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It is inexcusable to ignore the value of mentorship for today’s budding accountants.  Mentorship can be a catalyst for professional development – affecting both your career and life trajectory.  As remote working becomes more commonplace, professional development can become arduous. Mentorship offers an avenue to develop professionally. This article will make a case for mentoring and illustrate how best to reap the benefits of having a mentor.

Defining Mentoring in a Professional Sense

A mentor is an experienced business practitioner, who can use their business acumen, experience and insights to offer guidance, motivation and strategies as you pursue your goals. Mentorship isn’t about telling you what to do but rather it’s about equipping you with the resources, contacts and knowledge so that you move forward with confidence.

Mentoring is quite simply where the aforementioned experienced business practitioner (mentor) helps you (mentee) to broaden your skills and progress towards your goals. A mentor will oftentimes help you set time focused and actionable goals. This assistance will typically take the form of regularly scheduled formal and informal conversations. Mentoring can be a short-term relationship – perhaps as you navigate a move to a new industry or role. Or equally mentoring can be a long term journey over your professional career.

Oftentimes such a relationship will be coordinated by your employer as a way to provide a positive role model to staff. Equally, however, it could be through your professional institute or indeed via your own network that you have established throughout your career to date. Given the potential to value greatly from such a relationship, it is vital you select the right mentor to best help you flourish. Conversely, selecting a mentor with insufficient time to commit or whose insight you don’t value can act as a hindrance. Years of professional experience, life lessons and acquired skills aren’t transferred through osmosis. Accordingly, mentoring is not a once-off event where the mentee scribbles down a few notes from an hour-long conversation.

How can a Mentor help me?

Choosing the right mentor can be very rewarding. It can enable you to:

  1.  Learn from real-life experience: A mentor can provide tips on how they overcame obstacles and explain mistakes they made so that you can avoid making the same ones.
  2.  Provide an objective perspective: A mentor can help improve your confidence by providing you with an objective perspective of yourself so that you can recognise your strengths and improve upon your weaknesses.
  3.  Create new connections: Mentors intrinsically have the advantage of greater professional experience, which typically equates to a wider network that mentees can leverage.
  4.  Have a sounding board for ideas: A mentor can help you to think through issues and help you reach solutions for barriers that you encounter
  5.  Set short and long-term goals: Given the difference in seniority and hence, vantage point, mentors can often broaden your perspective and help you set not only professional development goals but long term career objectives. Moreover, a mentor can help you explore career options.

How Do I Select the Right Mentor?

The right mentor can change your career trajectory. Accordingly, it’s vital that you consider deeply who is the right choice to mentor you. Below are some key considerations:

  1.  Does the potential mentor have the requisite industry knowledge to appropriately advise you?
  2.  Do you and the prospective mentor agree on the nature of the relationship? Is it a short-term relationship to support you through a move to a new role or is it a more long-term relationship? This should be agreed from the outset.
  3.  Does the potential mentor share your definition of success?
  4.  Does the potential mentor have experience mentoring others in an equivalent stage of their career?
  5.  Do you trust that the potential mentor will respect the confidentiality of your conversations?
  6.  Do you respect the potential mentor’s experience and advice?
  7.  Does the potential mentor have sufficient communication skills to complement their industry knowledge?

The Evolving Role of a Mentor

A mentoring relationship will necessitate your mentor undertaking various roles to support you. They could support you with guidance around technical skills development in your early career, and leadership skills as you advance further in your career. At times they may provide an empathetic ear and offer you gentle encouragement. And at other times they may be confrontational and challenge you to do and be better.

Mentorship can be invaluable but it’s important that you understand the type of mentorship you require and think carefully about who is best to occupy this role.