Five Questions to Better Accounting Mentoring

Matt Shelly
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Some accounting firms offer a business mentor program for new associates who need guidance from experienced accountants. If you want to participate in one of these programs, you must have the mentoring skills necessary to give new accountants the information and confidence they need to succeed. If you lack these mentoring skills, or you haven't had the opportunity to do any mentoring in some time, ask these five questions before volunteering to be a mentor for your firm.


One of the first things you should find out is the purpose of the mentoring program. Different firms have different goals, and you cannot use your mentoring skills effectively if you do not know what those goals are. Some firms use a business mentor program as a way to identify future leaders. Others use the program as a professional development tool for employees. Both types of programs are valuable, but the mentoring skills needed for each one differ. Finding out the purpose of your firm's program will help you determine if you can mentor participants effectively. Nancy Anderson says that some companies even use mentoring programs as a way to attract qualified employees.


Once you know the purpose of the program, ask about accountability for the success of your protégé. You will probably be expected to give advice and share valuable information, but your firm might also require you to meet specific metrics. If this is the case, you may want to brush up on your mentoring skills before agreeing to participate in the program. The third question should focus on how much time you are expected to spend mentoring your protégé. It is important to ask this before agreeing to participate in the program, as it is not fair to take on a protégé if you don't have enough time to provide valuable insight.


If you have the time to devote to the mentoring program, find out what your protégé expects to gain. Some protégés participate in such a program to develop their own mentoring skills. Others want specific advice about advancing their accounting careers. If you feel that your mentoring skills are a good match for what your protégé expects from the program, your fifth question should focus on what you can expect to get out of the program. Some firms don't offer any extra compensation or perks for those who volunteer their mentoring skills, but other firms reward mentors with bonus pay or special events. In an article in "The Christian Science Monitor," Dr. Jeffrey R. Cornwell says some entrepreneurs just enjoy the intrinsic benefit of helping someone else succeed.


If you are given the opportunity to use your mentoring skills to help new accountants, you must ask these five questions before you agree to participate in the program. Before enrolling, make sure you know what your protégé expects to gain, what your firm expects to gain, and what you will get out of the program. Asking these questions will help you determine if your firm's program is a good use of your mentoring skills.


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