Over the weekend I watched my first episode of Suits.
I know I’m behind the times, but what struck me most (more than “I really should have watched this earlier”) was the prominence of the role of mentors in the show. Harvey Spectre serves as a guide to Mike Ross, helping him navigate the complex corporate environment in the same way that Jessica guided Harvey through his career. More so than the role of a manager, the mentor is vital to helping employees blossom.
This is particularly true for new graduates. Moving into any new office environment can be quite daunting and even more so if it is your first, full-time, permanent role. The expectations of corporate culture are very different to higher education and academia and each office poses its own unique set of challenges and hurdles. Beyond understanding one’s role and developing the skills needed to fulfil it, employees need to understand the unspoken rules, develop their own style and decide what their career path looks like down the road. Unfortunately, this isn’t covered in your first day orientation.
So what can a mentor offer? An experienced, older mentor can offer insight into office nuances, company culture and industry hurdles, helping newer or less experienced employees understand the corporate landscape they are navigating. Rather than helping employees develop particular skills relevant to their job, mentors help to develop understanding and clarity about their job and career more generally. Simply put, a manager helps you through your day, a mentor helps you through your career. To paraphrase Mr Specter: a strong mentor can help you decide “what type of lawyer you want to be”. Some of the foremost leaders in modern business extol the benefits of having a mentor. Richard Branson pinpoints at least one mentor when entering the business world and the Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin turned to Eric Schmidt when their business outgrew their business savvy. And those are just two examples.
Despite the numerous benefits, mentorship schemes are not abundant in offices across the country. In addition to providing immense value to the mentee, organisations stand to benefit a great deal from the mentorship scheme as well. Having a system in place means that senior leaders have a process to identify, develop and cultivate future leaders of the company. Further, it provides the business leadership with detailed insight into their staff and their mindset, allowing leaders to make changes where needed to boost employee satisfaction and productivity. Finally, having a solid mentoring scheme boosts employee retention; satisfied employees remain employees.
Organisations need to make mentoring a priority in 2017 and employees need to take full advantage of any schemes that are offered to them. Employees stand to benefit from having an experienced ear available to them and will find their career path becomes a lot clearer while businesses could be grooming their next CEO.