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Mentors matter: Get advice to take your career to new levels

Powering ahead in your career is important, for personal growth as well as your finances. Beyond just building your expertise and working hard, though, working with a mentor can improve your likelihood of success.

Mentors matter: Get advice to take your career to new levels

Studies show that employees who have mentors receive higher compensation and more promotions compared to non-mentored staff members.

Powering ahead in your career is important, for personal growth as well as your finances. Beyond just building your expertise and working hard, though, working with a mentor can improve your likelihood of success.

Mentoring is a longer-term personal development relationship where a more experienced person helps guide a less experienced person.

It is usually a one-to-one relationship based on encouragement, openness, trust and a willingness to learn.

A mentor can provide unbiased advice to help their mentee develop expertise, expand their network and find inspiration to rise to new heights in their career.

When a mentee faces challenges, a mentor has probably faced a similar situation in the past and can give advice based on their experience.

With their longer work history, mentors can offer insights into what it takes to get ahead, help identify the skills to succeed, offer ways to expands contacts and give advice on where to go for information.

Several additional benefits, as author Dan Bobinski describes it, are that mentees gain clarity about their situation by getting an outside perspective on how to improve, actually make improvements because they are accountable to someone who helps them stay on track, and receive support customised to meet their specific needs or to capitalise on their strengths.

In information technology, for example, senior managing editor Rich Hein of tech news site CIO.com noted that it is critically important to have a mentor because it “allows you to see where your business is heading and then build your skills” in areas most needed in the coming years.

And for entrepreneurs, a survey by logistics company UPS showed that 70 per cent of small-business owners that receive mentoring survive for five years or more compared to about 35 per cent of those without a mentor.

HIGHER PAY, GREATER JOB SATISFACTION

The benefits of having a mentor can be enormous. An analysis of 43 studies from the past 30 years by multinational company SAP SuccessFactors’ human capital management researcher Lauren Pytel showed, for instance, that mentored employees receive higher compensation and more promotions compared to non-mentored staff members.

Research led by the University of Missouri’s emeritus professor Thomas Dougherty similarly found that mentored individuals have more career and job satisfaction, more promotions, and higher incomes.

And a study led by the University of Georgia’s professor Lillian Eby showed that mentoring is associated with favourable behavioural, attitudinal, health-related, relational, motivational, and career outcomes.

Putting a quantitative spin on the results, an analysis by Siemens Building Technologies’ America division chief financial officer Anton Duvall showed that mentored high-performing employees and senior managers receive promotional raises 3 to 4 per cent higher than their non-mentored counterparts. “Although a manager may be regarded as high-performing and working at a senior level”, Duvall found, “his or her salary development over time will not be as high as a similarly performing manager who has a mentor”.

And for women, those with a mentor increased their odds of being promoted to mid-manager or above by 56 per cent over colleagues without a mentor. They also achieved 27 per cent higher salary growth compared to co-workers without mentors. This is based on a survey of more than 4,000 Master of Business Administration alumni from top schools worldwide by non-profit organisation Catalyst.

Here in Singapore, Louise Tagliante, founder of women’s mentoring organisation Protege, said that “we’ve seen some amazing results from mentees. They speak up assertively, gain promotions, learn to become more visible in the organisation, network better and have more confidence in asking for the promotion or international assignment they want”.

FINDING AND COLLABORATING WITH A MENTOR

It may be easier to find a mentor than you expect.

Some companies offer a mentorship programme, so you can take part in it and find a mentor within your organisation easily.

If your company doesn’t offer mentorship, you can seek a mentor from your professional or social networks such as an expert in your industry, a former boss, or a neighbour who is well-known for their business skills.

Another alternative is to use a scheme such as Protege, or association-run programmes such as the CFA Singapore mentorship programme or the SkillsFuture SME Mentors programme.

If you’re looking for a mentor from a particular industry, you could attend meet-up sessions to identify potential mentors. You could also look for a mentor on LinkedIn or, sometime before long, use an upcoming LinkedIn’s Career Advice feature that is gradually being rolled out globally. LinkedIn’s head of product Anwesha Jalan says that this upcoming feature helps connect LinkedIn members for lightweight mentorship opportunities.

To make the search for a mentor more effective, Ms Jayna Cooke, chief executive officer of online marketplace Eventup, offered five simple steps in her interview with CNBC.

Mentees should figure out what they’re looking to achieve, find someone in their social circle who is succeeding in that area, reach out to form a relationship by taking an interest in how they got to where they are, think about what they can do to help them, and show appreciation for their time.

While not everyone will respond to a request from a stranger, Cooke said “be humble and you may be surprised by how willing people are to help out”.

The benefits of having a mentor are tremendous. It can be easier than you think to find one, so start reaching out if you don’t have a mentor yet and grow your career at a faster pace.

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