The importance of mentorship early in a career

Mentors have played a sometimes subtle, but always very important, role in my professional development. My first two jobs post-grad were both at Fortune 200 companies. Being just one out of tens of thousands of employees can make you feel lost in the shuffle pretty easily, especially as someone new to the professional world and seeking direction.

In retrospect, I was very fortunate to cross paths with the coworkers and managers who would become mentors for me.

Mentors can come from a variety of places and I’ve learned that a good one will be there to lift you up and also keep you grounded. When I received my first promotional job offer, my mentor was there to temper my excitement and help me understand that the role was not actually within my desired career path. On the flip side, when I was ready to move on to Ancora, they were there to offer any assistance they could, even though it would mean I would no longer be working with them directly.

When I made the career move to Ancora, it was a totally different dynamic across the board. I went from a Fortune 200 company in an entirely different industry to Ancora’s Detroit area office, which had only a couple of employees at the time. The small business atmosphere gave me my first opportunity to truly work one-on-one with someone who was very established in the field I was interested in, giving me much more personalized professional development.

I got my first lesson as a new investment analyst on day one. Oftentimes, a lack of experience would be considered detrimental, but I learned that inexperience, with the right attitude, can also serve as a blank canvas. The portfolio manager, whose team I still serve on, showed me that my lack of prior experience in the financial industry was actually an asset to the team. I had a fresh perspective and no preconceived notions or habits, which can be incredibly hard to un-learn. My willingness to learn and put in the effort was what I was judged on, rather than years of industry experience.

The concept of mentorship was one that I had admittedly somewhat overlooked post-college. However, recognizing the important roles they have played in my career and personal growth, I would advise everyone to seek out such opportunities. At Ancora, I have learned directly from very talented and experienced managers. The open and honest two-way communication helped to further my sense of accountability, pride and ownership in my work. With the ability to receive constant feedback, I feel that I was able to quickly get up the curve.

While I don’t believe employers can manufacture mentorships with the same success, the type of culture that would foster mentorships can certainly be encouraged. As an employee, I have found those relationships to be invaluable when they naturally manifest. Even with Ancora’s recent growth, the small-business, supportive culture is still alive and well. I would advise younger professionals to pick up on and value that feel when looking for opportunities at any size company.

Nick Koenigsknecht is Assistant Vice President, Equity Analyst at Ancora