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Why a good mentor is important to your career

Telstra Careers Advice

Posted on July 25, 2017

3 min read

Julie Trell is our Head of muru-D, which is the start-up accelerator backed by Telstra, and her role is to help talented entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level.

She is passionate about the technology industry and helping the next generation of female leaders fulfill their potential.

So we asked Julie what advice she has for someone who is looking for a mentor, and how to make the most out of the relationship.

Here is what she told us:

Why are you so passionate about mentoring?

One of the reasons I went into teaching was because I loved being the catalyst for helping someone learn something. Seeing when the lightbulb went on and they experienced that ‘aha’ moment is incredibly rewarding. With mentoring, for me the only difference is that there are no tests and no grading of homework.

I also recognise how powerful mentoring can be when your role or job might be isolated and you need an objective person to provide insight to something you may be missing. Through mentoring, both the mentor and mentee can gain valuable insights and perspectives. It’s a mutually beneficial experience.

Do you think it’s important for someone to get a mentor early on in their career?

Absolutely! Asking for help and taking advice is a muscle we all need to strengthen. It’s hard at first – regardless of gender – but with practice and starting young, it becomes a more natural exercise.

Are there any particular qualities people should look for in a potential mentor before approaching them?

Yes, first find someone in your immediate or extended network as you are more likely able to find more commonalities to kick off the relationship. Find people who are willing to share their skills, knowledge, and experience.

A good storyteller doesn’t hurt either. A good mentor is someone willing to take the time and truly listen – and not tell you what to do or what you want to hear. A good mentor is someone who has empathy and understands what it’s like to start out in a career or take on a new responsibility.

What do you think is the best way to approach a potential mentor?

Do your homework. Send a personalised concise email (or ask for an intro from a mutual friend as that has some built in credibility).

Customise your request. If it’s someone you don’t know too well, find similarities or commonalities. “I see you went to X university, I was also a student there from XXXX-XXXX”. Or “I just read your article on Y and it resonated with me and here’s how”. Be very specific in your ask: “Would you be interested in helping me <make this career leap> <Allow me to share what I’ve been working on to grow my team and get some feedback>”

How can you make the most out of a mentoring relationship?

Listen. Be respectful with your and their time. Check in to make sure it’s a mutually beneficial relationship – a two-way street.

Hear from Julie Trell at this week’s Vogue Codes Summit in Sydney. She’ll be part of a panel discussion speaking on the importance of mentoring and role models in the workplace.
Find out more.

Learn more about where a career at Telstra could take you.