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Mentors Series: Having a mentor - what is it and what's the point?

20 September, 2017Phil Renshaw


“One of the greatest values of mentors is the ability to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them navigate a course to their destination.”

— John C. Maxwell.

It’s easy to find lots of quotes on the Internet encouraging us to find mentors for career development support. Business clients are often looking out for mentors to help with their business growth. So what is it that mentors do and why is this valuable for our careers?

What is a mentor? 

Compressed - Women working at computerA mentor provides you with encouragement, support, advice, and guidance. Mentors can help you to grow your support network with introductions to other relevant, inspiring and influential people. Both in financial services and beyond. Crucially, mentors enhance career progression…

Thirty years of extensive research into careers and leadership, interviewing successful leaders and managers all over the world tells us that having effective mentors help people grow their careers. Research shows that those with mentors have a quicker path to promotion and senior leadership positions. Furthermore, there is evidence that one of the reasons men are often promoted faster than women and that you find more men than women in senior leadership positions, is that men are better at finding effective mentors. Financial services is a male dominated industry at senior levels so this is of considerable importance to women.

Be a mentor! 

It’s easy to assume this is solely about having mentors. However, you can achieve a great deal of learning, self-development and impact by acting as a mentor. There will always be somebody who has less experience than you, different experience to you and most fundamentally a different perspective to you. This also means there are advantages from peer-to-peer mentoring. You can act as a mentor to someone who is broadly at the same career level as you, however, they may have had different experiences from which you can learn. So think broadly, there are lots of opportunities here.

Leadership Skills

Learning to learn when being mentored and learning to be an effective mentor, both present opportunities to develop critical skills. These will improve your management and leadership capabilities. You can and will develop these skills as you go along if you make the effort. 

Some things to watch out for: 

  • Someone being mentored is a mentee. (Think lessees, trustees, mortgagees…)
  • What’s the difference between mentoring and coaching? The answer depends on your perspective. There are languages that do not have separate words for these two constructs. Be clear about what both parties want!
  • You don’t have to name someone as a ‘mentor’. Some people are uncomfortable with the label and the presumed obligations. If you are getting what you need, carry on!

In this series of posts we’ll look at how to find a mentor, how to manage your mentor, how to manage your mentee, and useful skills for mentors and mentees.

The London Institute of Banking & Finance membership is a career support network encouraging members to reach their full potential, with a range of membership categories you can choose the right membership to suit you. 

Read the next instalment of the Mentors series