How having a mentor helped me excel in my career

Georgina Pluck FMAAT, is a qualified accountant in AAT and ACCA. She has always been ambitious but credits the support she received from mentoring for getting her where she wanted to be.

Last year, at the age of 29, she got her first number one role as Head of Finance at Europlaz Technologies. Here we speak to Georgina about how mentoring has helped her excel in her career.

How did you get into accounting?

I’ve been in accounting since I left school about 14 years ago. I’d wanted to be a lawyer but hated A-Level Law so found a job in London as an office administrator. The job involved some invoicing and making supplier payments which I enjoyed so I took myself to AAT evening classes.

I’m now Head of Finance and sit on the Board at Europlaz Technologies but I’ve worked across lots of different industries – manufacturing, dental, retail, aerospace, logistics. I think exposure to different industries really helps you to grow.

Have you faced any challenges getting to where you are now?

I’ve found that my age has been a challenge as I’ve been relatively young in senior positions. People don’t always trust in your ability and this can also affect your confidence. You might know the right answer but don’t always feel that you can speak up.

I’ve also found in previous jobs that managers can be insecure about their own positions and if you’re hungry for more work they don’t always want to progress you. Working hard isn’t enough, you also have to be really interested in what you do.

How did getting a mentor come about?

It came about quite naturally, I didn’t actually go out and look for a mentor. A previous manager, Richard, recruited me and through the course of working together, he noticed that I was inquisitive and keen to learn about things outside of my job role that made up the bigger picture.

He went above and beyond to set aside the time to support me. He saw things in me that I couldn’t see and he benefited from helping to develop me too so it became a two-way thing.

How long have you been meeting with your mentor?

It’s been about four years. He helped me with the interview for my current job which involved lots of things including a presentation to the Board. I practised it with him and he guided me and listened to what I was trying to deliver for the interview.

Can you tell us about the mentoring process?

It started off just with me asking questions and then we set some time aside for me to learn about other aspects of the business. We got on well as friends so it became a friendship as well as a mentorship.

We’d go for dinner once a month and talk about business and my career aspirations as I was always planning my next step. I’d ask him about how he’d got to where he was and realised that all the things I felt insecure about, he’d been through too and they were normal.

How has mentoring helped you progress professionally?

I couldn’t have got as far as I have, as quickly, without mentoring. The support I have been given has massively helped my confidence. I call him my ‘Career Angel’.

I can now phone him with any queries I have. This is particularly important in a number one role where you don’t have anyone else at your level and sometimes you need to debate items so I’ll call him for a debate!

Because of the experience that I‘ve had, in turn, it’s made me a good mentor and I’ll do it for my team if they want it. Mentoring can create a spark in people that wasn’t there before.

What advice would you give somebody thinking about getting a mentor? 

It is definitely 100% worth it but you’ve both got to have the time to invest in the mentorship. Choose your mentor wisely, they don’t need to be from your industry – it can actually be good to have someone giving a different perspective.

Maybe you’ve already got a great relationship with somebody and you just need to formalise it and ask them to be your mentor. It’s good if you’re close to someone as you need to have an open and honest relationship where they can critique you.

If you don’t have someone in mind, attending networking events are really important for meeting new people. I’m still not 100% confident going to them but I push myself to go and start conversations.

In summary

Having a mentor is an excellent way to gain perspective on your career and to help you to achieve your potential. As well as developing specific skills it will improve confidence and will make you accountable.

Whatever your level or position, you should also consider offering your services as a mentor which will help to develop and inspire you, as well as your mentee.

Read more about mentoring here:

Sophie Cross is the Editor of Freelancer Magazine and a freelance writer and marketer at Thoughtfully.

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