Why mentors matter

Apr 01, 2019
The wisdom and independent observances of a mentor will, in virtually all cases, help propel your career forward.

Mentoring has existed as a development tool in sport for many years and the benefits are evident. Examples of mentoring relationships include Alex Ferguson and Ronaldo, Pam Shriver and Annika Sorenstam, Ayrton Senna and Rubens Barrichello, Jack Nicklaus and Sergio Garcia, and Billie Jean King and Zina Garrison to name but a few.
Career mentoring is gaining significant traction, but it is not yet as embedded in the professional realm as it is in the sporting arena. However, connecting with a career mentor can provide significant career development benefits.

What is a career mentor?

A career mentor is a trusted advisor who agrees to share their wisdom, insights, skills, knowledge, expertise and experiences. Mentors can help you set and achieve career goals, resolve challenging situations, make sound career decisions and essentially help you achieve your full career potential. In essence, a mentor is someone whose hindsight can become your foresight.

A game of two halves

The advantages of career mentoring are increasingly identified and highlighted. There are many benefits in having a mentor who will support you and inspire you. Leveraging the experience, expertise and skills of a mentor can therefore help you advance your career and reach your full potential. Having availed of the Career Mentor Programme, which is provided by Chartered Accountants Ireland, members have cited the following benefits:

  1. Increased confidence: knowing that you have the support of an independent person who will act as a sounding-board and being able to verify that you are on the right track can be an empowering psychological boost. Similarly, the mentor may also help you see other options that you were hitherto oblivious to. You are therefore likely to achieve more, as your confidence will act as a motivator to take on new challenges.
  2. Greater levels of motivation: a subliminal pressure exists in a mentor/mentee relationship that drives the mentee to want to achieve more, as they won’t want to let their mentor down. This can act as a motivator and inspire you to reach your full potential.
  3. Identify areas for development: we all have blind spots, which in some cases can be career-limiting. If a mentor brings them to your attention, you can focus on bridging those gaps. Such independent, constructive feedback can be the catalyst that drives your career forward.
  4. Build on your leadership skills: the guidance and advice you receive from a mentor will go well beyond the technical aspects of your role and this non-technical insight is increasingly important as you progress through your career. In particular, it can highlight the leadership skills and competencies that have the potential to be career defining for you. The experiential learning built up from the Chartered Accountants Ireland Career Mentor Programme include the development of influencing skills, learning how to make an impact at board level, increasing your emotional intelligence, navigating office politics and getting the buy-in of multiple stakeholders. It is very often these non-technical capabilities that are career differentiators and lead to career progression and increased career satisfaction.
  5. Improve your well-being: connecting with a mentor can improve your well-being as it can help reduce some of the stress and pressure you are feeling in relation to your career. Sharing your concerns with a like-minded professional and getting their advice can help you make important career decisions. There can also be well-being benefits for the mentor too, which are derived from the altruistic quotient associated with supporting someone else.
  6. Modify and develop your behavioural and attitudinal competencies: mentoring can promote and encourage changes in behaviour and attitude, which in turn can have positive career implications. Similarly, mentoring can also improve relational capabilities as you learn to appreciate the importance of identifying, establishing and developing business relationships. This is where the true benefits of a mentor come to light as you can learn from how they handled certain situations, what worked well for them, what didn’t and indeed, what they would now do differently with the benefit of hindsight. In essence, they can stop you from making the same mistakes they made in the past.

Career curveball

Many people will experience a career set-back or challenge at some point, which can be potentially career limiting and impact negatively on one’s confidence. If this does happen, speaking to a mentor with a similar experience can really help. It is not unusual to come across very senior and successful executives who themselves have been through similar set-backs. They are therefore ideally placed to share their insights, having successfully overcome their own challenges. Hearing that you are not the only person to have experienced a career challenge can be hugely beneficial and provides optimism as well as options in terms of how to overcome the impasse.

Positive mental attitude

The importance of positive psychology in sport is a much discussed topic. As far back as 1981, Timothy Gallwey wrote about the impact of self-doubt, fear of failure and anxiety in his book entitled The Inner Game of Golf. These emotions can hold you back in your career too. A mentor can help you identify these fears and deal with them so that they are less likely to dent your confidence and self-belief. We can all learn from the approach of sports professionals, who invest more and more time in their mental well-being and focus. If you are in the right headspace, you will achieve more and will enjoy the results.

Don’t get left on the bench

Time and time again, the feedback we receive from members following meetings with their mentors is very positive. One member said: “I found the mentor programme great and my chosen mentor was excellent. Her experience was very relevant to our discussions. I found her advice to be practical and it had immediate applicability. I originally looked for a mentor because I anticipated a promotion in work and I thought external advice from someone with no vested interest would help manage the transition. My mentor transpired to be a very good fit for me.”

After meeting with a mentor, members feel more motivated, engaged and focused on achieving their career goals. As a member of Chartered Accountants Ireland, you have access to a panel of highly experienced and immensely talented professionals who are willing to give their time to fellow members and support their career development. 

Finding a mentor that  you can develop a rapport and connection with is crucial to success of this developmental relationship. With a panel of over 130 mentors and with the guidance of a members of the Career Development and Recruitment team we can help you find the mentor that best suits you needs. Technology also plays a key role in mentoring and we have also support overseas members finding a mentor and facilitating mentoring conversations via Skype.

Karin Lanigan is the Manager of the Career Development and Recruitment Service at 
Chartered Accountants Ireland.