There are many different styles of mentoring depending on the type of organization and the individuals involved.
Casual mentoring is what some individuals are referring to when they give public recognition to a mentor who has served as a role model or example. The mentor may not be aware that the protégé is using his or her behaviors as an example to follow. Everyone engages in this type of mentoring, but it has no formal structure or defined objectives - it involves simply learning from the good habits and behaviors demonstrated by others. This is not to suggest that casual mentoring is without value since much can be learned from others even in passing interactions.
Informal mentoring relationships are unplanned relationships. These mentoring relationships grow out of a chance connection between two people and are further built into a relationship in which there is transference of skills and knowledge. There is no contract or list of goals. The relationship may move from professional to personal and may last a lifetime. These mentoring relationships are unquestionably valuable, but they just happen as opposed to being actively developed.
Informal mentoring can be enhanced if the participants in the relationship take the time to have structured discussions and establish specific goals for the transference of certain skills and knowledge within set time periods.
Non-facilitated mentoring relationships are those with structure, such as a mentoring contract, but they have no coordinated assignment of mentor-protégé pairs. The individuals make a mentoring connection without external help or direction. The individuals will have supporting material such as written guidelines or seminars and will be cognizant of their individual and paired expectations. They will undertake a mentoring contract and will consult their respective employers if necessary. They may have access to resource persons for help. Non-facilitated mentoring may include multiple or group mentoring and e-mentoring as described below.
Facilitated mentoring is a structured program that involves a coordinator who assigns mentoring pairs based on character, skills, need and other criteria. Some large corporations have facilitated mentoring programs as part of their company orientation practices, or as succession management strategies. The matching process is time-consuming and requires considerable human and capital resources. Facilitated mentoring also helps design contracts, creates reasonable lists of goals and tracks the mentoring pairs to see if the relationship is working and if not, steps in to help facilitate the relationship. Although this may be the most effective kind of mentoring program, the cost is often prohibitive.
This is relatively new idea, or renewed idea, as it was a practice hundreds of years ago under various names. Group mentoring occurs when a number of mentors serve together as a resource for a defined group of protégés with similar expectations. The mentors bring a variety of skills to protégés and share responsibility for each protégé's growth. The group may meet at regular intervals and unlike a one-on-one pairing, if one or two mentors are unavailable, the protégés will still have a contact person. The protégé group also benefits from the varying backgrounds and skill sets of their peers and may not need the mentors' presence at each meeting. All involved benefit from the network of colleagues.
A protégé may wish to consider having a number of mentors, each of whom offers different skills and experiences. Because the relationship must benefit both parties, the protégé should not use the mentors only as skill improvement stations, but the protégé should also try to offer in return some elements of his or her knowledge or experience that might be of benefit to the mentor. It is up to the protégé to decide who will make a good mentor and approach that individual with a plan.
E-Mentoring can be successful if those matched in the relationship are equally adept at using computers. A good deal of trust is required because comments made in writing can be much more career limiting than a comment made in casual conversation. Because of this fact, mentors and protégés must give serious consideration to limiting topics. Written comments about difficulties experienced with one's boss or someone else in the organization would have to be avoided on-line, thus limiting the value of the relationship. Those using e-mail for personal correspondence should seriously consider using passwords on confidential documents. Using e-mail for everyday communication but setting up a private meeting for discussions of sensitive subjects can help to maintain confidentiality and promote trust. E-mentoring is becoming more and more popular because it helps to overcome some of the problems caused by full schedules and jobs that require travel (and increased teaching and service loads).