How networking and mentoring enhance career opportunities

ABSTRACT

            Mentoring pertains to a process of guiding and counseling a younger individual by a more experienced and senior person with regards to professional development and career choices.  This process has been applied to almost all professions and has played an important role in the professional achievement of an individual.  In the academic world, a beneficial relationship between a mentor and a student results in a successful promotion of the student in his career path.  This research paper aims to present and analyze how mentoring and networking enhance a professional’s career opportunities.  Possible mechanisms related to mentoring will also be discussed.

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INTRODUCTION
Career opportunities are strongly linked with the ability of an individual to provide proof that he has accumulated substantial work experience and sufficient credentials to fill in a particular position of interest.  There are individuals who find the right path to their careers is a simple and straightforward way and most of the time, these individuals are steered by their mentors.  The functional process of guiding and counseling a younger associate by a senior professional is known as mentoring (Hoover, 2005).  It has been observed that mentoring results in better career options for an individual and this is mostly due to the positive and uplifting interactions that have been established between the senior and junior professionals.  Mentoring may be performed within one system, but it may also be effective from a distance, wherein the mentor is situated in another company or university, yet discussions between both parties are frequent and constructive.

            Mentoring may be considered as similar to parenting, yet there may be some unique features that totally differentiate it from family relationships.  Both parenting and mentoring are aimed to enhance an individual’s strengths in order to achieve his maximum developmental potential.  However, parenting generally requires pushing a child to excel, even to the point of creating pressure and even friction between the parent and the child.  In the case of mentoring, the same goal of achieving excellence is reached, but the friendship between the mentor and the student is still maintained during this journey to success.

            The term mentoring is historically derived from The Iliad, which depicts the life of the Odysseus, who left his family to go out to fight at the Trojan War.  Odysseus left behind his son, Telemachus, and asked his friend Mentor, to teach and guide his son to adulthood.  The character, Mentor, thus brought out Telemachus’ talents, taught him lessons on vast topics and gave him skills that would be very useful for his future.  Mentor also helped the body in identifying his goals in life.  It should thus be understood that the process of mentoring has been employed for thousands of years.  Unfortunately, there is still a need to precisely identify and define specific factors and components that are associated with mentoring.  Although the general characteristics of mentoring may be the same for all fields of work, the specific details may differ, depending on the specific profession that is being described.

GENERAL FEATURES AND IMPORTANCE OF MENTORING

            There are a number of general characteristics that are observed in the mentoring process.  Such a relationship usually generates a nurturing environment for the protégé, and at the same time the mentor is very open to being approached for any advice or suggestions.  Mentorship is also known to be more prevalent in higher fields of profession, as compared to be general fields.  It has also been estimated that approximately 20% of trainees recognize the positive influence of mentorship in their chosen professional careers.  The significance of mentorship is strongly associated with the satisfaction a trainee feels regarding his career or profession.  A comparative analysis of medical fellowship trainees indicated that the presence of a mentoring relationship with a senior physician resulted in a higher satisfaction rate of at least 60% with regards to their stay with the fellowship program.

            From the perception of a trainee, a mentor serves as a prime factor that is responsible for enhancing his career.  Research has shown that trainees who were associated with a mentor had a greater chance in receiving a promotion (Harris et al., 2007).  This correlation may be an indirect effect because mentorship commonly involves guiding the trainee on what could be the best path for his professional development.  Most mentoring programs are voluntary and thus the mentor is generally observed to be willing to help out with the trainee and is not simply obliged to teach the younger professional.  It has been reported that mentoring results in a significant improvement in the part of the trainee, while the mentor receives a sense of satisfaction as he see his protégé achieving his professional and personal goals.

            Mentorship also results in a significant increase in the self-esteem of the trainee because the mentor is able to point out both the strengths and weaknesses of the trainee.  An experienced mentor has acquired the skills in molding the protégé into combining both positive and negative aspects of the trainee and generating a well-assessed attitude towards himself.  The trainee also learns to be confident with his own self and this acquired knowledge will facilitate his search for the next job or professional level.

THE EFFECT OF MENTORSHIP ON CAREER CHOICES

            Guiding a trainee during the early years of his career allows an additional benefit to a company or academic institution.  Mentorship provides a way for the trainee to realize his actual work environment.  In addition, mentorship also teaches the trainee to appreciate what he is doing.  In the case of an academic institution, a trainee who is guided by a mentor is more likely to stay longer with the academic institution than a trainee who is working without any supervision (Sambunjak et al., 2006).  The problem of losing faculty members in a significant number of universities across the United States is mainly due to the draining effect of teaching in the young faculty members.  The experience of brain “deterioration” has been expressed by junior faculty members to be due to the lack or even absence of mentorship in their academic institutions.  These faculty members have indicated in interview questionnaires that if only there were opportunities for them to interact with a mentor, their decision of leaving the academe may have been

Mentorship thus plays an influential force on the professional choices that a trainee makes.  A trainee is also able to decide of the right specialization in his professional field when a mentor guides the trainee during his decision process (Lowenstein et al., 2007).  A good mentor should not convince a trainee to pursue a particular field based on the mentor’s directions and motives—the mentor should only show the trainee the options that are available to him and what factors one has to consider during his decision-making process.

            Mentorship has been greatly appreciated in the academic field, especially in the teaching hospital settings.  This training relationship must have been very helpful in this field because of the tremendous amount of knowledge and experience that are associated with rearing highly efficient medical practitioners.  Mentorship may also be very helpful in the business field and it entails a keen mind to deal with business transactions and revenue, but the medical field is more demanding because it entails saving lives and augmenting the health conditions of the patients.  Healthcare professionals also have to deal with the personal conditions of the patients, hence mentorship does facilitate in the challenging years of medical training.

            Mentorship has been observed to increase the confidence of a trainee because they are taught to allocate both time and effort to specific activities that would enhance their talents and capabilities.  It is thus common that a trainee who is supervised by a mentor to be more productive at work than a trainee who is moving by his own accord and decisions.  In the academic field, trainees guided by mentors generate more publications.  These individuals are more likely to complete their theses or dissertations than students who are not associated with any mentors.  The absence of a mentor often results in a barrier between specific projects that have been assigned to a trainee and this often results in the non-completion of a task or a project.  The most common reason behind the inability to complete a task is the waste of time performing an activity which the trainee thinks is the proper thing to perform, but in a mentor’s eyes, this same task does not result in any positive and productive result.

CONCLUSION

            There is a direct relationship between mentorship and career opportunities as reflected by the productivity, self-esteem, confidence and knowledge that are gained by a trainee.  The teachings of a mentor on the proper management of time and effort are two of the most influential factors that lead a trainee to excel further in his profession.  The relationship between a mentor and a trainee is thus very important in a professional career, especially in making decisions regarding the career path that the trainee would like to pursue.  It is thus important the mentoring programs be established in possibly all fields of specialization, in order to guide trainees in their careers and in doing so, these trainees will later help the next generation of professionals in their careers.

References

Harris, D.L., Krause, K.C., Parish, D.C - How networking and mentoring enhance career opportunities introduction. and Smith, M.U. (2007).  Academic competencies for medical faculty.  Family Medicine, 39,343-50.

Hoover, E.L.  (2005).  Mentoring surgeons in private and academic practice.  Archives in Surgery, 140,598-608.

Lowenstein, S.R.,, Fernandez, G. and Crane, L.A. (2007).  Medical school faculty discontent: prevalence and predictors of intent to leave academic careers.  BMC Medical Education, 7,37-43.

Sambunjak, D., Straus, S.E. and Marušic, A.  (2006).  Mentoring in academic medicine: A systematic review.  Journal of the American Medical Association, 296,1103-1115.

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