External Mentorship

  • Champaign County Forest Preserve District
  • Decatur Park District
  • Urbana Park District
  • The City of Champaign
  • The Office of Park and Recreation Resources at the University of Illinois.

A great combination of mentee and mentor occurred when the CPD accounting manager was paired with the Decatur Park District chief financial officer. The former was about to bid banking services, and the latter had recently gone through the same process, so was able to provide insight and review of the accounting manager’s Request for Proposals. They were partnered because of the chief financial officer’s experience and knowledge in directing a finance department, which is the position the accounting manager is seeking.


Employees in the program are expected to meet with their mentors for 2 hours per month for approximately 1 year, though it is expected some long-term friendships will emerge. The mentor relationships have resulted in several planned and unplanned outcomes:

  • Employees in the program express that they feel more “valued” by the agency.
  • Supervisors often question others about what they are doing and learning, and have exhibited some professional jealousy.
  • The external mentors are learning some new skills, so both agencies benefit. For example, CPD will be hosting Urbana Park District’s grounds crew to teach the group about ballfield irrigation-maintenance techniques, and CPD will be assessing the needs of Urbana’s ballfields.
  • The overall pool of knowledge, skills, and abilities at the park district has and continues to increase with the Succession-Development Program. CPD will have better-prepared employees to step into other jobs within the district should position vacancies occur.

Suggestions For Success

  • Assign someone in the agency to oversee the mentoring program. He/she can facilitate the relationships and remove obstacles that arise.
  • Both the mentor and mentee must be totally committed to the program and establish a relationship to help achieve the goals of the development plan.
  • Clearly outline the expectations of both the mentor and the mentee so each knows the responsibilities and the commitment needed in the program.
  • Employees must be flexible and able to multi-task in order to meet their workload as well as find time to work with their mentor.
  • Some supervisors are insecure about their employees’ involvement, and want to keep current. Having an open line of communication will enhance understanding and acceptance.
  • The mentees must be held accountable by their agency. Six-month and annual evaluations should examine the progress made on these goals and objectives.

Training and development opportunities can be expensive and sometimes cost-prohibitive. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the time and resource commitment will achieve the desired results. External mentorships are one method that is relatively inexpensive, and serves as a personalized training and development tool specifically tailored to meet the individual and agency needs. Looking beyond your own agency opens many new opportunities to learn skills that may not have been possible with internal mentors in the agency and the field.


Boudreau, D. and Hurd, A.R. (February 2011). “Connect the Dots: Developing Talent Through Succession Planning.” Parks & Rec Business. 9, 7, 52-53.

Rothwell, W. J. (2005). Effective Succession Planning. New York: Amacom.

Amy R. Hurd, Ph.D., CPRP, is a professor in the School of Kinesiology and Recreation at Illinois State University. She can be reached at 309-438-5557 or arhurd@ilstu.edu.

Bobbie Herakovich is the Executive Director at the Champaign Park District. She can be reached at Bobbie.H@cparkdistrict.com or 217-819-3819.

Tammy Hoggatt is the Human Resources Manager at the Champaign Park District. She can be reached at Tammy.Hoggatt@cparkdistrict.com or 217-398-2550.

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Related posts:

  1. Connect The Dots
  2. Getting Back To BASICs
  3. Lead With Enthusiasm
  4. Benefits-Based Staffing
  5. When To Hold On

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