Accelerating careers with a new-school approach to mentorship

When AGSM @ UNSW Business School’s MBA participants want to transform their passion into a career, they can turn to the Career Accelerator @ AGSM team. 

| 28 Jul 2021

When AGSM @ UNSW Business School’s MBA participants want to transform their passion into a career, they can turn to the Career Accelerator @ AGSM team

With established partnerships spanning many industries, plus recruitment and mentorship assistance, the Career Accelerator team is one of the school’s most valuable resources.   

Executive recruiter Victoria Butt established a professional connection with AGSM back in 2012, when she started Parity Consulting as the Founder and Managing Director. 

Over the last 10 years, Victoria has experienced first-hand both the professional quality of the AGSM alumni, who she’s placed in numerous roles and the value of the AGSM careers team. 

“Being the number one business school in the country, I have a lot of respect for AGSM alumni,” Victoria says. 

“Then you pair this with the quality of the MBA careers team – the best I’ve found – who are a lot more connected to the real world. They’ve got their finger on the pulse which makes working with them a lot easier.”

Specialising in Fintech and Financial Services recruitment, Victoria often visits AGSM to address the Full-Time MBA cohort to share her insights on shifting industry trends, and how students and alumni can work better with recruiters. 

“Sharing fresh thinking really energises me, and AGSM are always open to new and contemporary ideas. I think I have the duty to share how the world is progressing, and they're open to hearing it,” Victoria says.

Opening doors through mentorship

Victoria Butt_Parity Consulting_AGSM Partner

A mentor can be extremely beneficial to the many MBA students seeking a new professional pathway. Yet even with the best intentions, many people aren’t practically prepared to make the most of these valuable networks. Victoria says that ‘old-school’ methods of networking and mentoring are becoming less and less relevant.

“One of the problems with mentorship programs is mentees don't have expectations put in place before they get started,” she says. 

“Everyone knows having a mentor is good, but if we just expect mentors to solve problems – that’s not a relationship that benefits both parties.”

Victoria says that when mentees don’t enter a mentorship with a clear plan, even after working hard to make the initial connection, that first meeting can often go nowhere. As a result, she says 80% of mentor relationships drop off after that initial chat. 

“If you’re looking to connect with someone for their insight, but also to give something back to them, then you need to spend 90% of your time upfront on the planning. Then it’s 10% on the actual meeting and execution.”

For the relationship to be successful, mentees need to go in with a clear understanding of why this person is an ideal mentor for them and be well researched. 

“The first question your new potential mentor is going to ask is ‘how can I help you?’ and you want to be able to answer clearly, showing you know why you’re here.”

Re-thinking mentorship

AGSM MBA Specialist, Rachel Guest is working with Victoria to restructure how the AGSM Careers team approaches mentorship and career advancement for the Full-Time MBA cohort. 

“A lot of my work with the students is figuring out what they’re interested in, then following up with a curated list of people within this specific industry they can connect with,” Rachel says.

The quality of the AGSM Careers network means students have access to high-level mentors from a range of different industries including C-Suite at top banks and management consulting firms, VC firms, big-tech giants, start-ups and more.

“The key is that rather than a structured mentoring program for the MBAs, which can typically end up being a one-and-done meeting with no value for either party, we are trying to equip them with the skills to be a great mentee and drive value from a relationship that is professionally beneficial,” Rachel says.

By offering insight sessions with professionals like Victoria, one-on-one coaching and a set of resources that program participants can reference when they make a connection that ‘clicks’, Rachel aims to give the full-time cohort the tools to help them convert a higher number of successful mentor relationships.

She adds that the ‘old school’ style of ‘being matched to one mentor’ doesn’t quite work at the MBA level, because mentees have often already been in the workforce for decades. They don’t require your standard workforce skills, that an early-career mentorship may provide.

The updated mentorship approach encourages MBA participants to create a ‘board’ of mentors, so they can establish a range of mutually beneficial professional relationships. These relationships provide well-rounded support, career opportunities and valuable connections for the future. 

“I’m lucky to have access to an incredible network where I go to different people for different problems,” Rachel says. 

“We’re trying to encourage people to assemble your ‘board of trustees' rather than running people through a mentor program where no one knows where the value is.”

This approach will help those who are currently completing their MBA while planting seeds for future networks to develop.  

“When you’re in your post-MBA role and you’re managing a team, for example, there may be a specific person in your ‘board’ that you could speak to. Or you’re looking to raise funding and someone in your ‘board’ has had success at that, and you can reach out to them directly for advice,” Rachel says.

How to create value in the mentor/mentee relationship

Both Victoria and Rachel agree that there needs to be a reframing of the way people approach mentoring and networking generally because it can’t just be about the mentee wanting to get somewhere or better their own position. This will burn more relationship bridges than it builds.

“My ethos in any kind of networking is if you are networking to simply advance your career prospects, you are transparent. You are amongst the many, and you are forgettable,” Victoria says.

“If you are advancing your career to purposely shape yourself and others around you, then you're the exception, and you'll go further.”

A traditional mentorship is often seen as the mentor giving something to the mentee, but Victoria knows how important it is to give back. And when a mentor has the knowledge to share, many mentees don’t see how they can bring their own brand of value to the relationship.

“In my experience, executives have little time or capacity to enter into a mentorship with someone who isn’t prepared, authentic and willing to give and take in the relationship,” she says. 

Victoria advises the first step for mentees is to set expectations, set boundaries, be organised, follow up – to lay the foundations for a strong relationship. 

The evolving program Rachel and Victoria are developing is bringing mentorship in line with the changing needs of business today, by providing a practical education of what it means to be a good mentee. One that provides value for AGSM MBA students now and well into their professional futures.


To find out more about Career Accelerator @ AGSM and how you can get involved, click here.

If you have a specific business case for a student to work on, or you may be able to offer insight into your area of specialisation by delivering a workshop or participating in a panel discussion, click here.

To learn more about AGSM’s globally-ranked MBA programs, click here.