If networking is seen as a means of improving your prospects, can having a mentor take you one step further and add value to your career?
While a typical network contact will involve an exchange of contact details, a brief job description and plans to meet up at a future date, a relationship with a mentor can look very different. It may involve long lunches or time spent in your mentor’s office. The mentor will have the contacts and connections you need to develop your career and these introductions are likely to be more beneficial than those your own network provides.
Mentoring is a great skill, and not everyone is suited to the role. If you choose the right person, however, the relationship will have the potential to benefit both parties. This is the case across industry and commerce, and that is why many companies are now introducing their own mentoring programmes. These are designed to benefit not only the mentor and mentee, but also the business when there is mentoring across the organisation including treasury and finance.
The relationship between you and your mentor is a confidential one and creates a situation in which discussions can be open and frank without fear of repercussions. This is unusual in larger organisations where inter-departmental envy or office politics can influence decision-making. Quality conversations between senior and junior staff can help to develop good communications between the C-suite and staff who are carrying out key tasks and overseeing important transactions. Again, both sides benefit as does the organisation.
It is clear at this point that mentoring is a two-way operation and the mentee can exert influence on the relationship by developing a strong conversation with the mentor. This dynamic will develop as the mentee acquires new skills and improves their knowledge of how the business operates. By making a greater contribution to the company, the mentee is adding value to their career portfolio and enhancing their prospects within and outside the organisation.
The mentor also has the satisfaction of seeing a protégé pick up knowledge and develop new skills. Evidence suggests that an effective mentoring programme can help to develop a strong management structure and impact on the company’s bottom line.
It may be that your firm does not offer a mentoring programme, in which case you will have to look elsewhere. Your old educational institution may have a programme, or your professional body may be able to connect you via one of their own schemes.
Failing that, you may want to seek out your own mentor, possibly someone you admire within your sector. This could still be someone within your own firm, even if no official programme is in place for mentoring.
There are steps you can take when seeking a mentor. Firstly, decide what your goals are and what skills you need help with from your mentor. Secondly, decide what characteristics you are looking for in a mentor. This is where you can use your own network among contacts who know how your potential mentor operates.
In most cases, you would choose a mentor who works in your area of expertise or in a sector you would like to move into. However, depending on which part of your skill set you are looking to enhance, it could be someone in a different field entirely. Management skills are increasingly transferable across industries and this is particularly true in treasury and finance.
In any event, when choosing a mentor, look some way up the management structure. Don’t choose your own head of department since, as we have mentioned, you will want to have open conversations about your career aims. If the prospect of dealing with a senior executive is intimidating, there are peer-to-peer mentoring programmes which can help you learn from people at your own level.
Similarly, women and members of minorities underrepresented in the workplace may find it helpful to seek out a mentor with an understanding of their background and their ambition to advance in a diverse workforce.
A mentor will want to work with someone they can respect since this is a two-way relationship. In order to earn respect, you must ensure that you do not give the impression that you are simply there for your own benefit. Additionally, during the relationship, be prepared to admit your mistakes and to re-assess your goals.
Once you have established a good relationship with your mentor, you can look forward to enhancing your career and standing within your profession.
Simon Lynch is the owner of Treasury Talent.
Treasury Talent is a specialist treasury talent, recruitment and search provider solely focussed on the treasury market with offices in Sydney covering Australia, Singapore covering Asia, and San Francisco covering California and the USA. To make contact firstname.lastname@example.org