Mentoring can be a valuable way to build your career journey and climb the ladder at your organisation, but not everybody knows how to go about it. In the latest edition of the Women in Risk and Control (WiRC) webinar series, “The Vital Role of Mentoring in Risk Management”, host and WiRC founder Rupal Patel was joined by Mary Ericson, Global Markets E-trading Business Controls Manager at JP Morgan, and Kanwardeep Ahluwalia, Co-CRO for Global FICC & Deputy CRO for EMEA at Bank of America, to discuss what you should be looking for from a mentor and how you can ensure those relationships are a success.
Here are five key takeaways from the webinar:
- Mentor or sponsor?
The first decision you have to make is whether you need a mentor, a sponsor, or a coach. While these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there are important distinctions among each, says Ericson. A coach can help with a specific task, such as developing a particular skillset (public speaking, say). A mentor, however, is someone who you would go to with the questions that keep you up at night, says Ericson. Not necessarily to give you the answer, but to give you another perspective that could help frame your decision-making. A sponsor, on the other hand, is someone who is typically higher up in your organisation who can support you when you’re not in the room, for instance if there is a promotion opportunity up for grabs.
- How to find the right person
This can depend on the organisation—some will have mentoring or sponsorship programmes, though typically there can be a lot of demand for the latter, so there may be some kind of qualification criteria, says Ahluwalia. However, some organisations are more informal, which means you need to go out and approach people. “In my experience the vast majority of people will want to help if they can,” he says. Ericson says that some organisations have quite formulaic mentoring programmes that can result in people being blind matched with someone they don’t necessarily click with. She has however had great success with a speed networking approach that she implemented, where mentors and mentees can meet and find shared interests or backgrounds before moving forward.
- Avoid group think
One caveat when choosing a mentor that matches too closely with your background is the danger of group think, where the discussions and ideas risk becoming homogeneous, says Ahluwalia. By looking for a mentor outside your immediate professional orbit, they are more likely to challenge your thinking and deliver messages that, while perhaps uncomfortable, could be more valuable for your personal and career development. Ericson says a key mentor for her was her sister-in-law, who worked in the same organisation but was more senior and had more experience. “You’re not necessarily going to find a mentor where you think you are, keep your senses open to where those relationships could develop outside of the normal,” she says.
- Give something back
You need to be conscious of the fact your sponsor or mentor is giving you their time. The relationship between the person being sponsored and the sponsor should be a two-way street, says Ahluwalia. That might seem odd given the likely disparity in seniority and influence, but the best sponsorship relationships are typically the ones where the person being sponsored can provide information and support in return, he says. Even mentees can give something in return to their mentor, such as a perspective on the organisation that they might not otherwise experience. “That’s what I enjoy from a mentee—I want to know a little bit about the nuts and bolts and the details which are helping to frame their viewpoint on the world,” Ahluwallia says.
- End on good terms
Sometimes the relationship will run its course, or simply might not be working out. In this situation, don’t just let the relationship fizzle. Be honest with your mentor, says Ericson. “Perhaps not brutal honesty, but honesty is the best policy,” she says. For example, thank them for their time, and say you need to step back and think about what you want to do next. It is also important to make an effort to get the most out of the relationship, says Ahluwalia. “Sometimes the difficulty I’ve seen is that people expect too radical an outcome too quickly. Manage your expectations to see the benefits,” he says.
The demand for mentoring opportunities among women working in risk management is clear. According to a snap poll taken during the webinar more than half of respondents (61%) said they were interested in being mentored, with an additional third expressing an interest in being mentored as well as mentoring others.
Whether you need a mentor or a sponsor, receiving one-to-one support and advice from experienced colleagues can help boost your confidence, expand your network within your organisation and enhance your career prospects.