Illustration of a developer and designer with speech bubbles indicating they want to learn about each other’s disciplines

What is Mentorship?

Mentorship is a partnership between two or more people that’s focused on learning and development. A 2007 review and critique of mentoring theory described the three major benefits of mentorship as knowledge sharing, the transfer of social capital, and social support.

  • Knowledge sharing involves a mentor teaching a mentee about their area of expertise.
  • The transfer of social capital occurs when a mentee earns credibility by working with a mentor. A common example is when a mentor acts as a reference for a mentee when they’re applying for a job.
  • Social support involves a mentor helping a mentee work through professional and personal situations with advice and emotional support.

Types of Mentorship

There are many different types of mentorship and you might find one more suitable for you than another. You might even be doing some form of mentorship already without realizing it.

Direct mentorship

This is traditional mentorship—where a junior-level person is being mentored by someone who’s more senior.

Peer mentorship

This is where both individuals are in similar roles and discuss their practices and share knowledge with one another. For example, two senior UX designers sharing knowledge with each other.

Mutual mentorship

This is also considered “cross-functional” mentorship—where two individuals teach each other different subjects. For instance, a UX designer shares knowledge about how to prioritize information in a hierarchy with a developer. In return, the developer shares how they plan for responsive layouts.

Reverse mentorship

In reverse mentorship, a senior-level person is learning from a junior-level person. For example, a seasoned C-level executive learns from an entry-level coworker about Snapchat.

Indirect Mentorship

In this type of mentorship, the mentor is providing guidance to a group of people. For example, at the Triangle UXPA, we have a Slack account where mentors can provide advice to mentees.

Apprenticeship

We also wanted to define apprenticeship, so you can see how it differs from mentorship. An apprenticeship is a formalized training program, where an entry-level person becomes more experienced with the help of hands-on training.

With so many types of mentorship, there are more opportunities than you might think to seek or become a mentor.