A mentor can have an incredibly positive influence on your career by providing feedback and encouragement and helping you identify and achieve career goals. But how do you find a mentor, particularly if you’re in treasury?

Our CEO & Founder, Mike Richards, answers questions that treasury professionals submitted on this topic during a recent AFP webinar he held on ‘Achieving Career Success Through Effective Networking and a Strong Personal Brand’.

This article is part of a four-part series, scroll to the bottom to find links to the other three articles!

How would you recommend finding a mentor when you don’t know anyone else in treasury?

Mike: My advice would be to seek external opportunities. Joining a professional association, such as AFP, could introduce you to treasury professionals who might be interested in helping you in your career. You could participate in the conversation on online platforms, such as AFP Collaborate if you’re an AFP member.

Go to events such as the AFP conferencewebinars and seminars that will enable you to broaden your network, and in turn, might enable you to introduce yourself to a potential mentor.

One thing I want to say though: I have noticed a lot of people seem to think that they have the right to a mentor: “Oh, I need to develop myself, so I want a mentor.”

In reality, you are asking someone to kindly give up their time and effort to help you. They are helping you, so what are you going to do to help them in return?

I think a lot of people need to work out what a mentor-mentee relationship looks like before they pursue one. How is the relationship going to be structured? How much commitment are you willing to give? And how much are you asking for in return?

What is the best way to find a mentor if no one in your company is interested in mentoring or assisting you in your career growth?

Mike: Don’t just think about having a mentor inside your current company. By all means, look externally. In fact, you might actually want an external person to look at you, your background and maybe your career.

You might also want to look for connections at events. You could meet someone that makes you think, “This person is a kindred spirit, someone who can become a friend.” And that person could turn into a mentor or someone who gives you advice.

I, myself, have reached out in this way, and now I have two mentors. I have a mentor who helps me structure my business, as well as with hiring and firing. And I have a second mentor who helps me with my recruitment approach and expanding the business globally.

You might also try reaching out (via LinkedIn, for instance) to other treasury professionals in similar roles, even if they aren’t in your immediate network.

You could also ask if your company has a mentoring program, and if it doesn’t, ask why not. Maybe you could be the one to help start one at the company. So put your hand up!

How did you decide who to pick as a mentor? Whose advice do you listen to?

Mike: First, I would suggest you look at their career path. Look at the details on their LinkedIn, or see if they have a resume they can share with you. If you like the direction they went, you’re likely to want to follow in their footsteps.

Similarly, when deciding whose advice to listen to, consider their experience and their achievements in treasury. Do you want to be the same?

If the person is outside of your profession, maybe look for someone with demonstrated success in their career path and expertise in areas that might be aligned with yours, even if those areas aren’t exactly the same. The important thing is that this person has demonstrated a career trajectory that you want to follow.

Also, think about this person’s values and leadership style. Do they resonate with you? If they do, that’s a good sign. If they don’t, you can politely say, “I’m going to keep thinking about this,” then gently move in a different direction.

I have a large gap in my career. I have been back in the workforce for a while, and I’m interested in a mentor. Would it be awkward to seek a mentor who is younger than me?

Mike: Is it awkward? I don’t think so. Age shouldn’t be the factor. What should be is knowledge, experience, and more importantly, the willingness to support your career. Look at what industries they’ve worked in, where they’re going, and what guidance and insights they can give you, relevant to their career stage.

I get a lot from my colleagues who are younger than me. And I get a lot from my clients and my candidates who are nearly always younger than me. I feel happy to get that. I feel privileged to receive their guidance.

To give a more specific example, I know someone who said that he had a semi-mentor that was junior to him in one of his previous roles. This person was very social media savvy, and they helped him with his LinkedIn profile. They also helped him see a new approach to treasury, particularly on the technology side of things which he didn’t necessarily know as well.

They helped him look at how they were approaching a lot of the things they were doing in treasury and modernizing that from looking at it from someone who was much younger and much savvier at some of the technology side of things that he didn’t necessarily know. In return, he was able to offer this person some mentorship as well. So, it can be a symbiotic relationship, an equal exchange, if you’d like.

Get more career advice from this series, How to Achieve Career Success Through Networking and Personal Branding:

Get more advice from Mike Richards on LinkedIn.