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Why You Need to Find a Career Mentor

by Shelly Horton
Posted: January 24, 2017

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No one is too successful to have a mentor. In fact, most successful people have mentors, writes Lifestyle commentator, Journalist and TV Personality, Shelly Horton.

There is a surge of interest in mentors and role models, particularly in an area I’m passionate about, women supporting women.

Research from The Westpac Women of Influence Report from a few years ago, confirms that Australian women are looking to role models with a bit of integrity.

After surveying 1000 working women aged between 25-65, the report found personal connections have a bigger influence on professional women than celebrities do. 

They'd rather get advice from an older female colleague than listen to what pop stars are sprouting.

So what do professional Australian women look for?

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Licensed under Creative Commons 

While Australian icons like Ita Buttrose and Governor-General Quentin Bryce top the list of public role models, followed by actress Cate Blanchett and former prime minister Julia Gillard, high-achieving women in entertainment and sports only appeal to a small proportion of professional women.

Overall, the clear finding from the research is that Australian women seem to aspire to be like women they know and respect personally. They look for attributes such as honesty and trustworthiness, good communication skills and respect for others.

Some organisations, like the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, have formal mentoring programs. The idea is for senior women to offer structured mentoring to female colleagues in a bid to reduce workplace inequality, combat bullying and give support and advice.

I had some great mentors when I was younger

Helen Grasswill, a producer from Australian Story at ABC TV took me under her wing and gave me some of the best presenting and producing advice I've ever come across. My old boss at Triple J, Alison Ray, dished out tough love and lots of laughs that certainly shaped my career.

I'll be forever grateful to them and now it's my turn to give back. You get a lot out of being a mentor. For me it’s a feeling of community and a sense of the bigger picture.

A couple of years ago I created a mentoring group of about ten young female journalists

Shelly Horton is a career mentor to these girls

Shelly and some of the girls she mentors
Image supplied

We meet a few times a year for what I have dubbed a “Walk ‘n Talk” mentoring session. As a group, we discuss problems, celebrate successes and offer advice and support all while doing a long walk.  

Between our “Walk ‘n Talk” sessions I’m also available on the phone or by email if any of them have something they need to nut out, whether it’s to apply for a new job, ask for a pay increase or deal with harassment at work.

As their mentor, I will always be their champion. I am the first to praise their accomplishments but also provide tough love and constructive feedback. I happily exchange career tips and keep my ear to the ground for new opportunities. Basically, I am their biggest cheerleader.

So I encourage women and men, to be brave and find a mentor and coach.

If you meet someone who impresses you, email them and ask if you can have a coffee and get some advice. You'll be amazed how many will help you.

What do top Australian career experts say about finding a job after commencing study? Find out here.


Shelly Horton

Known for fronting up to uncomfortable conversations and never sitting on the fence, Shelly is a well-known voice in the area of pop culture, women's issues and health. She’s interviewed everyone from Tom Cruise and Kim Kardashian to the Dalai Lama.

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