Mentor: What is it and who needs it?

The concept of mentoring generates enthusiastic discussion in the business world. Successful people readily acknowledge the impact of both informal and formal mentors on their personal and professional lives. Yet it is often difficult to define exactly what a mentor is. One definition describes a mentor as "someone who is considered to be a trusted and knowledgeable counselor, someone with the experience to guide another individual's development."

This definition helps clarify what a mentor is, but other questions come to mind. What should I look for in a mentor? What should I expect from mentoring? How do I find a mentor?

To answer the first question you should look for someone whose judgment you trust, someone to brainstorm with, someone who has an objective perspective. A mentor also adds value by using his/her familiarity with a scenario similar to yours to provide insights that help you make thoughtful decisions. (This means that you may have more than one mentor as you seek guidance across different aspects of your life.)

To understand what to expect, you should not overlook your role in the mentoring. You have a significant influence on the relationship that will develop between you and your mentor – because it relies, in part, on your confidence regarding the mentor's interest in you and your goals, as well as your faith in their credentials, knowledge and experience.

Now to find a mentor! To assist with this, accounting firms frequently assign mentors. This ensures that you have the advantage of receiving ongoing advice from a seasoned CPA. Some firms encourage a combination of both assigned and informally chosen mentors to address the issues, challenges and opportunities facing you throughout the years. In addition to someone within your firm who has insights regarding its history and culture, you may also select a mentor outside your firm. This can be a college professor, a family friend, a college alumnus, or someone you meet through networking whose judgment you trust.

We all benefit from the insights of others. A mentor is important throughout our professional lives, serving as a resource and offer counsel as we strive toward our goals.

By Sally Glick, Chief Marketing Officer, Sobel & Co. LLC
Ms. Glick can be reached at Sobel & Co., LLC, 973-994-9494
or by e-mail at

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