The Value of a Mentor

In my experience as an undergrad, professors constantly advised the class:

"Get a mentor.  It is very important."

It sounds obvious, of course, that a mentor is important.  But why?

Mentors help accelerate your learning.  

As a result of them making mistakes and going through specific situations previously, they can educate you on how to conduct yourself in these situations.  While you will, of course, need to make mistakes for yourself, it is helpful knowing that others have had experiences and struggles you can learn from.

Mentors serve as a sounding board for issues and questions.  

For me, I was struggling with opening up and being myself at work.  My mentor talked through it with me and I was able to grow as a result of the conversation.  It is also helpful to ask your mentor about questions you do not feel comfortable asking others, such as salary or promotions.  These topics can often be seen as a black box that no one knows the answer to, but getting a mentor's perspective is hugely helpful in answering those sometimes uncomfortable questions.

While the above describes the value of a mentor in Corporate America, it is important to note: 

The value of a mentor does not change from undergrad to Corporate America.

After all, they serve the same purpose, so there is no reason to treat them differently as a result of the setting.  I'm sure there have been many times you have had questions or concerns that you brought up to a friend in your class, a colleague, or leader in a club and they provided mentor-like advice.  There is no reason to stop leveraging a mentor for advice once you transition to Corporate America.

My Experience with a Mentor

In Corporate America I have been fortunate enough to have a few mentors.  My preferred way to leverage my mentors is to ask them questions where I need an outside perspective.  For example, I was recently looking for a new role within my company.  I connected with a mentor to ask him what steps I need to take in order to obtain a new role, as I have never gone through the process.  He outlined the steps I needed to take and offered advice on which roles and managers I should consider.  Having him walk me through this was extremely helpful and lead me to my desired outcome, a new role at the company.

Thought Starters:

  • What value did you get out of a mentor as an undergrad?
  • How do you envision using a mentor in Corporate America?