • Aid in retention and recruitment of employees.
Objectives to Improve Diversity
  • Meet their diversity objectives by improving career development and advancement opportunities for all employees.
  • Improve communications among the Agency’s diverse workforce at all grade levels and across specialty areas.
Objectives to Improve Morale
  • Support cultural changes that are being brought about by implementation of new programs and other changes within the Agency.
  • Improve the morale of participants by career development support and mutually beneficial mentoring relationships.
  • Increase job satisfaction.

Ground Rules

  • Both parties must keep all information discussed in the sessions confidential within Agency ethical parameters and legal restrictions.
  • Every attempt will be made to avoid matches within the pair’s supervisor/manager chain of command.
  • Participants are urged to frequently “check in” with each other via informal phone calls or e-mails. It’s a good idea to schedule informal activities to assure regular contact.

Program Length

The program is designed to last on a formal basis for a period of one year. Each participating protégé and mentor must agree to work together for that year. The program does make a provision for re-matching in the event that a mentor/protégé relationship is unworkable.

The Matching System

The Mentor Coordinator will propose tentative matches of mentors and protégés. A system has been incorporated in the program in the event that an initial match or ongoing relationship is not satisfactory. The mentor and protégé may turn to the Mentor Coordinator for guidance and assistance. Unsatisfactory mentoring relationships may be terminated at any time during the one year period by contacting the Mentor Coordinator. An attempt will be made to match the mentor with another protégé, although normally re-matching will only be undertaken during the first six months of the program.

Training Orientation and Follow-up

Training will be provided for all potential mentors. The Mentor Coordinator will check in with all mentors/protégé for their status three months into the program.

Mentors

What do Mentors do?
  • Provide confidential assistance to protégés outside of their chain of command and possibly outside their work area, allowing the protégé to discuss work-related issues and other concerns perceived as impeding job performance.
  • Provide encouragement and guidance on training and development issues, as well as support on a personal level.
  • Be reasonably accessible and willing to make and receive phone calls.
  • Provide general progress information annually to the Mentor Program Committee (not a detailed report for reasons of confidentiality).
  • Refer a protégé to his/her supervisor, Equal Opportunity Counselor, Civil Rights Coordinator, Employee’s Assistance Program, or Human Resources as appropriate when other counseling is needed.
  • The mentor should not interfere with supervision or workload of protégé.
  • Provide objective and positive suggestions on appropriate office conduct and work ethics.
  • Provide objective and positive suggestions on how the protégé may improve proficiency and productivity on the job.
  • Devote time to one-on-one discussion with the protégé.
  • Recognize and validate signs of protégé professional growth and development.
  • Provide information to assist the protégé in assimilating the organizational culture and values of the Agency.
  • Recognize that mentoring relationships go through stages and change over time.
  • Stay flexible. Relationships and career development needs change with time.
When appropriate: 
  • Encourage and convey a sincere belief in a protégé ability to succeed.

  • Provide advice, constructive feedback on the protégé’s actions and products, formal and informal instruction.

  • Introduce protégé to people who can help.

  • Provide suggestions for the protégé to demonstrate his/her skills.

  • Recognize that mentoring relationships can be short term or long term.

  • Don’t give up if the chemistry doesn’t feel right at the beginning.

  • Touch base regularly by e-mail, phone, etc.

  • Information discussed in sessions is kept confidential; except when information disclosed must be acted on by law.

  • Pick up on cultural and gender differences and be sensitive to these differences.

  • Have fun!

Protégés

The Arkansas State Mentoring Program is driven by the needs of the protégé. The goal is to provide “total person” support for all employees. The protégé’s responsibilities are:

  • Actively participate.
  • Be ready to make a serious effort to set career goals and achieve them.
  • Commit yourself to take the initiative to foster a positive and honest relationship with your mentor.
  •  Listen to your mentor’s suggestions, evaluate them, and take action.
  • Accept responsibility for your decisions.
  • Do a self assessment: What skills do you need to acquire? Where do you want to go?
  • Recognize that this program is only a supplement for your own hard work and abilities, not a substitute.
  • Be prepared to commit your time to working toward your goals, in addition to the official time for the mentoring relationship.

Time Requirement

The Agency considers a reasonable amount of official time will be allowed for both an initial meeting and continuing communications. Supervisory approval will be required to participate in the program. At the discretion of the protégé and mentor, other sessions may be scheduled on their own time. Each mentoring relationship will vary according to needs and interests.

Application Procedure

Any employee interested in being a mentor or being mentored can contact their State Mentor Coordinator or apply online at http://www.eservices.usda.gov/usdamentoring/

Contact

Arkansas Mentor Coordinator
SuZette Shambley
Phone: (501) 301-3113