Career Woman

The importance of finding a good mentor

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Remember the old saying, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’? The statement is still as relevant today-however, I have changed it slightly to ‘It’s who you know and how you access their help’.

The bottom line is you need people in your corner who are more senior in position than you are, and who can provide you with support and guidance throughout your career. You could try to progress by yourself, but it will be a lot harder.

In my many years working in executive recruitment I noticed that most the men, had people in their corner guiding them through their career trajectory – including mentors, advocates, coaches, advisors. They are called by various names, but they all do one thing: they help you achieve your goals and make attaining success easier.

Would I personally have achieved success if I didn’t have mentors? Maybe, but it would have taken longer, and I probably would have made more mistakes along the way. So, why make it harder for yourself?

I realised early in my career that I needed to identify what help I needed and who could help me. A big part of that is seeking and accepting help from mentors who will give you the guidance and support you need.

The purpose of having advocates and mentors is to have someone more senior than you with a fresh eye to give you support and advice based on their experience. In addition, you are building your own personal board of directors you can access when needed.

The numbers of mentors you need increases as you progress in your career. On average men have 7 to 12 by the time they are in a management role. Having a large group of mentors is important, so you can get multiple opinions and different perspectives depending on the issue at hand.

What makes a good mentor?

The first requirement for any mentor relationship is respect. You must respect the person you are asking to be your mentor. In addition, look at the following:

  • Do they exhibit the qualities you aspire to?
  • Do they have a background of success in the industry you are in? Or do they have expertise in an area you need help with?
  • Are they stable in their career history, with good progression?
  • Are they going to keep your information confidential?
  • Do they have your best interest at heart?

People often ask me if it’s better to choose mentors from within your current organisation, or external to it. I always suggest working with external mentors, because they will be able to talk to you more openly and will have fewer filters or worries about what they can or can’t say. Unfortunately, internal mentors can’t be as honest in their feedback as needed, for fear of being misunderstood or introducing issues that could affect their own position in the company. Your internal relationships should be built as sponsors – people who see you as someone they want to help progress in the business.

If you needed career guidance today, who would you call outside your family or close friends? Are you making an effort to develop your own board of directors (that is mentors)?

About Judith Beck

Judith Beck is the author of No Sex at Work (Major Street Publishing), which shares the do’s and don’ts from her experience as founder of executive search firm, Financial Recruitment Group. Over her career, Judith has successfully placed thousands of candidates at senior to managing director level with some of Australia’s most successful financial institutions. Judith also founded Financial Executive Women (FEW) and is a sought-after speaker and media commentator. For more information visit www.judithbeck.com.au

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