Why Mentorship is Important for Career Growth

Most of us dedicate the beginning of the year to reflect and plan our careers and what we would like to achieve in the year ahead. You may be thinking about transitioning into a new role, a new career path or simply learning a new skill, yet  merely taking an online course or attending training programs may not be enough. 

Natasha Veldsman and Caryn Pillar

Having that extra support in a mentor can make a huge difference between advancement and remaining stagnant in your career. Which is why we sat down with Caryn Pillar, People & Development Leader for Africa & APAC and Natasha Veldsman, People Officer in South Africa to share their personal and professional advice and experience with having a mentor. 

What is a mentor? 

This definition can differ from person to person, however from my experience a mentor is someone who guides, advises and supports you in your professional journey. They are able to harvest your skill sets in a unique way and help you harness your personal skills to improve and evolve in your career.” says Caryn. One common misconception is that a mentor is a counselor or a psychologist which is not the case. Part of what they do may involve promoting your wellbeing but this relationship is more professional than personal – so do keep that in mind. Natasha defines a mentor as someone who has walked a similar path and is able to provide you with a soundboard to work through your challenges and share their personal experiences that can guide you to reach a solution, achieve a certain milestone or goal in your life. For example, at Incubeta South Africa we are in our 3rd round of our Digital Academy program, and part of that journey includes matching our interns with a suitable mentor. In our 1st round we matched our interns with a mentor from a different team which allowed them to network and gain insights from someone who had a contrasting background and experience. However, we have seen a better response from our 2nd intake who we paired up with a mentor in their respective teams as they both share a similar passion which allows the mentor to be able to give practical and technical guidance to the mentee based on their own experience and expertise.

How do you go about finding a mentor?

The first and most important thing to know is you will only find one if you are looking for a mentor. A mentor will rarely approach a mentee, you have to go out there, do your research and approach them – here’s how:

  1. Events or webinars – if you’ve attended an event or webinar and found the speaker relatable or inspirational, don’t be afraid to engage them in a casual conversation after the event. You can also reach out by connecting with them on LinkedIn to continue your interaction and find out more about their experience and personal interests. 
  2. Network and connect on LinkedIn – LinkedIn is the perfect place to find like minded individuals with similar professional backgrounds. Perhaps it’s someone who is in a position that you aspire to be in one day or someone who positively inspires you. Connect with them on LinkedIn and interact with them and their content. Find out more about their interests and career path. Once you are confident they are the right fit for you, invite them for a casual chat or coffee to discuss a potential mentorship relationship and get to know them personally and professionally.
  3. Current or previous colleagues – having a colleague as a mentor could be a great option as this is someone who you work with or have worked with before therefore you’ve already established a professional relationship with them. They are also easier to access since you probably already have their contact information so the transition and comfortability may come easier.
  4. Mentorship programs – Check if your company has an internal mentorship program. In September last year, we launched our Global Mentorship program to give all employees the opportunity to learn from each other. We talk more about this at the end of this blog.  

What advice would you share with people looking for a mentor?

  1. Set the tone – Come in with a plan of action. What do you want out of the relationship or engagement? It’s important to set that out at the beginning so you don’t lose track or momentum and everyone knows what to expect from your interactions. Think ‘What do I want to learn vs what do they want to teach me.’
  2. Have homework – Don’t be afraid to take notes and have action points from your meetings so you have something to go back and reflect on in your next meeting. Every meeting doesn’t have to be formal, but if there is something important that comes up, definitely take notes and follow through with it.  
  3. Be organised and intentional – If you have a specific topic, challenge or advice that you need – create an agenda and send it ahead of your catch up session so that your mentor can prepare beforehand. 

Why is having a mentor important for your career growth?

    1. Different perspective: They help you see things from another point of view. They are more objective, experienced and have more wisdom because they have been in your shoes or similar situations before. 
    2. More structure in your career & goals: By having someone to support and guide you in your career path, you are able to put your goals into perspective and create more tangible structured goals. 
    3. Accountability partner: It’s crucial to have someone who can hold you accountable for the goals you set and be able to support and guide you each step of the way. When you get stuck or have a challenge, instead of throwing in the towel, you can brainstorm with your mentor and get advice on how to handle the situation so you are always progressing. 
    4. Boosts self confidence and self awareness: When you have an accountability partner and a retrospective view of your career path to date you are able to reflect, re-evaluate and clearly understand your career path, know exactly what you want and be proud of how far you have come. 
    5. Grow your personal and professional network: Mentors are usually very well connected people so in some cases they will be able to connect you with other similar influential or talented peers within their circle who can also help you with a specific challenge or provide advice. 
    6. Improves job satisfaction: When you know what you want, where you are going and what you want to achieve, you won’t get frustrated easily with your career progression or KPI’s. You will begin to enjoy the challenges and be more motivated to reach your goals. Because you have a clearer understanding of your career path, you have the support and guidance you need plus an accountability partner to lean on.

Mentors were promoted six times more often than those not in a mentorship program; mentees were promoted five times more often than those not in the mentorship program”Gartner 2006

How does Incubeta make sure that team members are supported in their career growth?

Global Mentorship program: In September 2022, we launched our Global Mentorship program where all team members across the globe are given an opportunity to become a mentor or mentee. The program is designed to promote knowledge and skill sharing across different regions, provide additional opportunities to learn from different cultures and challenges and enhance collaboration and form bonds across markets. Mentors and mentees need to fill out an application form – thereafter the People & L&D Team will match them with a mentor/mentee that best suits their skills, interests and development areas.

Digital Academy program: The Digital Academy is a  programme where interns with limited or no digital marketing experience are upskilled and mentored on the technical and soft skill competencies within Incubeta. Once our group of interns have gone through their onboarding and induction training, we also pair them with a mentor (who is not their manager) in the same team. This is someone who is senior but has once walked in their shoes before and is therefore able to relate and give practical advice and guidance to help them succeed in their new role and achieve their goals. This gives our interns extra support as they are able to gain tangible and technical experience from their managers and their teams, whilst also gaining access to a mentor who provides them with guidance and helps them figure out the right stepping stones in order for them to grow in their career and get where they need to be. 

To learn more about careers at Incubeta, or if you’re interested in our digital academy programme please get in touch today, or check out our careers page. 

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