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What to expect when beginning a mentee-mentor relationship

Written on May 16, 2024

By Jessica Salerno-Shumaker, OSCPA senior content manager  

For those looking to take their career to the next level, finding a mentor can give the direction and support needed along with a comprehensive perspective of accounting.  

“Having a mentor can be more than just for you personally to grow and develop,” said Lindsay Stevenson, CPA, chief transformation officer at BPM. “It's also to really understand where we've been as a profession and where we're headed. It can prepare you to think in a different way.”  

Stevenson said mentorship had a significant impact on her career, especially when it came to hitting roadblocks.    

“It made the journey easier,” she said. “When the bumps came along, I could talk to someone about those instead of spinning my wheels.”  

There are benefits to having both informal and formal mentors, Stevenson said. When it’s an informal relationship, the responsibility is on the mentee to reach out and make the connection. The mentee might only reach out when they have a question, or they could set up regular check-ins with the mentor. There is no set deadline for the relationship ending; it evolves to whatever both parties are comfortable with.  

“For formal relationships there is often a platform, checkpoints and a system or framework to work within,” she said.  

This platform might be set up through an association or an employer. A formal mentorship can be helpful when the mentee is working toward actionable goals or has something they want to accomplish soon. This is more of a goal-oriented relationship, Stevenson said, versus informal which is more organic and fluid.   

When beginning the relationship, especially if it’s more informal, Stevenson said it’s helpful to discuss what’s expected so both parties are prepared.  

“If you're a mentor that feels like, ‘If I'm going to spend my time helping this person then I want it to be valuable,’ then that's something you should talk about with your mentee at the very beginning,” she said.  

This way, neither party feels taken advantage of or like their time is being wasted whenever they meet.  

Expectations can also help when thinking of what the relationship looks like long-term. Maybe a mentee needs specific advice at a certain point in their career and after getting through that stage, their relationship with their mentor will become more of a peer than a mentor.  

Other times, Stevenson said, there might be a mentor that offers guidance to a mentee for years.  

“A mentee could soon be sharing things that they're overcoming, or that they're accomplishing. And the mentor might share that with someone in their organization,” Stevenson said. “And it becomes more of a give and take relationship about mutual respect and camaraderie.”   

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