Mentorships can be important in career development, survey shows

Respondents say learning directly from someone in a role you aspire to is greatest benefit

Posted January 21, 2016

If your New Year's resolutions have already fallen by the wayside, finding a mentor may help you get back on track. According to a recent survey, 86 percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) said having a mentor is somewhat or very important for career development, yet only 26 percent of workers have one.

The Accountemps survey also found that only 18 percent of female professionals interviewed said they have a mentor compared to 33 percent of male respondents. Among the greatest benefits of this relationship, according to CFOs, is learning firsthand from someone in a role to which you aspire.

CFOs were asked, "In your opinion, how important is it to have a mentor for career development?"

  • Very important — 42 percent
  • Somewhat important — 44 percent
  • Not too important — 8 percent
  • Not at all important — 5 percent

CFOs were also asked, "Which one of the following would you say is the single greatest benefit of having a mentor?"

  • Learn firsthand from someone in a role you aspire to — 48 percent
  • Learn the unwritten rules of the company or industry — 20 percent
  • Have a neutral sounding board for your ideas — 11 percent
  • Get help navigating office politics — 9 percent
  • Get introductions to new contacts — 8 percent
  • There are no benefits — 3 percent
  • Don't know — 1 percent

Workers were asked, "Do you have a mentor?"

 

Total

Male

Female

18-34 years

38-54 years

55+ years

Yes

26%

33%

18%

41%

17%

15%

No

74%

67%

82%

59%

83%

85%

"An experienced mentor can be a catalyst to help professionals at all levels advance their careers," said Bill Driscoll, a district president for Accountemps. "A mentor can help navigate career challenges, provide encouragement, and share insights from past successes and failures. Frequently, mentors inside the company end up being strong career advocates for those they take under their wings, helping them rise through the organization."

Driscoll added, "It doesn't have to be a one-way street. Often, the mentor may learn new skills from the mentee. Companies can help develop their staff and encourage cross-training by offering formal mentorship programs."

Accountemps offers five tips for fostering mentor relationships:

  1. Pick the right mentors. Think about individuals you'd like to emulate. An advisor within the company may be better equipped to help you navigate personalities and politics, while an external mentor can serve as a sounding board and help you stay current on industry trends. 
  2. Follow up regularly. Make it a priority to stay in touch with your mentor at a frequency that works for both of you. Send an occasional email update or ask a question when you run into a challenge.
  3. Come prepared. Use time with your advisor wisely by setting an agenda in advance of the conversation. What do you want to take away from the meeting? The more specific you can be, the better the outcome.  
  4. Show appreciation. Mentoring requires commitment — make sure you show gratitude. Tell your mentor how his or her guidance has helped you on your career path.
  5. Identify when it's time to move on. Busy schedules, changing career paths and major moves could all change the relationship. When you see signs that a mentorship has run its course, it's okay to part ways. Just don't sever ties completely — your mentor will always be a valuable contact for you.

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