An Old Trick that Really Works: Why Mentoring is Essential to Success

In this day and age it’s not enough for us to simply be good at what we do.  Jobs are competitive, markets change rapidly, and our employers don’t just desire - but often require – for us to be great. 

Yet we know that the path to greatness is a winding one.  A person may possess all of the talent and ambition in the world, and still struggle to pursue meaningful career goals.  And when everyone and everything is trying to be great, the competition is fierce.  We are left with an impossible question: how do we stand out? 

As honing the ability to implement career strategies becomes increasingly necessary for us to excel, we need to identify what we can do to make greatness attainable for our employees and ourselves.  And when it comes to setting a career path, one of the oldest tricks in the book is still one of the best: finding (or becoming) a mentor. 

I was thrilled that the Commercial Finance Association announced a new mentoring program, and was even more excited when I decided to get involved.  This marks a great milestone that offers growth opportunities for mentors and mentees alike, and the CFA should be applauded for putting this plan into action.  They have formalized a tool that will help us become better and stronger not just as individuals, but as an entire industry.  We should all take advantage of this opportunity.

While the CFA’s program has us thinking about the exciting progress that lies ahead, it also reminds us that every goal worth working towards comes with a price.  There are challenges to the mentoring process that we need to acknowledge and tuck away without letting them distract our efforts.

First and foremost, mentoring is a two-way street.  It is not just a series of lectures given from an executive to an entry-level employee.  It is not just a mentee emailing a list of questions to their mentor once a month and receiving one-word responses in return.  If the process is going to work it has to be collaborative.  Milestones must be established together, rules and goals have to be set in advance, and both people must agree on how to assess progress and get rid of what doesn’t work. 

The other catch?  Mentoring occupies that highly coveted commodity we like to call time.  It requires dedication, and it asks both people to step away from their daily hustle to prioritize something that won’t produce immediate results.   This is where our fast paced habits hurt us most.  We too easily forget that greatness is cultivated through hard work and commitment.  And when we’re exhausted and distracted and feel like we just can’t make the time, we have to force ourselves to push through.  We may be tired, but we will be a little bit stronger, and a little bit better.  We will be one step closer to great.