It’s January, which means it’s time for National Mentoring Month, an annual celebration and recognition of the value of mentoring in communities across the United States. Each year the folks at Mentor: The National Mentoring Partnership highlight the mentoring relationships, programs, and needs, and celebrate through activities like #ThankYourMentorDay. It’s an opportunity to get involved in your local community and to sign up to be a mentor to a young person who could use some guidance, wisdom, and attention.

It’s also a great moment to think about how you are building community through mentorship, for your own growth and development. Here in our Expert Advice section of our website this month we are featuring multiple blog posts, videos, and tools on effective mentoring, network-building, and building your community, that you can use to think about how you can seek out mentoring relationships, both professionally and personally.

And, mentoring isn’t just about individual relationships, although there is great value in those one-on-one connections. Here at the Alumni Personal and Career Development Center, and through our Mentoring Resource Center, we have become quite fond of the experience that is a structured, facilitated mentoring group. We run groups each year in multiple cities and online for in-depth sharing and learning, both for young professionals and new managers. We will open up the next round of those groups for applications this summer. And we’re launching some new Accountability Groups this spring, which will be less content heavy, but provide an opportunity for sharing and providing feedback as participants move forward on those goals. Sign-ups are open now and can be found on our website.

Even if you choose not to participate in one of these groups facilitated by one of our experts, there is nothing stopping you from starting a group of your own!! Think of it like a book club, where the subject or the content is your life. Mentoring groups work in much the same way that one-on-one mentoring relationships do, just with the recognition and acknowledgement that there are more people involved. The facilitator/mentor sets explicit expectations up front about how the group will work, what his/her role will be, what the participants’ role will be, and also ask them what they are looking for/expecting out of the experience. But, everyone plays mentor and everyone plays mentee. The facilitator/mentor is NOT there to be the fount of all knowledge nor is he/she teaching a class.

Mentoring groups do the same things that great mentors and mentees do in one-on-one relationships, too: set expectations, get to know each other and build the relationship, identify some goals and next steps, discuss challenges and successes, create a plan for what’s next and close out the relationship. There are just a few more people involved! But the payoffs are tremendous as the learning happens on multiple levels, and the participants get to build their communities along the way.

Whether it’s through a group, one-on-one, online, or in-person, the bottom line is this: we all need people to be successful. And, we all have the opportunity to show up for other people. Mentoring is, and will always be, a space for learning, growth, feedback, and reflection. How are you honoring your own growth and development as we kick off this new year? How are you intentionally building and contributing to your community?