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On mentorship, in (a bit) more detail

Saša Zavratnik

Like many other companies that care about their employees, Mikro+Polo also implements a mentorship program, albeit in a somewhat different way than one might imagine without such an experience.

I was introduced to mentorship for new employees even before starting my role as a sales representative, which filled me with a sense of ease and tranquility. Despite previous employment and experience in sales and promotion, every new beginning is exciting and uncertain. How will my work routine unfold? Will I enjoy the company culture? Will I get along with my colleagues? Will I be able to express my abilities, ambition, and interests? Will my efforts be reflected in the numbers?… If you are guided by not one but two mentors, both a general and a specialist mentor, for the first six (and not just the first three!) months, what could possibly go wrong?

These were my thoughts during the first three months of orientation and the activities that, I dare say, I successfully completed. Well, I still think the same way today, except now I have the answers to those questions. Yes, they are all affirmative and positive. All’s well that ends well (the orientation period) – all the best!

Despite the gaps in my knowledge, which I diligently fill with questions and daily notes, I have a constant sense of comfort and independence. The vigilance of my mentors over my well-being and progress has relieved me of unnecessary stress.

The colleague I was replacing had actually left after just the first two months, and the responsibilities of the department head were taken over by the Sales Director. However, the overall supervisor was always with me (and behind me). She was very flexible, allowing me to express my individuality and taking into account the current office dynamics. We adjusted our mentoring meetings accordingly, and there were six of them. Our conversations took place in a relaxed and confidential environment over coffee, which allowed for the development of a high-quality mentoring relationship. Everything we discussed was documented, and we clearly defined the timeline going forward. She was also available to me in between meetings, whether by phone, email, or even in the hallway. I assess our mentoring relationship as high-quality and effective – I gained a deep understanding of the company’s culture, the responsibilities of my colleagues, the purpose of numerous cabinets, and why even in our company, full of adults and capable individuals, we needed to have on-call duty.

Because theory often differs from practice, and because changes are a constant in our company, it was necessary to confirm my adaptability right from the beginning. Instead of weekly presentations of sales programs, I experienced an information deluge into my hard drive after a mandatory blackout, which was initially prepared for a slow drip into folders and subfolders. No harm done; we are clearing the confusion as we go along.

The choice of a professional mentor was obvious. You can learn the most from someone who was once (recently) in the same position as you are currently. Such a person has experienced the learning process for the specific job firsthand and knows what you need to pay special attention to. It makes sense to pass on practical knowledge, so newcomers don’t have to reinvent the wheel. As a result, mentees spend significantly more time with their professional leader, while the overall supervisor takes on the role of a co-mentor. The primary goal for a newcomer is, after all, to be employed to perform job tasks (in my case, sales) that generate profit to cover employment costs and contribute to the company’s overall profitability. This ensures a positive work environment within the company and employee well-being in the workplace (as well as elsewhere when we’re out and about, but still looking forward to returning to our colleagues).

My professional mentor truly acquainted me with all the crucial details for doing a good job, for which I am immensely grateful. This way, I’ll be able to hand over the work competently when the time comes. With her highly professional approach and extensive experience, the Sales Director was also available to me, and I am confident that she will assist me in tackling the next tough challenge in the months following the orientation period. My mentor and I concluded several times that it would be best for me to seek their professional support with any questions or issues, which is just proof that she genuinely understood her role in our triangle.

And yes, I see every colleague as a mentor, as experienced team members help newcomers develop and progress with subjective guidance and advice; you just need to ask and show respect – at least that's how it is with us. Thank you all for that.

When I think about my past life experiences with mentorship, I recall individuals who may have seemed tough with their direct communication, but who often indirectly led me to the most important and valuable—life-changing—realizations. My overall supervisor is just like that. Throughout the mentorship, she was always ready to help, guide me, and share information with me. She made an effort to understand every situation. She is an open and honest person, worthy of trust, and above all, a good teacher and supporter.

Anyone who wants to help others succeed, is willing to share information, has good listening and communication skills, possesses sound (common) sense, strong ethics, and lacks prejudice, is open and honest, patient and compassionate, and is trustworthy, has a mentor within them. Those who choose this role during new employments must realize that a mentor is a teacher and a support, not someone who changes the employee. Decisions about actions and behavior should be made by the mentee themselves. What those decisions will be depends on the quality of communication in the mentoring relationship that both sides are capable of and willing to establish in a relatively short period of time.