How does this quote relate to success and mentoring? What if the quote was changed to "Your success is the average of the success of your five most valuable mentors." Alright, you're probably rolling your eyes at this revised quote. But what if this new quote was true? Do you have five mentors? Do you think your success can be tied to them? Or do you think your success is completely independent of others?
Success can be defined differently for everyone and each individual has their own path to success. Very few paths are the same. Based on personal experience, I believe every aspiring actuary should have at least five mentors with the traits below. If you're scoffing at five, here's my definition of mentorship (thanks wikipedia!):
Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but she or he must have a certain area of expertise. It is a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn.
Mentor #1: The Exam Machine
Build connections with those ahead of you in the exams and reach out to them every so often. Congratulate them when they pass an exam. Ask them what the exam was like and their recommendations. Usually, people are so happy when they pass exams that they would love to share any information they can.
Having this type of mentor throughout your exam progress is important - especially when you feel like you are up against a roadblock. If you've failed an exam multiple times, reach out to your mentor and let them know. Let them know how you are studying and if they have any suggestions. If they do provide advice or thoughts, make sure you thank them once you pass the exam. It's a great feeling on both sides - especially when someone knows their advice helped someone else through a problem!
Mentor #2: The Knowledgeable, Go-To Co-Worker
Ask that person if they want to grab coffee. Show your interest in their work and what they've accomplished. Find out what they enjoy most about the work they do and ask how they got to where they are. Do they have any tools they can provide you to get you up to speed with some work? Do they have any time-saving tips or tricks?
When I first started working, I thought I was pretty good at excel. When I would go over to a co-worker's desk, I was amazed at how fast he was able to navigate through excel workbooks and his use of quick formulas and shortcuts to speed up processes. I would make him slow down and walk me through the steps he would go through so I could use those same shortcuts. I was able to save hours of work just based on this new knowledge.
So many times, people are too afraid or unwilling to reach out and ask others how to do things if they are not directly working with that person on a project. This is why it's important to develop relationships with senior staff early on so these conversations can occur naturally as you take on more projects. In turn, you will become more knowledgeable and more efficient, leading to success!
Mentor #3: The All-Knowing, Wise Project Distributer (aka manager)
If you're unhappy with the majority of the work you are doing and wish you were working on more of the projects others on your team are working on, you need to be able to have that conversation with your manager. If you are afraid or feel that you may not be able to have that discussion, this should be a red flag. Your manager is vital to your success and if you are not happy with most of the work you are doing, it could quickly lead to burnout and detract from your success.
There are a lot of great managers that can quickly assess your strengths after working on a few projects and continue to give you increasingly difficult projects that will be both challenging and rewarding, helping you continue to grow and be successful. These managers can pinpoint your strengths and the work you enjoy doing without even having a discussion about it. You'll find throughout your career, you will experience different types of managers - all of which could be valuable mentors - but some may need more guidance on your strengths and what you enjoy.
In many cases, your manager will not be a mindreader. If you want feedback on your work and areas needing improvement, you will need to ask. If you want to be successful, this shouldn't wait until your annual performance review - this discussion should happen on a regular basis. If you don't like the projects you are currently working on, ask your manager what areas you need to improve on in order to be staffed on the projects that interest you.
These discussions may feel unnatural and uncomfortable at first, but having them can make a huge difference in both your relationship with your manager and your work performance - in some cases, bringing your performance from meets expectations to exceeds expectations!
Mentor #4: Random Linkedin Contact @ Your Dream Company
Linkedin connections are overlooked mentors. The majority of messages I've received on Linkedin have mainly revolved around an open position at my company or asking if there is an open position. A lot of times, I will end up ignoring these messages because I'm busy or I don't feel comfortable referring someone I don't know. However, the messages I do reply to are those asking for advice or asking about my past experiences.
If you find a couple of connections at your dream company whose backgrounds you are genuinely interested in, reach out to them. They might be a level ahead of you with a couple more exams passed. Maybe they also went to your alma mater and were a couple of years ahead. Find some common ground and introduce yourself.
Form a relationship where you are connecting to chat or message every month or every other month. Make sure to have a few questions to create a dialogue each time you reach out. Find out about the types of projects they are working on, the types of skills they need to complete the projects, or any growth areas in their division. Let them know a little about yourself and what you are working on. You can say you would love to work at their company, but don't flat out ask them to refer you or direct your to an HR contact until you've developed a solid relationship.
Over time, as your relationship grows, this informal mentor would be able to submit you as a quality referral to their company without feeling like they know nothing about you. This is way better than cold emailing someone about a job because not only could regular contact with this person lead to a referral, but they could also give you solid advice that could help you advance your career in other ways, too.
Mentor #5: That Guy/Girl From Your College With Who's Always a Step Ahead
Stay connected with some of the top performers from your actuarial program after graduating - they can give you a lot of great work tips and give you an idea of what to expect as you start your career. If you are still in the same city after graduation, keep in contact with them and try to meet up a couple times a year. Share your experiences with each other. Ask them if they have any advice on passing exams. Ask them about the work they do.
In some cases, you may feel more comfortable reaching out to someone who you knew in college when you have any serious issues or self doubts. Those you graduated with most likely know how hard you worked to get where you are and could be the best at providing the most relevant wisdom or guidance at a personal level.
- Be genuine
- Ask meaningful questions
- Act on the information you receive
- Let them know what you did as a result of your discussion
Here are a few great articles to get you started:
10 Killer Questions to Make The Most of Your Mentor Meeting
Will You Mentor Me? 6 Ways to Engage Mentors
An 18-Step Checklist to Engage Mentors and Funders
Have any advice on finding mentors? Add it as a comment below!
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