Who needs a mentor?

Margaret Friel - 06/09/2017

September has dawned and, for many, it has brought with it a seasonal bout of renewed enthusiasm, fueled by the reinstatement of familiar 'back to school' routines. Yet, for those in the world of work who are not embracing this time of year, perhaps a little mentoring would help to get re-energised?

Back when I joined Arthur Andersen as a Trainee Chartered Accountant in 1998 (is it really that long?!), I was introduced to the idea of mentoring. In short, a mentor was appointed for each new recruit, essentially like a 'buddy' system, from a pool of more senior colleagues who had chosen a similar career path and could therefore empathise and identify with the experiences and hurdles faced by more junior employees. The mentor's role was to offer guidance, not only as the person made the transition from student life into the world of work/professional practice, but also thereafter as they progressed up through the ranks; they were effectively a sounding board and a counsellor. Whilst this was a relatively new concept for me at the time, I didn't underestimate its importance. Indeed, mentoring has continued to play a key role in terms of my professional development in the intervening years. It appears that I am in the majority in this regard.

As we move up the career ladder within our respective organisations, it may seem that there are fewer 'mentors' who can offer guidance and support internally. For example, who can the CEO or the MD turn to for encouragement or a second opinion? In this scenario, the obvious answer is to look externally to find like-minded individuals whose career trajectories are similar. This is where the benefit of networking and membership of professional bodies relevant to your chosen career path become particularly apparent. 

Of course, another option is to look to inspirational figures outside of our own networks, the Richard Bransons of this world for example, whose careers we might like to emulate. Tips on their success are well documented so it's possible to learn from afar.

We can all benefit at times from a little pep talk, whether with a colleague, an adviser or indeed with ourselves. It seems that the answer to my title question: 'Who needs a mentor?' is an emphatic: 'We all do'!

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