A survey shows that having a professional mentor can help your career soar.

By Maggie Seaver
Updated January 08, 2020

There’s a common piece of career advice that rings true for many—that it’s not so much about the job as it is about the people surrounding you. This refers to bosses and coworkers, yes, but also to mentors: those key players in a working person’s life that help them carve a path to their version of success through guidance and wisdom.

Professionals, both novice and veteran, lucky enough to have or have had a career mentor along the way are often more likely to find career success than those who don’t—at least according to findings from a survey by ZenBusiness of over 1,000 professionals.

When asked whether professional advancement is difficult without some form of guidance—mentorship included—an unsurprising majority (69 percent) of respondents said yes. Many people hire helpful external career coaches, who typically focus on concrete professional skills like job-hunting strategies, resume building, and interview practice.

But having a mentor is a bit different from hiring a career coach. This is a long-term relationship with a career role model, often a more senior-level colleague (though not always), whose career approach and success you admire. They’re a sounding board for career questions, a well of wisdom, support, and experience for those inevitable work-life uncertainties.

A mentor can point you in the right direction professionally, call attention to otherwise unforeseen opportunities, put in a good word for you, help you navigate an idiosyncratic work dynamic, and ultimately assist in the advancement of your career. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents reported having had a mentor at some point in their professional career. Of that group, a whopping 87 percent said the guidance and assistance their mentor provided played a role in advancing their career. According to respondents, mentors were most valuable when it came to:

  • Acquiring new skills - 64 percent
  • Navigating the workplace - 51 percent
  • Developing a career plan - 34 percent
  • Getting a promotion - 32 percent
  • Getting a new job - 30 percent
  • Getting a raise - 26 percent

While mentees do rely on mentors for concrete career advancement such as landing a new role, getting promoted internally, or snagging a much-deserved raise, they also lean on them for general development like acquiring new skills (think: leadership skills, media training, networking advice, public speaking pointers) and navigating the workplace (think: whom to speak to and when; how to handle a tricky work situations; and how to give feedback to a superior).

The bottom line? When carving out your career path, it never hurts—and, in fact, almost always helps—to have a mentor in your corner. Is there someone at work you look up to? Do you envy a former coworker’s new position and career trajectory? Is a friend of a friend’s parent living the work-life of your dreams? It might be time for you to take action and turn your role model into a mentor.