Entry-level accounting and finance professionals can’t always depend on their companies to find a mentor, suggests a new survey. The majority of the chief financial officers surveyed (58 percent) said that it is uncommon for new employees to be matched with mentors to help them up the career ladder either formally or informally within their organizations.
The survey, developed by Accountemps, was conducted by an independent research firm and included responses from more than 1,400 CFOs from a random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.
“Mentoring is certainly a valuable way for companies to transfer wisdom, nurture talent and get new employees up to speed quicker … but not many companies make the effort to create mentoring programs,” says Tom May, Cleveland branch manager for Accountemps. But, May said, even if a company does not have a mentoring program, there’s a lot an employee can do to seek out his or her own personal mentor.
Smart Business spoke with May about the importance of creating mentoring programs and what employees can do if no such program is available.
What are the benefits of a mentoring program from both the employer and employee perspectives?
From the company’s perspective, it is an excellent way for new hires to become more productive more quickly. It also helps new employees understand the corporate culture, office protocol, and how to confidently handle sensitive situations.
From the employee’s perspective, having a mentor for those first few crucial months on the job helps them get up to speed quicker, helps them grow in their professional career and, ultimately, makes them a better employee. A mentor or a confidant within a company can help a new employee understand the aspects of an organization that often are not obvious to a newcomer.
Why do you think so few companies institute mentoring programs?
In the financial world, in particular, experienced professionals (who would make excellent mentors) are often hard pressed to squeeze a mentoring relationship into their already-packed schedules. Plus, companies themselves often don’t see it as a priority to start a mentoring program. Employers do see the value of these programs, but it is something that gets put on the back burner and often never gets implemented because of time constraints.
What could a newly hired employee do if no mentoring program is available?
New hires should not expect a mentor to come knocking on their door. Employees need to be proactive and seek out one or more informal mentor. And companies that don’t have a formal mentoring program often encourage this kind of informal mentoring.
Employees don’t necessarily have to say, ‘Will you be my mentor?’ but instead they need to work to form casual alliances with employees they admire, who are well-established in the company, and who are also approachable. The employee needs to feel safe and comfortable asking this ‘mentor’ for advice.
What kind of person would be a good informal mentor to a new employee?
Someone with wisdom and perspective and age or title is not necessarily a factor in that. The employee should also seek out people who not only have the required skills they want to emulate, but who are admired and respected. Also, new employees should not rule out finding mentors outside the company through professional and community organizations.
There also can be different kinds of mentors. One can guide employees on the technical aspects of their job; other mentors can guide them on the managerial or corporate-culture aspect of the company.
While this may be out of the comfort zone of some employees, they need to remember that these ‘mentors’ are often honored to be asked advice.
Finding a mentor is not something new employees often think about doing. But, while it is an underused tool, it can truly help a new employee’s learning curve and ultimately help advance a career.
TOM MAY is the Cleveland branch manager for Accountemps, which has more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region and offers online job search services at www.accountemps.com. Reach May at (440) 777-8367 or Tom.firstname.lastname@example.org.