Beyond the Numbers: Mentorship in Finance
We all strive to be successful. And in our effort to do so, many of us spend time on professional development. We use the tools and resources available to us, we invest in continuing education, and we download the latest apps all in an effort to help us be more effective and productive in whatever path we are pursuing. But how often are we relying on one of the greatest resources we could have—a mentor? This is particularly true in a financial career, which can be difficult to navigate for unseasoned professionals—the rules are complex, the technology can be convoluted, and there are often extremely high stakes involved.
We all understand generally that mentorship is a unique relationship between two individuals where one possesses more experience, knowledge, and connections than the other and has the ability and willingness to pass along what they have learned. However, many people confuse mentors with coaches. And while similar, there is a significant difference in that coaching focuses on performance, where mentoring focuses more on the person’s development.
A mentor will generally form a long-lasting relationship with their mentee, providing them with advice and support in navigating their professional path. And the results speak for themselves. In fact, according to a case study at Sun Microsystems, mentees are five times more likely to both advance in pay grade and receive a promotion.
Benefits of Mentorship in Finance
While a mentor can help an individual in a variety of ways across a myriad of industries, they can be especially advantageous when it comes to finance, where access to industry experience and technology expertise is invaluable. Mentoring and support are often ongoing in this field, rather than merely in the early stages of someone’s career.
A mentor will help the mentee pave his or her path right alongside them by calling out the challenges in advance and providing possible solutions based on past experiences. Additionally, many finance mentors can provide networking connections through opportunities in their own network and other events or conferences in which they have found value. These opportunities generally don’t surface for someone new to the industry.
How to Find a Mentor
It’s crucial that a mentorship starts out strong with a mentor and mentee who have the right fit, not just in experience variances, but in personality. Just like any other relationship, mentorships are best when founded on a personal connection and are mutually beneficial to each party. Similar personalities, working styles, goals, values, and life circumstances are all attributes that can indicate a potential fit and form solid bonds between a mentor and mentee.
As you begin your search for the right mentor, consider the following:
1. Know What You Want
It’s important that you understand not only who you are and where you want to go professionally, but also the type of people with whom you work best. This will help you decide what attributes are most important to you as you search for a mentor. With that being said, you should never go into a mentorship just because you feel as if you have to or to find a cheerleader. A good mentor will support you wholeheartedly, but they will also be tough on you when you need it. You need that honesty to grow and develop.
2. Start Forming Connections
A strong personal connection is the foundation of a successful mentorship. Reach out to your professional circle, whether it be someone you work with, an old boss, or a respected family friend. See what you have in common. Remember, you are not interviewing this person for the position of you mentor. You are getting to know them and beginning to build a personal connection. Many mentorships are formed organically, with the mentor and mentee simply falling into their roles.
3. Don’t Give Up
Finding the right mentor can be a process, but it’s better to take your time rather than have the wrong person mentor you. Developing meaningful relationships is difficult in general, let alone in the professional world. Some people are fortunate and have their perfect mentor without even trying. But others have to work more for it and take the time to find the right one. If you can’t find anyone in your professional circle, there are also mentorship programs you can join to connect with mentors ready to help.
Regardless of what age you are or stage of career you are in, a mentor is a key resource in helping you get to where you want to go in your career. Mentees have an incredible competitive advantage, as their mentors help them avoid common roadblocks, as they guide them toward future growth.
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