Whether you’re a recent grad or a seasoned tax professional here in Pennsylvania, being mentored in your preferred field of accountancy can springboard your career to the next level. Unfortunately, many accountants don’t understand the benefits of a mentor or know how to go about finding one.
Benefits of mentorship
The benefits of mentoring actually work both ways. While the person being mentored seems to be the only one benefitting, the mentor benefits, too.
Just some of the ways that you benefit from being mentored:
- Gives you a close-up look and insider advice on the niche you’re most interested in
- Identifies your strengths and weaknesses to improve your skills
- Affords you opportunities to learn unwritten rules in the field or the company
- Offers you help identifying long-term career goals and a sounding board for your ideas
- Provides you with valuable networking opportunities and business connections
- Gives you encouragement and advice
Ways your mentor benefits:
- Provides them with the internal satisfaction of helping someone in the field
- Further builds their leadership and communication skills
- Creates an image of them of being a leader in their field
- Provides them with an opportunity for recognition for leadership and commitment to growing the field
- Looks good for their further career growth, enhances their resume/CV
How to find a mentor
Finding a mentor starts with looking inward. Ask yourselves these questions:
- Where are you in your career?
- What are you interested in pursuing in the future?
- Whom would you like to emulate?
- What kind of help are you looking for?
- What personalities are you most comfortable working with?
The answers to these questions may evolve and become more accurate as you begin your search for a mentor, but get a general idea at first, to point you in the right direction.
Consider your sources. If you are a student or a recent graduate, your alma mater may have some mentorship programs you can tap into. You may find a mentor in your company or in your network. An organization such as PSTAP can be helpful in that regard. Or you may discover someone in your research or reading who impresses you.
Make a short list of people you think might make good mentors. It’s best and easiest to choose people who already know you, but if they don’t, you should make yourself known to them in a natural way. For instance, send an email to a potential mentor whom you don’t know (or don’t know well) with a helpful idea or suggestion, or with an intelligent question that you could not easily find the answer to elsewhere. Over time, try to expand the relationship by demonstrating your worth or offering your availability if they ever need help. The circumstances will dictate how you build this relationship.
For people you already know, get noticed. Demonstrate your skills or your willingness to learn more in whatever way you can, without overdoing it. Volunteer for projects they lead and do good work. Get involved in conversations and provide valuable input. Once noticed in a positive way, ask for advice about something. If the person is happy to help you, this may be a good sign that he or she would be willing to mentor you. At this point, you may feel comfortable asking if you can sit down together and discuss how you think the person can help you grow in your career and share ideas about what format mentoring might take. It could be a quarterly face-to-face and a weekly call, or whatever works.
Your mentorship arrangement will probably grow organically over time, but having a framework to start with will help both of you know what to expect and how to get started. If you can’t find a mentor among the people you know, connect with the professionals who are members of PSTAP. PSTAP offers many opportunities for accountants to expand their networks, communicate ideas through our forums, and find mentors and mentees.