Written By: Andi Wrenn, AFC®
There is no better way to grow in life than to have a relationship that encourages building up another so they learn and grow. This may seem like a strong statement, but let me take a few minutes of your time to talk about how being in a mentor/mentee relationship can make your life better. I am going to focus on career mentoring relationships, but this topic can apply to so many other aspects of life. A few people that I have worked with in a mentoring relationship shared some of their thoughts with me as well to contribute to this article. They have been mentees and mentors. One is April Berggren-Batts, and the other is Cain Hill. Thank you for your input.
What can be gained from being a mentee?
If someone is new to a field there is much gained by having a mentor to guide them. April mentioned someone new to a role may question the process or the way they do things. They may worry about not knowing everything, or worry if they are working inside the guidelines of their role. A mentor can help navigate new roles and help a mentee walk through beginning something new. Sure they could make it on their own, but having a mentor can help make a smooth transition and move the mentee in the right direction.
When in a mentee relationship I found that the support and encouragement I received made me a stronger professional. I had confidence in the direction I was taking in my career. I was able to take my ideas to the mentor and then listen to their feedback and move forward in a positive way. A mentor I had early on made a statement to me once that has stuck with me for 30 years. He told me that “In business you will never please everyone. If it feels like everyone is happy, then you are doing something wrong.” Complaints happen; bad things happen; it is just the nature of business. How you deal with those issues that rise up is important. He helped me look at business decisions from as many angles as possible so that I could prevent as many obstacles as possible and then taught me how to be a professional when things didn’t go as planned. My many mentors had a lasting impact on my life and have stayed with me through my career.
What makes a good mentor?
When I think of those who have fed my need to learn and grow, it helps me to be a better mentor. I want to treat the people who I give my time to the way I would want to be treated. A mentor needs to be a good listener. They need to learn about where their mentee is in their career. They should not come to the first meeting thinking they know everything they are going to tell their mentee. They need to listen and learn what the mentee needs from the relationship. People are all different. They have strengths, and experiences that make them unique. Not all paths are the same, and there is not one roadmap to getting to a certain place in a career. Mentors need to be positive and supportive if their mentee seeks a different route in their career. Mentors sharing what worked for them is fantastic, but the mentor also needs to help the mentee learn what might work that fits their style and comfort level. The focus of the mentorship relationship should be on the mentee.
Cain mentioned that having a mentor helped him step out of his comfort zone which helped him develop new skills and grow in leadership. A mentor that sees potential in a mentee can help them develop and set goals they never thought they could reach. Challenging a mentee to try new things and being there to support them and give them feedback can be a positive experience in a mentorship relationship. Mentors can also gain knowledge and grow as they learn things from those they mentor. Being open to new ideas, concepts and learning from your mentee is one of the things that I enjoy as a mentor. Everyone has unique experiences that they bring to the table in personal finance, and it benefits us all to have an open mind to do give-and-take with those we mentor.
A mentoring relationship can be formal, or informal. AFPCE has a formal process to mentorship available. You can sign up to be a mentor or a mentee: https://www.afcpe.org/membership/mentorship/. By going to the website you can learn more about the mentorship program. I have been in formal and informal mentorship relationships. There are so many financial professionals that I have built relationships with from attending the symposium, networking events, work, webinars, as well as connecting via social media. These people have influenced my life, and I have in turn given something back to many of them. I encourage you to connect with professionals in the field. Do it formally through the AFCPE website. Do it through the member platforms on social media. Connect with people who inspire you on social media. Connect with people who you see that are new and need encouragement. Not every relationship will be a perfect fit. One thing I have learned is that you can learn as much from a bad example as you can from a good one. Cain shared that it is also important to realize that a mentor/mentee relationship could last years, or a short time. There is no set time to maintain this relationship. You will know when it is time to move on from the relationship. A mentorship relationship helps both the mentor and mentee to grow and learn. I challenge you to get out there and be that good connection and example to people in our field.