Whether you’re just starting out in your career or aspiring for the C-suite, mentorship can take you to the next level.

According to a study commissioned by American Express Canada in partnership with Women of Influence, roughly 32 percent of women believe that reaching the C-suite is achievable. However, that number jumps to 49 percent if women have a mentor and to 61 percent if they have a sponsor — illustrating the fact that having an advocate such as a mentor or sponsor helps women believe they are capable of more. 

American Express (Amex) identifies mentorship as something that can be asked for — it’s an informal or formal relationship with an advisor who acts as a role model. Sponsorship, on the other hand, is earned on an individual basis, rather than assigned.

“Mentoring is a great way to gain the support and guidance you need to achieve your career aspirations,” says Sandy Kara, the Director of Credit Operations at American Express Canada.

Kara, who serves as a mentor to several young women, believes that mentorship can provide unbiased career advice, coaching, and advocacy to help females at entry or mid-level career stages advance in their careers.  But it doesn’t need to stop there.

Women at more advanced stages of their career can also benefit from mentors to help enhance their visibility to senior management and ease their transition to higher positions.

“Frank discussions with my own mentor have helped ensure that I was being represented as a strategic leader to senior leaders within the organization,” says Kara. “Although the specific issues and opportunities I focus on now with my mentor may differ compared to earlier in my career, the key lessons have been equally valuable.”

Along with providing sound career advice, mentors can help reiterate the importance of having a growth mindset. For Jenny Li, the Program Manager with American Express’ Enterprise Architecture Team, having a mentor has helped her focus on future roles within the organization.

“My mentors have advised me on what I can do beyond my current role and have helped me evaluate where my next opportunities might be,” says Li.

Mentorship enhances the corporate culture

In a business environment where talent retention drives competitive advantage, American Express Canada employees report that mentorship benefits themselves and the workplace as a whole.

“Mentorship is engrained in our DNA, which enhances our employee engagement, gender inclusion, and diversity initiatives and goals,” says Kara.

American Express employees can access mentorship opportunities through numerous programs and networks such as the Millennial Network, Women’s Interest Network, and more recently, Women in Technology (which was founded by Li).

“Our Employee Networks provide various informal mentorship opportunities which are fully supported by Amex,” explains Li. “As the co-lead of our Women in Technology Network, I’m proud to share that we’ve had multiple women achieve their career advancement goals through our mentorship initiatives.”

Seek opportunities

Both Kara and Li credit mentorship for their career achievements and advise that other women should ask for mentorship opportunities wherever possible.

“Don’t be shy about it,” says Kara. “My best piece of advice is to seek out mentorship opportunities that set you up for success instead of waiting for them to happen. Take control and jump start your own career.”

On a similar note, Li adds, “It’s important for both men and women to be change agents and to inspire females to grow within the company. Creating and sustaining longstanding mentor relationships is the first step to helping women thrive in their career.”