5 Reasons You Need a Mentor in Your Finance Career

When I was early in my finance career, I was fortunate enough to have a mentor. The company I worked for paired young employees with more established ones and, together, they set the rules of how their relationship would work. In our case, we met for one hour every two weeks and touched base by email or phone anytime I had a question that stumped me.

The experience was invaluable. Research shows that employees with a good mentor have better career success in the form of promotions and increased pay. That's what happened in my case. My mentoring experience opened my eyes and then doors to other opportunities.

If you're just starting out in your career, a mentor is invaluable. And if you think you don't need a mentor because your career is going well and you're happy in your job, you might change your mind after reading this.

5 Reasons You Need A Mentor in Your Finance Career

A mix of internal and external advantages makes mentoring key if you're serious about your finance career.

1. It Helps You Develop Your Workplace Skills

There are many workplace skills you need to master to become a valuable and successful employee. How do you interact with colleagues? How do handle criticism? Does your demeanor change during stressful circumstances?

Chances are, your mentor has been through most - if not all - of these workplace challenges. Mentoring provides one-on-one training from someone who's "been there, done that." You can customize your questions to your situation and learn the nuances of workplace interactions.

For example, if you're applying for an internal promotion, should you wear a suit and tie to the interview, or is business casual acceptable since you already work there? How do you overcome personality differences and work with colleagues you don't particularly like? What are some techniques for overcoming a stressful situation? How do you tactfully deliver bad news?

These are all questions you may not get great answers to when studying from a book or manual. Seek out a mentor who can help you understand how to navigate the subtleties of the workplace.

2. It Demonstrates Your Investment in Your Company

Whether you're selected for a company-sponsored mentorship program or seek one out on your own, a mentor relationship shows your company you're invested in its success. While companies seek different attributes in their employees, three values every employer seeks are ambition, being proactive, and knowing what you want out of your career.

Becoming a mentee demonstrates your desire to learn more about the company, and applying for a program or seeking a mentor on your own shows you're proactive and ambitious.

Data indicates that showing you're invested puts you in a better position for promotion. About 28% of all employee promotions come from within. That number may seem low, but surprisingly few employees apply for internal positions that include promotion. Companies want to promote from within, and showing your commitment to your career puts you at an advantage.

Another perk: Your mentor can show you how to follow your ambition without coming across as pushy or obnoxious. There's a fine line between a go-getter and someone who wears on your nerves.

3. It Helps You Explore Your Career Options

Do you really know what you what to do for the remainder of your career? In finance, your choices include financial analyst, controller, investment banker, and accountant, among others. The field is so robust the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects business and financial occupations will increase by nearly 600,000 jobs through 2028. That's faster than all other occupations.

Your mentor can help you sort through your options. Your career is about more than just which job interests you; it's also about which is the best fit for you.

What's your personality? Are you easily stressed, or do you thrive on challenges? Are you a worrier, or do you let things slide off your back? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Your mentor can give you an objective reading of how your skills and personality fit in specific finance careers. You don't have to take their advice, but it will prove valuable as you decide what your next step is.

4. It Helps You Build Your Network

If you're young, chances are you don't have much of an established network. Your mentor should. Networking is not only a chance to meet others in the profession but to sell yourself. And it's a great way to get a leg up in the job market, as only about 15% of jobs are filled through job boards.

The internal-external distinction is important to note because some people consider external the only type of networking. It isn't. Unless you work at a small company, you're not going to know most of your colleagues or higher-ups. Your mentor can introduce you to the internal people you need to know. These can be people who have a say in promotion decisions or seek volunteers for high-profile company committees.

Your mentor can also introduce you to their external network, which should include people with more experience than you, a different perspective, and those in more senior positions. Making these connections does more than just open you up to future job prospects; it also enables you to learn from people who've walked the path you're on.

5. It Can Help You Navigate Tricky Situations

Everyone needs career advice at some point. Is it better to stay with your current company or take a promotion with another company? What if you're one of the 31% of men and 36% of women who don't feel valued at work - do you leave? What if you need to have a difficult conversation with your boss? How do you broach the subject?

You're likely to face questions like these at some point in your career, and a mentor can help you decide how to answer them. They're a fantastic sounding board who can hear your concerns and offer suggestions on how to respond. You can also role-play with them to come up with ways to handle difficult discussions.

How you handle tricky situations affects the way your company sees you. A mentor can help you make sure you handle them professionally.

Final Word

There's nothing but upside in having a mentor, and the data proves it. CNBC notes that employees with mentors are happier in their jobs, with their pay, and believe they're valuable to their companies. Conversely, 40% of employees without a mentor considered quitting their jobs within the previous 90 days.

Finding a mentor can be challenging for some people. Introverts don't do well with people they don't know, which can make networking a chore. Some prefer to work alone and shy away from workplace interactions. But the trouble is worth it. Plus, your mentor can help you overcome these challenges and give you strategies to make uncomfortable situations bearable.

Have you ever had a mentor? What value did you get from the relationship?

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Comments (5)

May 26, 2020 - 9:52pm

How do I approach my boss to be my mentor? She's really my boss' boss but since the beginning she has been the one mostly directing my work. And due to the recent COVID situation I've been formally pulled from my usual team to work directly for her. I've built a lot of respect for this person given that she knows everything there is to know about the business and it's almost scary how she can make quick decisions even when there's little to no information.

There is no formal program for that here but I know I'd benefit a lot from something like a meeting every two weeks for an hour to discuss her outlook, my performance, etc. What's the best way to ask for something like this?

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