Finding a mentor is very important in public accounting. Everyone was once a new staff member and was where you are now. It is important to find someone who you share common interests with so that your mentor can connect with you and help you succeed.
Here are some general steps to follow in finding a mentor. Select someone who:
- has time for you
- is willing to go out on a limb to help your career
- is comfortable to talk to about work and your personal life, hobbies, etc.
If you are struggling with something at work, your mentor should be the first person that you reach out to.
At Withum, we are given a formal mentor and career coach. Your mentor is closer to you in level, usually two or three years ahead of you, while your career coach is a senior manager or partner. The role of your mentor is to help you with your everyday questions and concerns and the career coach is there to advocate for you at the firm level. Both are important in your career to help you succeed. The best mentor-protege relationships are the ones that just flow. Forced relationships where people have meetings just to be able to check the box that it happened, don’t always provide much value.
For me, I have developed a great relationship with my career coach so he has become both a mentor and a coach to me. He is my “go to” for advice, for anything from technical questions to managing what new projects or engagements I should work on. He has been in the industry for over 25 years and has seen it all. He can share his experiences from other firms and even working for the PCAOB. Our mentor/coach and protege relationship works and lasts because we are both in it for the long haul. We both have a level of comfort and trust with one another so we can speak openly without any concerns.
Finding your person make take time. Your formal mentor might not be the right fit; when that happens, it’s important to speak up and either change your formal mentor or find an informal mentor to help you to succeed. And remember, when you are in a position to be a mentor, make sure you pass along guidance and your wisdom!
How have you found a mentor?