What makes a successful career mentor?

Andrew Penker By Andrew Penker, ICAS

14 May 2015

Andrew Penker, ICAS Director of People, discusses the behaviours of effective mentors and mentees.

Do you remember someone from your early days as a newly qualified CA who you looked for career advice and whose opinions you valued? How do you become that person? Are strong career mentors born or can you learn this skill?

In the past six months, more than 300 participants have registered on the ICAS career mentoring programme and ICAS has connected more than 60 mentees with mentors. Now we want all our members to be inspired to connect through career mentoring.

An ICAS career mentor profile:

  • A third are based internationally
  • 90 per cent have 10+ years' PQE
  • 49 per cent work in business, 42 per cent in practice and 9 per cent in the third sector
  • Typical availability is to offer up to four hours every quarter to a mentee

An ICAS career mentee profile:

  • 87 per cent are based in the UK
  • 78 per cent have up to 10 years' PQE
  • Two thirds of mentees work in business
  • Typical requests are for up to four hours every quarter with a mentor

Graph: Mentor locations

The mentoring relationship

Strong mentors tend to be self-aware and understand how to modify their behaviour and communication style to match their particular mentee. Each mentee has their own set of strengths, motivators and pressures – understanding this is the key to successful mentoring.

While understanding the initial goals of the mentee (and mentor) is relevant, the mentoring relationship requires trust and excellent communication to succeed, especially in a virtual environment when participants may never meet face to face.

Behavioural styles

ICAS partners with Thomas International (TI) a leading international provider of people assessments to provide behavioural profiling to help mentors and mentees to create a successful partnership.

TI's profiling reveals individuals' "preferred" (predominant) behavioural characteristics at work, which can have a big impact on their communication style:

  • Dominance (making decisions)
  • Influence (building relationships)
  • Steadiness (working at a steady pace)
  • Compliance (following the rules)

In 2014, TI profiled 108,776 individuals from the UK working population and found a predominant preference for Influence; which means they tend to speak with high energy and discuss ideas.

Conversely, about nine per cent of the UK workforce tend to lead with dominance. They prefer to be brief and direct in conversation. The graph below shows the predominant behavioural styles revealed in the TI survey of the UK workforce.

Graph: Predominant behavioural working styles

Find out more about the mentoring programme.


  • Development of the profession

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