If you’re in the first few years of your career, you’ve likely received the advice to go find a mentor. Mentorship is touted for its ability to improve your skills, speed up your progression at your firm, and provide you with insights into how to navigate firm politics.
While a mentor can be an invaluable resource, how exactly do you locate one?
What is a corporate mentor?
In the corporate world, a mentor is a more experienced, mature employee at your firm who agrees to counsel you as you progress in your career. While discussions with your mentor will primarily focus on firm dynamics, skill attainment, advice on specific projects, and planning your career goals, you may also discuss topics tangentially related to work (i.e. work-life balance, mindfulness, volunteerism, etc).
Given the wide array of topics you may cover with your mentor, it’s important to select a mentor who will be a good fit for you. Here are some basic signs that you’ve found the right mentor.
Ideally, your mentor should be three levels ahead of you in your firm’s title progression, which ensures a few things:
- They have been in your shoes. They can relate to the challenges you face and the skills and contributions your position requires.
- They still feel a connection to your role. They weren’t in your role so long ago that they can no longer remember what it was like.
- They can serve as a sponsor and advocate. They understand the perspective of your manager and can help guide you to meet and exceed their expectations.
- They know what it takes to get you to the next level in your career. They manage employees who are at the level ahead of you, so they can help you achieve a level of competency and contribution required to progress in your career.
While you can find mentors in your direct chain of command (i.e. your manager and your manager’s manager), it is best to have someone outside of your management chain mentor you. Part of the role of a mentor is to supplement the development your manager provides.
Your mentor should be in a similar role to yours. For instance, if you work in a quantitative role (i.e. finance, risk, etc.), someone working in an operational role (i.e. process design, reporting, etc.) may not be an effective mentor.
A mentor should be able to provide specific advice on advancing in your current track and navigating your department. A better choice might be a mentor on another team in the same department or a mentor in a separate, quantitative department who performs a similar function.
This way, they can give objective third party advice on your situation, but still understand the intricacies of your role and what it takes to progress.
Your mentor should recognize your performance and show interest in mentoring you. Finding a mentor who already has a positive view of you will ease the “getting to know you” process and ensure they feel invested in the mentor/mentee relationship.
Having a good, natural rapport with your manager is critical. After all, you want to find a mentor with whom you can speak freely.
Indications of rapport can take many forms: working well together on past projects, feeling comfortable joking in the office, or sharing viewpoints on topics across the firm. Rapport will create a safe environment to receive constructive feedback, which you can integrate into your workflow with an open mind.
Having a strong rapport lets you get to the heart of issues quickly, and indicates that you’ve found the right mentor.
Lastly, you want to find a mentor who has been successful in their own career progression. You can tell if someone is progressing by:
- Their reputation across the firm.
- The results and impact of their projects.
- Their satisfaction with their current position in their career journey.
Positive indicators on all three dimensions means they are happy and moving up. A mentor who has made progress in their own career is better positioned to give you quality advice and help you succeed.
Now that you know what your mentor match looks like, it’s time to get out there, look across your organization, and find one. Good luck!
Originally published on Ellevate.
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