While a mentor may not be essential to success, having one certainly enhances the climb up the corporate ladder. So says a survey of 1,400 chief financial officers polled recently. While 58 percent said they have never had a mentor, either formally or informally, 35 percent of executives who did said the single greatest benefit was having a confidant and adviser.
The survey, developed by Accountemps (www.accountemps.com), a specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals headquartered in Menlo Park, Calif., and conducted by an independent research firm, includes responses from more than 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with more than 20 employees.
"While talent and dedication are sometimes all that are required to advance professionally, having a mentor can help pave the way to career success," says Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Managing Your Career For Dummies.
Messmer stresses the importance of having a support system from the start of employment. "The benefits of having a mentor shouldn't be underestimated, particularly for those who are just starting their careers. An experienced adviser can provide insight into office protocol and how to handle sensitive situations—areas that aren't necessarily taught in school but are essential to career success."
While some companies assign a mentor to new hires and others offer programs employees can sign up for, a lack of these elements shouldn't be a barrier to having that special adviser. Employees in these situations, rather, should be proactive about getting the guidance they need. "Entry-level professionals should seek mentors who are well respected within their companies and have strong communication skills. These relationships don't have to be formal; new employees can learn from observing those they admire and periodically seeking their advice."
About the survey results, Rene D. Petrin, president of Management Mentors ( www.management-mentors.com), a Chestnut Hill, Mass.-based consultancy, asks, "Have these CFOs truly not been mentored or have they confused coaching with mentoring? It is not uncommon for us to wait for someone to enter our professional lives and be our mentors but this is a passive approach.
"Often people presume that they needed someone who was an expert in a given field... which is important," he went on to say, "but having someone who takes a personal and professional interest in your career and personal development is what mentoring is really about. Are these CFOs able to identify people who have been significant forces in their lives? If so, these were probably mentors." —J.D.
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