It was a 15 minute conversation with a Mentor that helped chance the direction and success of my career in Finance. But up until then I was slow to ask for help, and even slower to pick up on the idea that Mentors could help me in my career. So let’s say you take the brave step to seek out Finance Mentors, how do you get the most out of them?
Ultimately finding the right mentor has loads of benefits. The right mentors know where to focus your attention and how to challenge you. Their knowledge and experience become yours. They provide immediate and realistic feedback on your work, so you can improve more rapidly and with greater chances of practical success. You can absorb their useful ways of thinking that when adapted by you can contain the seeds of you future success in Finance.
Develop a sense of humility
There is always someone out there in Finance & Business that knows more than we do ourselves, and everyone we encounter is an opportunity to learn something new. So to learn requires a sense of humility and this means we must admit that there are people out there who know our field much more deeply than we do. Their superiority is not necessarily a function of natural talent or privilege, but rather of their time and experience.
Have a sense or image of what your ideal career looks like
This can appear harder than it sounds because many of in Finance are unable to articulate what our ideal career outcome looks, sounds or feels like, even though we know we’re actually frustrated with where we’re currently at. This is more than a little ironic, because much of our work in Finance is about understanding what the plan is so we can help hit it, so we may need to take some of our own medicine here and actually prescribe ourselves a much clearer picture of what our ideal career outcome looks like, what type of position we see ourselves holds and working in, the conversations we hear ourselves involved in, the decisions we’re making, the salary, whether it has line management responsibility or not, type of company, location, hours, flexibility, work-life balance, etc…? Thinking and focusing on all the negative aspects of your current work will only bring you more of the same, having in mind a sense of what you want to final outcome to be will help you more quickly notice when the right mentor will appear in your career.
Actively seek out mentors who best fit your needs and career development plan
This becomes easier when you’ve an idea of your finance career plan and some of the steps you need to start taking, and even though you’re more tuned into what to look and listen out for, so there is a better chance you’ll spot the right mentor when they come along, why would you leave this to chance? It’s your finance career after all! Given we’re now living in a much more connect world what excusing are stopping you get out there and networking with other real Finance professionals to learn about their experiences or if it’s more comfortable go on LinkedIn and research finance professionals doing the work you’d like to be doing and connect with them, explaining you situation and how you think they might be able to help.
Absorb what is useful
It may not always possible to find the perfect mentor so you may have to seek out several mentors in your immediate environment, each one filling strategic gaps in your knowledge and experience. Having more than one mentor has side benefits, giving you several connections and important allies to rely upon later on. And as Bruce Lee said:
Absorb what is useful, discard what is not and add what is uniquely your own.
You can do this by using your mentor as a mirror as they can show you where you’re weakest. I encourage you, don’t be afraid to see yourself this way, it comes back to the point around humility if you want to get the most out of mentors, welcome their critical points and realistic suggestions as these will ultimately increase your confidence and ability.
And once you have internalized their knowledge, you must move on to the next mentor.
What if you’re stuck finding your next mentor?
Sometimes, for whatever reason, it may be hard to access Finance mentors directly, so books, particularly autobiographies, can serve as temporary mentors particularly if you’ve done the work to know what your ideal career looks, sounds and feels like. Another additional resource is our Strength in the Numbers Show, where we bring on guest mentors from all around the world of Finance, who have held many different roles, with many years of diverse experiences, to share with you their stories and hard won lessons. As well as where they have practically figured out how leverage their strengths and we’ve deconstructed what has worked for them, into ways and steps that you can more confidently take to contribute more value and become more influential in your work, not only faster, but also so that you have a more fun, rewarding and successful career in Finance.
So how do you get the most benefit out of your finance mentors? Or does having a mentor really matter?
The author Andrew Codd is the producer of the Strength in the Numbers Podcast which interviews real finance practitioners to break down their hard won lessons and deconstruct their practical methods that work on the job and which you won’t typically find in textbooks or exams so that we create more influential finance professionals worldwide who solve meaningful problems for their organisations and in return have fun, rewarding and successful careers in finance.