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Why having a mentor is critical for career success?

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The field of mentoring has grown leaps and bounds. Before 1970s, the term ‘mentoring’ was hardly used. Nowadays, a trivial Google search of the word will return more than 50 million matches and the literature of mentorship has also grown exponentially. Mentoring is emerging as a formal field of study and research in quite a few research and academic organizations. But why this spur? Has the corporate world found a new success mantra? Are the corporates getting significant benefits out of mentorship? Has it become a critical factor for career success? The answer of all these questions is undoubtedly ‘Yes’.In this space, we will majorly discuss about the criticality and significance of a mentor in career success. Let me start with an example of a mentor, Lord Krishna from the Indian epic ‘The Mahabharata’. Krishna was the quintessential mentor for Arjuna. Mahabharata can’t be imagined without Krishna charioting Arjuna throughout the battle of Kurukshetra and beyond. Let me quote a contemporary example from the world of cricket. Cricket pundits consider the erstwhile skipper of Indian Cricket team, M.S Dhoni, as the greatest mentor ever as he has glorified the cricketing careers of young talents like Ravindra Jadeja , Ravichandran Ashwin , Rohit Sharma and countless others.

What is Mentoring:

Mentoring is a process that can be defined within a contextual setting. This is characterized by the relationship between a more knowledgeable and experienced individual and a less experienced individual. A mentor provides counseling, guidance, instructions, modelling, sponsorship and professional networking. Mentoring is a mechanism that allows personal, psychological and professional development.

Many scholars cite Kram’s seminal work on mentoring relationships within the corporate sector. Kram delineated the four phases that mentors utilize during the mentoring process: initiation and cultivation phase, separation phase, and the redefinition phase (Singh, Ragins, & Tharenou, 2009). During this process, the mentee learns lessons that he/she can apply on their job and many others. According to Kram, psychosocial functions present in a mentoring experience can lead to a flow of emotion which leads to self-transformation and development for both the mentor and the mentee.

Role of a Mentor in Different Career Phases:

In the initial stage of one’s career, a young adult is likely to be engaged in forming an occupational identity, forming a dream. It’s the time when questions about one’s competence, one’s effectiveness and one’s ability to achieve futuristic dreams are more salient. The primary objectives of this phase of career can be described in terms of two polarities “Role Identity Vs Role confusion” and “Intimacy vs Isolation”. So a young adult is likely to seek relationships to work at the opportunities for resolving the dilemmas posed in early adult and career years.

In contrast, the more experienced adult at midlife and/or midcareer is likely to be in a period of reassessment and reappraisal. During this time, past accomplishments are reviewed, and one is confronted with the challenge of readjusting future aspirations and coming to terms with past accomplishments. Studies infer that this phase can be extremely difficult as one realizes life is half over and one’s career has been fairly determined. At this phase of personal and professional life, one needs a mentor who is blazing with creativity and adrenaline to challenge the plateaued career.

Statistical Inference:

Do high‐level mentees report having more favorable work experiences than low‐level mentees? To answer this question, mentored and non‐mentored men and women in high‐ and low‐level positions were asked to evaluate, on a survey questionnaire, their level of satisfaction, career mobility/opportunity, recognition, security and promotion rate. The extent to which these career/job experiences varied as a function of their mentored status, sex and organizational level was examined. The results of the study revealed that mentored individuals reported having more satisfaction, career mobility/opportunity, recognition and a higher promotion rate than non‐mentored individuals. However, mentees’ perceptions of their job/career situations were not affected by their sex or level, as the significant levels of the parameters like sex, geographical affiliation, tenure were below 0.5 and thus not significant enough. This statistically proved the significance of a mentor for career success.

Rakesh Dhal – Talent Development COE

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