Mentoring to Build a Better Profession
In addition to being personally beneficial, mentoring is a way to help cultivate and improve a profession that you are passionate about. It is a means for transferring technical knowledge as well as an opportunity to model and promote your educational, ethical, and professional values to others in the field.
That’s why it is great news that, in round numbers, 65% of respondents to a recent CFA Institute Financial NewsBrief poll reported that they have mentored fellow finance professionals. It’s also good news because there is never a shortage of interest from early- to mid-career investment professionals for such career support.
Of those who reported mentoring experience, 15% did so as part of formal programs. Certainly formal processes abound. At times in the past, these programs were primarily designed to help the development of high-potential employees for succession-planning purposes. But companies have found that mentoring is a good recruitment and engagement tool for all levels and types of employees and have grown or launched internal programs accordingly. Moreover, many firm alumni and professional associations — including several CFA Institute member societies — run mentoring programs. There are opportunities to plug into a formal mentoring structure for those who are interested.
Half (50%) of respondents mentored in an unofficial way. This likely includes many in managerial roles who look to mentor — not just supervise — their direct reports and, in turn, build more effective teams around them. In the book Managers as Mentors, Chip Bell and Marshall Goldsmith compared this process to panning for gold. The gold is mixed in with a lot of sand and you have to patiently shake away the excess so that you can sift through for the nuggets of gold. Managers are in a particularly good position to help their reports work through challenges, patiently shaking away the sand, and then sifting for the insights that help their staff develop.
This cohort of unofficial mentors no doubt also includes those who’ve conducted “flash mentoring” or “situational mentoring,” when a specific problem or passing set of circumstances led to a brief mentoring relationship. These short-term partnerships are nothing new, though technology and the generally high-speed nature of work in the industry have created more opportunities for them to develop. What has evolved in career management thinking is the recognition that they are points of influence that mentors can learn from.
One in five poll participants indicated that they have an interest in mentoring but encounter barriers to doing so. While recognizing situational or flash mentoring opportunities may help the 3% who report not having enough time to mentor, the more traditional mentoring relationships, the ones that tend to be the most rewarding for mentor and mentee alike, do require a time commitment. A good mentee will be respectful of how much the mentor has to offer and will do their best to fit into what is available, but there is no escaping that the dynamic works best when a mentor has dedicated and focused time to commit to it.
For those who worry that they don’t have enough experience to be a mentor, consider whether there are reverse-mentoring opportunities that might make sense for you. For those who are interested in mentoring but haven’t been asked, Jim Keene, CFA, offers some useful suggestions in this webinar.
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All posts are the opinion of the author. As such, they should not be construed as investment advice, nor do the opinions expressed necessarily reflect the views of CFA Institute or the author’s employer.