The benefits of being mentored

Mentoring has come a long way since the traditional picture of a young upstart being schooled by an older executive. In the modern business world, the concept of mentoring has had to adapt and become more relevant to careers that do not follow a straight line trajectory; it’s a more fluid, less easily defined concept these days, but undoubtedly, when it works well, it can be exceptionally – and mutually – beneficial.  

Built on trust, respect and communication, mentoring is a supportive relationship between two individuals, exchanging and exploring ideas, discussing progress and setting goals for further development. 

Why be mentored? 

Mentoring can be a useful addition to your personal development plan. Being mentored can help define your future work goals, identify strengths and areas for development and create an action plan to help you get to where you want to go.  

In the fast-paced changing world of work, knowing you have someone to support your career decisions and help you navigate future change and challenges can be invaluable. 

Being mentored can give you access to expertise and insight that has taken your mentor years to amass, in areas you have a particular interest in, or those you need to develop. You can learn from their successes as well as their mistakes along the way. People with mentors perform better, advance in their careers faster, and even report better work-life balance. The benefits are wide-ranging and can depend on the individuals concerned, but can include: 

  • Exploring possible opportunities and options for career development that you may not have previously considered 
  • Encouragement, feedback and practical advice to improve performance, raise self-awareness, build confidence and help career progression 
  • An opportunity to raise your profile and develop relationships, broadening your professional network and deepening your understanding of the business 
  • Gaining an advocate – someone who can champion your ambition to others  

Selecting a mentor 

Deciding who to choose as your mentor means working out what benefits they bring and how important or relevant those are to your career development. This can, of course, alter over the duration of your career. There are a number of decisions you’ll need to make before deciding what or who will benefit you the most.  

Internal or external mentors 

Being mentored by someone from your own organisation or by someone external can bring you differing benefits.  

An internal mentor can offer a more in-depth understanding of your organisation, giving a valuable insight into the culture and career paths of the company you’re already working for. Being mentored by someone from within offers the possibility of gaining an understanding of the key influencers and stakeholders in the business, as well as an advocate and champion at work ; this could be advantageous to your career progression, depending on your goals. One possible drawback of internal mentoring could be confidentiality; while all mentoring should be confidential, arguably there is a greater potential for conflicts of interest with an internal mentor, as well as an increased likelihood of difficulties with internal politics and objectivity, which might impact on the openness and honesty of the conversations.  

A mentor external to your own organisation can potentially deliver a wider-reaching insight, increased objectivity and impartiality as well as reducing the conflict of interest or perceived issues with confidentiality. They might have a specialist skill or be a member of your professional body. The downside could be their lack of insider knowledge or understanding of the company where you work and possibly having less influence as your internal career champion.  

Formal or informal mentors 

Mentoring relationships can be formal or informal; there are various differing benefits to the different types of mentoring. Formal mentoring may be linked to a development programme, project or change initiative and be quite structured with guidance from the organisation. The mentor may be formally trained and have a specialism – for example, supporting women in leadership, or supporting new first line managers. As the mentee, you could be matched to a suitable mentor – or you might be able to choose someone out of a pool of mentors.  

Informal mentoring is often driven more by the mentee – you’d identify and approach a mentor yourself. They may not be a formally trained mentor, but could be someone who is inspiring to you; someone you consider will be helpful to work with to support your development. Potentially more flexible, the onus is on you and the mentor to plan and structure the sessions.  

Both formal and informal mentoring can be effective and valuable to your learning, development, and professional growth; many people take advantage of doing both to progress their career.  

Why stop at one? 

Given the varying benefits offered by the different types of mentors – informal/formal, internal/external – it’s worth remembering that you do not have to stick to just one mentor. You might choose to have a number of mentoring relationships for different purposes. For example, an internal mentor who can support your progression through the company and an external mentor who can help you develop your skills in strategic thinking, or financial awareness – or whatever it might be that you are developing.  

Get the best out of being mentored 

It’s important to have clear objectives at the outset and to communicate and agree them with your mentor. Drifting into being mentored without setting out the goals of what you need from the relationship can result in a lack of focus. Agreeing your expectation and the ground rules, clarifying what you need by way of advice and support, and working out a plan for the frequency of meetings will set up the mentorship for success – and for you to get the best value out of being mentored.  

As an external career coach and mentor, I can help you navigate your career challenges, giving you a safe and confidential space to explore and shape your future. If you want to find out more, get in touch on07765 894040 or email me at 


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash – Etienne Girardet (link)

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