The importance of mentors and how to find the right one


Years of speaking with candidates has given the Hiring Circle team significant insight into the positive impact that good mentors and/or internal sponsor can have on career development. Given that career development is one of the most significant factors influencing how someone feels about their role (in our markets at least - junior and mid-level investment bankers and investment professionals), it makes sense that it should form a significant part of attracting and retaining top talent.

Large number of organisations offer formal mentor programmes matching new recruits with more experienced employees, and whilst this is still an important initiative, the most successful relationships are often those that occur organically.

We asked some of our network their views on mentors and internal sponsors and critically, how do you find the right people to guide you in your career.


Hiring Circle

MD, Global Investment Bank

“Mentors at every stage of your career can be hugely important, whether that is providing opportunities or giving you straight and honest advice that you need to hear in critical moments. 

I was fortunate to have had two good mentors, which is key in your early years as it can be a minefield. How do you find a mentor or internal sponsor? Do a great job for anyone that asks you, and, it sounds a very low bar, but demonstrate reliability. People then begin to rely on you, they begin to trust you and they then want to help you navigate your career journey.”

Partner, Private Equity Fund

“Mentoring is extremely valuable but sponsorship is important too and it’s important to understand the difference. A sponsor is someone you have internally who is going to advocate for you when you're looking to be promoted or put on an interesting project. A mentor is a slightly different relationships which is a bit more impartial – someone to ask advice of in certain situations. I've definitely found the most useful mentoring situation is where there is a specific issue that needs to be worked through.”

“You need to actually think about who is beneficial to your career, who are the decision makers, how can I get them on my side, then when decisions are being made – will they think of me. People don’t necessarily think consciously or calculatingly about who is going to be beneficial in their career, especially at the more junior end, so we place a lot of value on sponsors.”

Associate Director, Mid-Market Advisory

“I was able to learn a lot from watching the two MDs in my team who had very different styles. I also sat next to other senior bankers who taught me the technical aspects of the role. I really used my peers too – they became good friends. I relied on them to help and to teach and I made sure whenever I could help them back I would, perhaps with IM reviews or if they were under pressure for a pitch I’d offer to take a few slides for them.

I had a good team structure that I could learn from, but in terms of a mentor – I actually chose one myself.  How did that happen?  I picked someone in a different team as it was helpful to have someone that had an exterior view of my team but who worked closely with us too. I felt that was important as they would understand how the dynamics of my team worked but at the same time be quite impartial. He was a great source of advice and was able to view a more holistic approach to my career..”

Director, Private Debt Fund

“Never underestimate the importance of your line-manager, and finding a good mentor and sponsor is one of the most important things you can do in your career. Don't be afraid to be bold and put yourself forward. Tell people what you want to achieve and work towards it. Hold yourself and others accountable for that progression.”