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GUEST COMMENT: The dark art of having a mentor

crystal ball

If you want to scale the pole in investment banking, it helps to have a mentor – especially if you are not an Oxbridge-educated white male-type.

Mentors are valuable in all sorts of ways: assessing your strengths and weaknesses, helping you navigate company culture and politics. You can use your mentor to work through your career and workplace problems. Ideally, they will motivate you and provide advice and support at crucial moments.

However.

If you’re not careful, your mentor-relationship can go horribly wrong.  Worse than not having a mentor is having a former mentor who has lost all respect for you.

The most important thing to remember is that your mentor is GIVING YOU THEIR TIME FOR FREE.  Do not take them for granted. Having a good mentor is partly about being a good mentee. To be a good mentee, you must:

Stay focused – Time with your mentor is valuable and often short. Don’t waste it on inconsequential matters.  Don’t gossip: there is a difference between discussing workplace issues and discussing colleagues personally.

Use all lines of communication – It may not always be possible for your mentor to meet face to face. This is not the end of the mentoring world.  Collate updates and questions in an email allowing your mentor to respond in their own time. Don’t hector them to mentor you in person.

Know your mentor –  A mentoring relationship should not be entirely one way. You need to know where you mentor is coming  from, what is on their minds, what they are struggling with. Endeavour to get to know them personally, don’t just be a sycophantic leech.

Try to have an two-way relationship – Reiterating what’s above. don’t be seen to take- take- take whilst giving nothing in return.

Promote your mentor – Endorse your mentor to others in your circle.  Never say a nasty thing about them.

Maintain confidentiality – There is nothing worse that you broadcasting mentor/mentee discussions around the firm. Keep your conversations private

Share the good and bads – It can be easy to turn to your mentor when times are tough and forget to report the successes!! Make sure you report back the good news as well as the bad

Follow up – If your mentor suggests something or gives you a line to follow make sure you circle back and show that you have actually done something about their suggestions.

Keep in touch –  If you treat them properly,  a mentor should be for life, not just for the few years’ when you’re trying to get established. Appreciate them, stay in touch, visit them when they retire.

The author works in electronic trading for a leading bank.

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