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17 minute read

On the Job Hunt: The Importance of Mentorship and How it Can Benefit Your Career

Serial entrepreneur and mentor Alvin Poh talks about why mentorship is important at any stage of your career and how it is beneficial to your professional growth. 

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Being a career mentor wasn’t something that Alvin Poh aspired to be growing up, but it was something crucial that he realised was lacking in his career journey that led him to get into it. 

“I used to run a business called I grew it from nothing with my co-founder, all the way to a $30 million exit,” he recalls. “After going through such a big exit, I felt very lost because the business was a huge part of my life.”

“[The business] was 17 years of our lives. After that, I felt so lost that I basically sold all the possessions that I had and travelled the world for two years.”

It was during those two years that he met with many requests from others wanting his advice on their entrepreneurship journey. “I found those interactions were so ad hoc that there wasn’t anything good that came out of it,” he shares. “One of the things that I decided to do when I returned to Singapore, after two years of travelling, was to really nail down a framework by which I could coach and mentor other entrepreneurs.”

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What career mentorship is

That was how Alvin was propelled into the mentoring sphere. His current coaching business at Super Scaling allows him to mentor other entrepreneurs and business owners, and he enjoys seeing how his clients grow under his guidance. 

“The impact that you create isn’t just with the mentee alone, but with the people that they touch; the impact that their business creates for customers, the team members, and their loved ones. That impact cascades, and I think that’s the most fulfilling thing,” Alvin elaborates. 

But mentorship isn’t just for a specific group of people or for those in a specific stage of their careers. It’s a common misconception, Alvin acknowledges, that some people think mentorship is only for unsuccessful people. 

“People of all walks, all stages of their career can benefit from mentorship,” he says, adding that mentorship can help those who are already successful in accelerating their career growth, whether they’re starting out or they’re mid-career. 

Mentorship, he opines, doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. It can be tailored to a person’s specific situation. “For example, somebody that’s first starting out can look for a career mentor that might help with connections, finding jobs, even negotiating for salaries,” he says. “For mid-career people, career mentorship provides clarity on the direction of the career. It can even accelerate growth, provide networks and connections, or open doors in specific areas or job positions.” 

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Searching for a mentor

Finding a mentor may be challenging, but Alvin shares that there are ways to start doing so. It can be through your own network of friends, family or colleagues or through social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook. 

There are also professional avenues, such as through business coaching services like his, or through professional programmes at educational institutions like the Business Innovation Generator programme at the Singapore Management University. Such avenues allow those who are new or introverted to find a community of like-minded people on the same career journey.  

“I think that makes it very approachable and safe for people to network and get to know other people so that they can actually work on their careers,” he adds.

The definition of a good mentor

Then there comes the next question: How do you know what makes a good mentor? Alvin believes there are three things that make a good mentor. 

Firstly, it’s whether the person is available. “Even if the person is the best person in the world for you, if that person is not available, he or she won’t make a good mentor,” he says. 

Next, having the right experience and expertise is necessary. “You have to find somebody that has been there, done that before so that they can show you exactly what went through their mind,” he elaborates. “A good mentor doesn’t necessarily need to be in the same industry or the specific job role that you’re looking for, but there needs to be similarities.” 

“As long as there are similarities that allow you to gain from the knowledge that your mentor has,” he adds. 

Finally, it’s crucial that expectations are aligned on both ends. “You’ve got to make sure that both parties have their expectations aligned, so the mentor and mentee understand what is expected from that engagement,” he says. “Expectation is one of the most crucial things that need to be established before a good mentorship relationship can happen.” 

Summarising what allows a mentorship to succeed, Alvin believes it is important to have the right attitude and aptitude for the mentorship to thrive. “Attitude is all the soft skills and the values that the person has, whether or not those align with you,” he says. “The other part is an aptitude or the hard skills, which include experience, expertise and skill sets.” 

“They need to possess these areas so that they can be potentially a good mentor and a good fit for your mentorship arrangement,” he concludes. 

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