The role of mentors and supportive peers in career development

Date of Completion

January 1997


Psychology, Social|Women's Studies|Psychology, Industrial




The psychosocial support and career support mentors and supportive peers provide was examined for a professional sample of M.B.A. students and alumni (N = 232) who participated in a survey of career issues. Participants were classified as informally mentored, formally mentored, or nonmentored, as well as with or without a supportive peer. Informal proteges and formal proteges were compared regarding the functions they received from their mentors (mentor career and psychosocial functions). Comparisons of functions supportive peers provide to those with mentors and those without mentors were also investigated. To do so, an instrument measuring the career and psychosocial functions identified by Kram and Isabella(1985) as unique to peer relationships, was developed. Further contrasts of the career outcomes (salary, promotions, job satisfaction, personal success) of the three groups were made to determine whether greater benefits were associated with the presence of mentoring and peer relationships. In addition, the functions provided by mentors and peers to each group, and their career outcomes, were examined as they relate to the respondents' sex.^ Findings revealed no differences between informal proteges and formal proteges' reports of functions provided to them by their mentors or their peers. These two groups also did not differ in their career outcomes. However, there were differences in mentored and nonmentored individuals' reports of peer functions. Both informal proteges and formal proteges reported more psychosocial support from their peers than those without mentors.^ The career outcomes of formal proteges and nonmentored respondents did not differ significantly. However, the comparison of outcomes for informal proteges and those without mentors resulted in an interaction of mentorship status and sex. Informally mentored males reported greater career outcomes than informally mentored females, and nonmentored females fared better than nonmentored males.^ Examination of respondent sex indicated males and females were equally likely to have a mentor, and both were equally involved in the two types of mentorships. Female proteges perceived that their mentors provided them with more psychosocial functions than did male proteges; however this did not translate into differences in peer functions or in greater career outcomes. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed. ^