Setting off on a new career path can be an exciting experience, both professionally and personally. It also presents challenges. Without someone to show you the ropes, these situations can be difficult to manage, causing unnecessary stress during transitional periods in your professional life.
Earlier today, officials at Olivet Nazarene University released a new study that examined the importance of identifying and learning from a professional mentor. Conducted in June 2018, the study surveyed 3,000 full-time employees in the U.S. to see what role mentorship has played in their careers.
"Mentors occupy a very special place in work and life," officials wrote about the study. "The good ones possess high-level knowledge of a mentee's industry and work, they have an invaluable store of personal experience, and their interest is selfless and singular: they want to help their mentee grow and succeed."
Figures from the Illinois-based, Christian university's study suggest today's workers value having a mentor. Approximately 76 percent of respondents said they considered mentors important, while 18 percent were neutral on the topic, and 8 percent said mentorship wasn't important at all.
While those figures suggest mentors would be everywhere in today's workplace, further data suggests that many people lack this type of professional guidance.
The state of mentorship
Having a mentor in your professional life, whether he or she is a colleague or someone in your field, can be a major boon to your career development. According to the study, 56 percent of respondents said they had a professional mentor in the past. While that's a majority of the workers polled, it also means that 44 percent have never had an advisor to learn from in their professional lives.
Even though most people said they've had mentors in the past, the numbers skew to the other side when asked if they have a mentor today. More than 54 percent of respondents said they do not currently have a mentor at work, while 37 percent said they did. The remaining 9 percent answered "maybe" to the question, which officials said means they were unclear if the relationship fell into the mentor-mentee category.
Furthermore, officials said respondents who reported having mentors were "slightly happier at their current job than those without."
Based on the survey's pool of respondents, the average length of current mentorships is about 3.3 years. The mentor and their protege also tend to spend approximately four hours talking to each other each month, though the frequency at which they meet in person is often less than once a month. That latter piece of data excludes instances where both parties interact daily, however.
When they need advice from their mentor, roughly 59 percent of respondents reported finding it either "fairly easy" or "very easy" to initiate a discussion.
Seeking out a mentor
In today's workplace, mentorship can take shape in a variety of ways. For some, the relationship can form organically with your supervisor as you learn what your responsibilities are within the company. For others, the search for a mentor can be a targeted goal – a drive to seek out knowledge from the company's best and brightest.
According to the university's study, 61 percent of respondents said their relationship with a mentor developed naturally, while 25 percent said they were approached by their mentor, and 14 percent said they asked their mentor for advice.
The study also found that of those seeking out mentors, employees on the lower end of their company were the most likely to have mentors. Approximately 57 percent said they were junior-level employees, 35 percent said they were midlevel, and just 8 percent said they were senior-level workers with a mentor.
Officials noted that 82 percent of respondents said their mentors would formally identify themselves as such. Sixty-six percent of respondents said their mentor-mentee relationship has continued across multiple jobs.
Where employees find mentors
While mentors can be found in almost every workplace, researchers found that certain industries had a higher concentration of respondents with mentors.
According to the study, employees in the science industry were most likely to have a mentor (66 percent). Other highly concentrated industries included government (59 percent), education (57 percent), and marketing, advertising, and PR (56 percent).
For most workers, it's easiest to find a mentor at their jobs. Among respondents, 81 percent said their mentor worked in the same industry. Sixty-one percent said they worked in the same company, and 67 percent said their mentor was their manager.
Gender also plays a part in finding a mentor, as 69 percent of women say their mentors are also women, while 82 percent of men say their mentor is also a man.