“Mentor” is a popular buzzword in any business environment, and as an action and a title, it conveys a sense of trust and knowledge. More than that, a mentor is a trusted adviser, someone who offers guidance along a chosen career path. Mentors are full of wisdom acquired through experience. For a young professional, a mentor serves as a guide through different career stages and offers an invaluable relationship.
A mentor functions as a career adviser and a sponsor. As an adviser, a mentor can help a young professional prepare for and navigate tough work situations. Mentors offer advice for career advancement and planning. This advice comes from experience – and the impartial view of the mentor can be invaluable. The mentor can help the young professional turn an idea into action and break down a career plan into productive steps. A mentor will also hold the young professional accountable to his or her career plan. This accountability turns into long-term success.
While the concept of a mentor as a sponsor may be unfamiliar to some, it’s a vital aspect of the mentoring relationship. The mentor can act as an advocate in making certain decisions without the young professional’s input, such as compensation, promotions or performance evaluations. The mentor can attest to the young professional’s career goals and strengths, adding to the usual discussion of work performance. Networking is also key in today’s business world, as a mentor can open doors by introducing the young professional to his or her network of contacts.
But finding a mentor can be a challenge. Even if companies offer a formal mentoring program, most of these relationships must be sought out. There are few rules on how to choose a mentor, or for the structure of the mentoring relationship. Building this relationship will be smoother if the young professional chooses someone he or she already admires, yet the person must also be approachable. The best way to begin is to consider someone with whom the young professional already has a good working relationship.
There is no set requirement or guidelines to who becomes a mentor. A mentor can either be someone a few levels above the mentee or someone with just a few more years of experience. The young professional should focus on where he or she wants a career to advance and choose someone with a similar drive. It’s also important to remember the duality of the relationship; the mentor and mentee will need ample time to develop the relationship. With that in mind, more than one possible mentor should be considered when the time commitment extends beyond what one mentor can handle.
Inevitably, the mentor relationship will change over the course of the mentor and mentee’s careers. This can happen naturally through promotions, or unexpectedly when either one leaves the company. A mentoring relationship is designed to grow the career of the mentee. A successful relationship will undergo many of these changes throughout the course of the mentee’s career. With each promotion, the career plan and steps to achieve it will need to be re-evaluated.
It is important to approach the ending stage of the mentoring relationship professionally. If the mentor is leaving the company, discuss ideas for possible replacements and continuing the relationship on a different level. A trusted mentor should be willing to suggest a new mentor, someone who will also be willing to guide and advise the young professional. While a mentor can continue being a trusted adviser, the relationship must remain professional and take a broader view. Discussing specific issues within both companies should be avoided.
The same principle holds true if the mentee is the one to leave. The continuation of the relationship should be discussed, as well as the parameters of the new relationship. The mentee should discuss with the new supervisor whether a formal mentorship program is already in place. If not, the mentee should begin considering possible coworkers to fill the mentor role.
Mentor relationship can be formed between many levels. Even a young professional with just a few years of experience can become a mentor. This is an opportunity to develop leadership skills and improve communication skills. Becoming a mentor demonstrates a commitment to the firm and a willingness to invest in the firm’s future.
Mentoring relationships are an integral part of a young professional’s success. Consideration should be given to choosing a mentor, and ample time must to be invested in the relationship. Ultimately, having a mentor or becoming one challenges the young professional’s leadership and work skills. In the end, the mentor and mentee both grow.
Rose Moore, CPA, is a Tax senior associate with PKF Texas. Contact her at (713) 860-5445 or firstname.lastname@example.org.