A few weeks back, I was reorganizing a Google Doc I had with a list of entrepreneurs (both well known and unknown) that I admire. I’ve always figured that I should keep a list of cool people read up on their principles, and then apply the same principles to my life. When my friend Andre looked over at my screen and asked my why I even had this list, I explained. But when he asked, “Does that really help?”, I had no answer.

So I figured I would do some quick research to see if there was any empirical evidence that learning from others (or having mentors) actually had any effect in a professional sense, and if so, was it significant.

While doing some basic research (and by research I mean typing strings into Google), I came across a ton of articles about why you need a mentor, how to get a mentortypes of mentors to have, etc, but few had any real evidence of any correlation between success and having a mentor (at least in a professional sense, lots on mentoring children during development).

Then I found this article (embedded below) that did an actual study. The study notes that there are two types of mentors: career related, and psychosocial. Career related support is the traditional definition of a mentor– the mentor helps the mentee with sponsorship, exposure, visibility, coaching, protection, etc. Psychosocial support is the type of support that addresses interpersonal aspects of the relationships and helps with a mentee’s sense of confidence, identity, and effectiveness as a professional. They studied this against objective career outcomes, which are more tangible things, such as promotions or compensation and subjective career outcomes, which are the intangibles, such as career satisfaction, turnover, etc.

There were 5 hypothesis in the study:

  1. People who have mentors do better than those without.
  2. Career related mentoring is positively related to career outcomes.
  3. Psychosocial mentoring is positively related to career outcomes.
  4. Objective career outcomes will have a stronger relationship with career mentoring than with psychosocial mentoring.
  5. Subjective career outcomes will have a stronger relatinshiop with psychosocial mentoring than with career mentoring.

The results: Hypotheses 1-3 received full support. Hypotheses 4 & 5 received mixed support.

There are some things in the study that I don’t fully agree with, but overall, the takeaway is that people who have mentors do better than those without.

Overall, I’m satisfied with knowing that there is some sort of proof that those with mentors (formal or informal) have a higher rate of success than those without. What I would still like to see is a study on the differences between formal and informal mentorship, as well as a study on how many/what type of mentors is optimal. I didn’t spend a ton of time looking, but if anyone has anything related, let me know.


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