Mentor Programs FAQs

Earlier in 2013, the ‘Women’s Agenda’ reported, ‘Professional women earning over $65,000 are less likely to be overlooked for a job if they have a mentor, new research reveals, as the majority of women are now seeking career support from other professionals’.

A study by Sweeney Research, commissioned by Westpac, of 1031 professional women found 41% of those surveyed had a mentor or role model inside their company or out and a further 13% had a sponsor (someone in the workplace in a position of authority who can help them move up the ladder).

Of the 40% of women without a mentor, role model or sponsor, 94% said they wanted someone who could provide them with support.

Chief executive of Seven Dimensions and psychologist Eve Ash told Women’s Agenda, mentors are valuable at any stage in a person's career.

"They help to keep you on track with your goals and help you identify what the gaps are in your business," she says.

"Providing a reality check is another one of the big advantages of having a mentor. People are often stuck inside their own heads and when you voice an idea to a mentor it can become a reality and you'll get feedback." And it seems having a mentor can also help women to score a job or advance their career.

Thirty-five per cent of women without a mentor, role model or sponsor said they'd been overlooked for a job, while only 29% of women with a mentor reported experiencing this.

However in other areas of support the difference wasn't as marked. Twenty-five per cent of women with support and 25% of women without support had faced challenges getting the same pay as men.

While securing a mentor can be extremely valuable to either an employee or a business owner, finding the right person isn't always easy.

The roles and benefits of mentorship

The role of a mentor is to encourage the personal and professional development of a mentee through the sharing of knowledge, expertise and experience. The mentoring relationship is built on mutual trust, respect and communication and involves both parties meeting regularly to exchange ideas, discuss progress and set goals for further development.

Being mentored is one of the most valuable and effective development opportunities. Having the guidance, encouragement and support of a trusted and experienced mentor can provide a mentee with a broad range of personal and professional benefits, which ultimately lead to improved performance in the workplace.

Some key benefits of being mentored include:

  • Exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking;
  • Advice of developing strengths and overcoming weaknesses;
  • Guidance on professional development and advancement;
  • Increased visibility and recognition within the company;
  • The opportunity to develop new skills and knowledge.

Mentoring is more than the transfer of advice, knowledge and insights. The relationship offers reciprocal benefits for mentors willing to invest their time in developing another professional. As well a personal satisfaction of sharing their skills and experience with a willing learner, being involved in mentoring also provides some tangible benefits that can reward mentors professionally.

Some key benefits of being a mentor include:

  • Recognition as a subject matter expert and leader;
  • Exposure to fresh perspectives, ideas and approaches;
  • Extension of their professional development records;
  • Opportunity to reflect on their own goals and practices;
  • Development of their personal leadership and coaching style.

For employers, investing in business mentoring is a useful and cost effective way to develop your top emerging talent and keep your most knowledgeable and experienced performers engaged and energised. As well as the transferral of critical business knowledge and skills, mentoring helps to develop a pipeline of future leaders who understand the skills and attitudes required to succeed within the company.

Benefits to businesses investing in mentorship include:

  • Develop a culture of personal and professional growth;
  • Share desired company behaviours and attitudes;
  • Enhance leadership and coaching skills in managers;
  • Improve staff morale, performance and motivation;
  • Engage, retain and develop performers.

The ‘Women’s Agenda’ put together 5 tips to keep in mind when finding a mentor.

Research and network

People looking for a mentor should start by researching people in their industry.

Read online about who is doing what in your own company and in your industry as a starting point, and ideally you'd take opportunities to network and go to events where people speak and people mix, so you can put yourself in a situation where you could meet a possible mentor.

You want to find a mentor with a track record of achievements. You want to see how they operate, and if they have values you admire. You can also talk to other women and men and ask about who is doing what, who has achieved what and who is good to work for as a manager.

Identify values and goals

Consider selecting a mentor based on their achievements and specific qualities.

Unlike a marriage where you take all the person's qualities and live with the person, with a mentor you can select them by a particular thing, for example, it could be getting a person who has successfully launched their product overseas.

There is no point just going, 'oh I think I'll grab that person as a mentor'. You need to think about where you are and what you want to achieve; the clearer you are, the more interested your mentor is going to be.

Age is no limit

Mentors are often sought after by young entrepreneurs just starting out, but they can also be useful for people already established in their career.

There are people running companies who have been doing so for years who then need a mentor. The person is someone you can voice your vision to.

You might be going through a huge change in the way you work and a mentor can be like a sounding board, someone you can report to regularly to make sure you're on track.

Define the time

One danger of engaging a mentor can be leaving the time period of the mentorship undefined.

Open ended creates an uneasy expectation as it unfolds. Both parties need to think about how it will end; what if they don't want to provide it anymore or what if the person no longer wants a mentor.

Set a period of time, be it three months, six months or a year. But say you'll do it for X period and then review the arrangement.

When the relationship doesn't work out

Mentoring relationships are like any other, if it doesn't work, move on.

It's the same with a psychologist, a lawyer or an accountant, if you don't like the person or don't get along with them, you move on.