Mentoring – A Value Adding Activity

By Brian Beckett, CPA
Member of IMA Young Professionals Committee
Director for Young Professionals-IMA Des Moines Chapter
Investment Accounting Analyst, Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, Iowa

In the early stages of almost every career there is a steep learning curve. Through my experiences and observations of others, I have found that the accounting profession seems to be on the steeper end of the curve.

As accountants, we are plucked out of our college classes and thrown into business environments that are far more complex than we likely imagined as students. All of the topics we thought we had a solid grasp on suddenly have added layers of complexity. Gone are the days of the two- to four-line journal entry to accounts with intuitive titles. We quickly begin to realize that the business world is not as simple as the textbook problems to which we had become accustomed. It is easy to get frustrated early in our career.

On the bright side, we are likely surrounded by a talented pool of individuals who have experienced the same feelings and have been in very similar situations. Working through our issues and concerns by asking for their input and advice is an incredibly effective way to keep a cool head and stay grounded when the world seems to be moving too fast to hold on. As professionals, we are doing ourselves a disservice if we are not tapping into this plethora of knowledge. This exercise is nothing more than a mentoring relationship.

If your company does not have a structured mentoring program, taking the initiative to approach colleagues with questions and concerns can be extremely beneficial. If your company does assign you a mentor, asking other colleagues for advice and getting alternate perspectives will never hurt.

Your colleagues may not even be aware they are functioning in this capacity, but just getting together with someone whom you view as a success and “shooting the breeze” can be a very effective mentorship. Whether you are concerned about work load, career aspirations or work/life balance, your mentor will likely have an opinion, some advice or at least a good story to address your concerns. In most cases they will have been there, done that and lived to tell about it.

For me, career advancement has always been one of my top priorities. I often analyze where I am at in my career and if I am where I expected myself to be at this point in my life. For me, the most satisfying part of a mentor relationship is to hear about a mentor’s career path. While they may be successful now, they likely have had to overcome some hurdles and have stumbled along the way. Very few people have made it to the top with little struggle and no sweat equity. It is a refreshing conversation to have and leaves you feeling like anything is possible.

There is really nothing more rewarding than being specifically identified as a mentor for someone. I strive for this acknowledgment in my personal career and would encourage everyone to strive for this as well.

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The IMA Young Accounting Pros Blog features the insights of IMA's Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

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