Nineteenth-century American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once declared: “What I need is someone who will make me do what I can.”
As it turns out, it’s not only poets who need a helpful push to reach their potential.
How a mentor can help you
"The first step to finding a good mentor is, of course, coming to terms with the fact that you actually can benefit from having one," says billionaire Richard Branson.
Undertaking the right tax course is a necessary prerequisite to a successful career in the tax profession, and a mentor can then help that career evolve from good to great.
A wise, experienced mentor can:
- save you from making novice mistakes
- provide a network of contacts that you can tap into
- reassure you and motivate you when you experience setbacks
- offer advice on how to improve both your technical proficiency and people skills
- act as a sounding board when you need to make big decisions, such as whether to invest in more tax training
- diplomatically point out your weaknesses and show how to improve them
- identify your strengths and suggest how you can best leverage them
- provide the kind of perspective that comes only from age and experience.
Finding a mentor
The good news is that finding a mentor has never been easier. Many companies (including the 'Big Four' firms) have mentoring programs, and you can find a mentoring match through the Small Business Mentoring Service or HerBusiness (formerly the Australian Businesswomen’s Network).
The Tax Institute has also launched a Young Practitioners Mentoring Program. While registrations for this program have closed for 2018, members can now submit their application to participate in 2019.
If you want to identify and approach someone without going through a ‘middle person’, you can always attend the networking events featured on The Tax Institute's calendar and see if you run into someone who inspires you.
It can even be as simple as picking up the phone, reaching out via LinkedIn, or sending an email to someone you admire to ask them to mentor you – they're likely to be flattered you asked.
How to be good a mentee
Unless they are retired, your mentor will probably be someone in a senior position with many demands on their time. Respect the time they selflessly give you by punctually turning up to appointments and being well-prepared with a list of issues you’d like to discuss.
Mentor–mentee relationships can take many different forms, but keep in mind that it’s meant to be a business-focused relationship. Your mentor may not wish to hear about, or provide advice on, your personal life.
Finally, always show your mentor gratitude and respect, especially when it comes time to bring the relationship to a close.