Why would anyone want a mentor?

Mentors - helpers on the way up

Those who want to advance professionally can hardly avoid a mentor these days: As an experienced sparring partner, he supports newcomers and promoters on their career path.

In the Odyssey saga of the Greek writer Homer, mentor was a friend of Odysseus and at the same time educator, teacher and advisor to Telemach, Odysseus' son. While the father went to war against Troy and had to endure many dangerous adventures on his wanderings across the seas, Mentor took care of his son Telemach ... Even if the Trojan War is long over, the importance of the mentor has persisted to this day : Experienced employees stand by the younger ones as advisors and "protectors".

"A mentor should give his protégé, the so-called mentee, orientation and act as a sparring partner for him," explains top management coach Dorothee Echter. "He opens up networks for him and gives him information that can be useful for the mentee's career." Mentors can therefore be an important aid on the way up. This is what Nicolai Andersen, a consultant at the consulting and auditing company Deloitte, experiences. Since the beginning of his career, the 33-year-old has had a mentor - at Deloitte they are called Counselor - at his side: "I meet my counselor about every four to six weeks and we discuss professional as well as private issues that affect mine daily work and my professional development, "says Nicolai Andersen, explaining the procedure. Together they determine which projects the consultant would like to take on and how he should develop further. "In the committees that decide about my salary payments and promotions, my counselor is something like my lawyer who stands up for me," says Nicolai Andersen. The mentor is one level above him in the hierarchy and has a corresponding influence on the decisions - and a wealth of experience from which the consultant can benefit.

The mentor and mentee do not always work as closely together as in the case of Nicolai Andersen. Anyone who does not work in the consulting industry, where mentoring is almost a matter of course, sometimes has to look for a sparring partner on their own. Dorothee Echter explains the best way to proceed: "First you should think about who your role model is, who lives your values. That could be an employee from another department, but just as well a family member or a celebrity. It is important that he (or she) is more successful and experienced than you - only then can you benefit from the cooperation. " The coach expert advises against choosing a mentor based on power aspects: "The person who fills my dream job does not necessarily have to be the right mentor for me." The sympathy factor is much more decisive.

Dorothee Echter also thinks it is important that the mentee calls on his advisor from the start: "Mentors want to deal with challenging topics," the Munich native knows from her own experience. On the other hand, mentees shouldn't overstrain their mentors' attention - especially since they are usually successful people themselves who have to manage their time. Those who carefully prepare the meetings and regularly inform their mentor about current developments show their determination at the same time.

Last but not least, Dorothee Echter advises not to maintain the relationship with his mentor any longer than necessary: ​​"If, for example, you have become just as successful as your mentor or if you are going abroad for a longer period, you should end the relationship." That doesn't mean that you can't look for a new mentor on your further career path. Or even switch sides and become an advisor myself: "Being a mentor also helps me advance," says the management trainer. "Because it allows me to multiply my values ​​and pass on good things to young people."
By Sabine Olschner