The key to top positions? A mentor

The key to top positions? A mentor

If you ask top executives about how they got so far in their career, in most cases they'll say they had a good mentor. Without somebody to guide them they may have never made it to the executive level.

Being an expert is of course indispensable – you won't make it far in your industry or company if you don't really know what you're actually doing. Yet especially informal things are best to be learned from somebody more experienced. Mentoring should not be confused with simple training. It is a long-term relationship that goes beyond improving professional skills.

The background of such relationship are often personal, the mentor recognizes himself or herself in you the younger colleague and is happy to support the person's professional growth and career. Often this way a leader breeds his or her successor. Let it be noted that not every boss is also a good mentor. He or she should be of course highly qualified, but also dedicated to the cause and ready to adapt to his mentee.

Nowadays many companies no longer rely only on informal mentoring, but implement formal programs. However formal mentoring programs still are rather rare. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resources Management only about 17 percent of US companies implement such. Yet supporting talents always pays off and mentoring allows through its highly personal approach to forward important knowledge and skills that cannot be taught on a workshop.

Meanwhile also less traditional forms of mentoring are on the rise: a senior employee learning from a younger colleague, group mentoring with one mentor supervising a small group of rookies, peer-to-peer mentoring among equals, or cross-mentoring with each side coming from different companies and industries.

Illustration by Sven Ekholm

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