Mentoring is a Win for both Mentor and Mentee

Jessica Choi

By Jessica Choi | June 5, 2018

I thought I was joining the Women in Financial Services (WIFS) mentorship program to give back, but I’ve learned so much through the experience than I thought possible. WIFS has two mentoring programs per year — Power Start for the first part of the year, and then Finish Strong for second half. I’ve now been part of both, and here’s what I’ve learned.

It’s about forming your tribe. Organizations such as WIFS, programs such as its mentorship program, are more than just a chance to network. Seth Godin popularized the concept of “tribes,” groups of people banded together for mutual support around a common idea. An example might be “Apple users,” people who have fallen in love with Apple products and are willing to stand in line overnight to get the next version. While products like the iPhone are certainly part of what makes being an Apple user special, there is also a sense of being part of a larger community, coming together in support of some mission of purpose. The Apple iPhone has changed our world, and people want to be part of that.

For the women who join WIFS, it’s not just about their own advancement, but it’s also about forming a community and helping each other in a way that will transform the industry. Women represent only 16 percent of the licensed financial advisers in the U.S., something those of us in WIFS see as our mission to change.

Structure builds success. WIFS offers a formal mentoring program, with checkpoints for both the mentees and the mentors. The mentors got together as a group around six times over the course of the program, and the mentees did as well. I found these sessions invaluable as these sessions gave us a chance to learn from each other, to share best practices on what was working, or not, in our journey through the mentoring program. Not only did I work closely with my mentee, but I also got a chance to build relationships with many of my fellow mentors.

In the book, Four Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey, one of the key discipline is creating a cadence of accountability. My mentee and I established a cadence to meet on a bi-weekly basis. During this time we share what we accomplished over the two week period, celebrate our successes, discuss challenges that may have held us back and set our intentions for the following two weeks. It’s one thing to meet someone socially, but working together in a structured program helped us define success and build a strong and long-lasting relationship.

There is a difference between a mentor and a coach. The idea of having a “coach” has become very popular in the business world, but mentorship is not about coaching. Coaches work with people on a very specific skill or objective, while mentors take a much broader and more personal perspective. Mentorship is about sharing personal experiences and providing advice to help someone develop more fully as a professional. Mentorship offers a chance for both mentor and mentee to learn and grow.

One of the things that I’ve shared with my mentee is my personal values. I live life focused on passion, excellence, and legacy. These are values that have become true to my heart. Around 15 years ago, as a younger professional, I committed to doing everything I do with passion. That one change has made a tremendous difference in my life.

My current mentee is undertaking a career transition, shifting from healthcare to become a financial planner. I shared my own career transition with her, having spent the majority of my career in the hospitality industry, and how I incorporated my values into defining success at Penn Mutual.

For example, once I decided to become involved with WIFS, my passion drove me to quickly to get involved, serving on committees and getting to know WIFS members. My focus on excellence led me to rolling up my sleeves, learning as much as I could about the financial services sector and how other organizations make best use of their own involvement with WIFS. Finally, being mindful of leaving a legacy, I looked for ways that would have a tangible, long-term impact.

Mentoring can be a powerful experience, especially for those of us in the financial industry. Penn Mutual is a Leadership Circle sponsor of WIFS, and I encourage women to participate in WIFS, both as mentor and mentee. But WIFS is not the only opportunity for mentorship, nor is mentorship something that need be limited to women. Mentorship is a win for both mentor and mentee, and for both women and men.

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