While talent and personal ambition are necessary
ingredients for accomplishing career goals, few finance and accounting
professionals who have achieved success have done so entirely on their own. A
mentor who offers guidance and advice can help you navigate the pitfalls on the
road to advancement.
If you’re at the beginning of
your career, you may need to take the initiative to find someone to help you
move up the career ladder: In a recent survey by Accountemps, the majority (58
percent) of chief financial officers polled said it’s uncommon for new hires to be formally matched with
mentors in their organizations.
But even if you’ve logged a
number of years in the profession, partnering with a mentor can help take you to
the next level. Fortunately, even if your company doesn’t have a formal program, finding a mentor is less
difficult than you may imagine. Here’s how you
can do it:
Know what you need. Before you
begin your search, consider what you hope to gain from the relationship. Think
about the specific qualities the person should possess, as well as how the
individual might assist you. For instance, if you would like to move into a
senior financial analyst role, start with someone who has held that position. He
or she can identify areas you need to improve, from increasing your knowledge of
enterprise resource planning systems to your communication abilities. There also
may be aspects of the role you can learn that you aren’t currently aware of, such as the value of advanced
Some professionals choose to work with multiple mentors, each
of whom provide assistance in specific areas. One manager, for example, could
help you hone your technical skills, while you could also benefit by associating
with another individual with well-developed management skills or in-depth
knowledge of overall business aspects of the company.
Cast a wide net. Don’t limit your search for a mentor to individuals
within your company. Members of your professional network may know someone
who’s an ideal match for your needs. Also
consider contacts made through your involvement with industry groups such as the
American Institute of Public Accountants or the Institute of Chartered
Respect the person’s time.
It’s exciting to have a tenured professional
advise you on your career, but be sure to limit your demands on his or her
schedule. Your new advisor isn’t your “go to” person for every
crossroads you encounter. Be specific and thoughtful with your questions, and
don’t expect your contact to have all the
answers. You might research issues before you bring them up. For example, if
you’re wondering if you should pursue a
professional certification, make sure you are knowledgeable about the options
available before you seek your mentor’s advice.
Along the same lines, ask advisors how and when they would
prefer to be contacted. One individual may prefer a monthly phone conversation
on a Sunday afternoon, while another may leave the door open for you to e-mail
whenever you have a question. Whatever the case, by asking about communication
preferences, you’ll demonstrate that you respect
the time of the people who have agreed to help you.
Be appreciative. Once you’ve established a relationship, keep mentors updated
on progress made in areas in which they have helped. Always thank them for any
assistance provided and share the credit for your success when appropriate.
Finding a mentor can take some work, but it’s well worth the effort. You’ll have a valuable resource for career guidance,
allowing you to grow as a financial professional and put yourself on a path
toward achieving your goals.