Why Do I Need An MBA Mentor?

I’m back from a week’s vacation, not much tanner but definitely rested and ready to work through the summer.  This summer’s topics will still be MBA-related, but probably less directly to CSUF.  I’ll be covering a variety of general MBA topics and advice, and posts about CSUF’s MBA program will be back in full swing this fall.

Everyone needs a mentor.  That may seem self-explanatory at first, but it can be challenging to find the right mentor to help one’s MBA (or career) journey.  When I talk about a mentor, I’m not referring to a parent or an older sibling – those relationships don’t always make the best mentoring relationships.  I’m referring to a mentor who provides guidance, advice, networking opportunities, and acts as a sounding board for ideas as you earn your MBA or advance through your career.

My MBA journey has greatly benefitted from a great mentor relationship.  The office I work at has over 500 employees, and it instituted a formal mentoring program a couple of years ago.  Interested employees submitted applications identifying what they hoped to get out of the program and whether they wished to be a mentor or mentee.  Being new to the office at the time I wanted to be a mentee (and honestly, I felt like I wouldn’t have much to offer as a mentor).  I was eventually paired with my current mentor, and we’ve been meeting every other week for over 2 years now.  Over that time I’ve learned valuable insights regarding the elements of an effective mentor relationship, and I believe they’re important to share with people considering a mentoring relationship.

Set goals.  One year into the mentoring program, my office sent a survey to the participants and asked questions about their experiences.  A common thread throughout the surveys was that a lot of mentor/mentee pairing had stopped meeting.  They felt that they didn’t have any reasons to meet anymore, and mentors in particular were struggling to find ways to help their mentees.  One way to avoid this – develop goals.  And when you complete that goal, develop a new one.  I knew I wanted to enroll in an MBA program soon after getting paired with my mentor.  He had actually earned his own MBA, and was extremely generous helping me to prepare my application and essays.  Once I was accepted at CSUF, we shifted gears and I asked for help with networking and we discussed major changes occurring at the office.  I learned that mentors can offer help in a variety of ways.  Once one goal is achieved, move onto another one.  That is the best way for both participants to sustain and grow the valuable relationship.

Find a mentor outside your career path.  This doesn’t need to be a hard and fast rule, but I’ve found that working with a mentor outside my office department is a tremendous benefit for me.  When I initially applied for the mentor program, I was interested in finance so I was surprised to be paired with a mentor who worked in information systems.  But the pairing of different backgrounds has been a tremendous benefit.  Not only am I exposed to a totally new side of the business I probably never would have explored on my own, but I get a better overall picture of how that department fits into the organization’s overall mission.  Also, I can meet and network with a greater number of people through my mentor.  The pairing (which I was slightly surprised by initially) has been a great success for me and I found it to be a great benefit.  And it all came about because I was paired with a mentor outside my limited career focus.

Be open, honest, and ask lots of questions.  I’ve found that my mentor and I spend our meetings together discussing a variety of organization policies, events going on in our lives, or simply discussing each other’s careers.  My mentor was extremely open with me right off the bat – he shared insights into executive meetings he’d attended and offered management advice based on his personal experiences.  This in turn made me feel more comfortable sharing my questions, concerns and goals with him.  I allowed myself to ask lots of questions, and felt totally comfortable sharing my opinions with him, too.  I personally feel this openness has made our partnership extremely effective, and should serve as the foundation for any successful mentoring relationship.

Realize that as a mentor, you have something to offer.  Remember when I mentioned I wanted to be a mentee, particularly because I felt I wouldn’t be an effective mentor?  At that time, I didn’t feel like I had any skills, experiences or advice to offer to a mentee.  However, I’ve learned through this program that I have plenty to offer, despite not realizing that initially.  Case in point, I speak with my mentor a lot about the personal networking I do – I try and meet people at the office, outside the office, through family and friends, etc.  I like increasing my sphere of influence and getting to know people from a variety of careers and experiences.  My mentor has told me that my stories and experiences have inspired him to pursue his own networking at work events, despite the fact that it’s not his favorite activity.  I never expected I’d have anything to offer him.  But I’ve learned that everyone has something to offer in a mentoring relationship, and like all good relationships these require a give-and-take from each participant.

Here’s an article I read this week that I found interesting:

“The Invisible B-School Curriculum” – This Businessweek article speaks directly to my mentoring post above, and the importance of finding a mentor while earning your MBA.


1 Response to “Why Do I Need An MBA Mentor?”

  1. 1 More Info July 4, 2012 at 6:24 am

    in world of today an MBA mentor is really necessary for students because it helps the student to get ahead in life and deal with real life situations rather than textual problems.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: