This section talks about the importance of having a mentor in your life. Mentors are individuals who you look up. You may or may not know them personally, but they inspire you to move towards a certain direction.
Key To your Success
Having a mentor is a crucial key to success—one that many women in today’s workforce simply do not have. And it’s no surprise. With only six women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies, less than 13 percent of the corporate officer ranks made up of women, and the time pressures all working women confront, finding a mentor may seem next to impossible. But be open-minded about potential mentors. A good mentor can be a man, a woman, a person of a color different from yours, or even your boss. The most important factor is that you and your mentor can comfortably exchange feedback and ideas .
Mentorship may be the single most important reason why—among the equally talented—men tend to rise higher than women. And Catalyst should know, having recently published a book of workplace advice titled, Be Your Own Mentor. Catalyst, a non-profit organization, has been working to advance women in business and the professions for 40 years. In carrying out our mission, we talk to many successful women—diverse women—all of whom believe that having mentors is an essential success strategy.
You may be thinking, “I work hard, I really know my stuff. Why do I need a mentor?”
First, mentors can give you the big picture. Understanding performance expectations can be tricky—particularly when there are subtle expectations for employees in all organizations.
Mentors can also help you find a suitable style by cluing you into the “rules of the game”—commonly known as office politics. Navigating the political landscape of an organization can take years to master on your own, and avoidable mistakes can be costly.
Also, keep in mind that even as a top performer, getting challenging assignments can be tough. Mentors can open doors for you by introducing you into their networks and recommending you for high-visibility assignments and promotions.
Now you know you need a mentor. Who should you look for? Be strategic. Figure out what kind of coaching and advice you need, then look for people who can give it to you. Remember that it’s nearly impossible to find everything you want in one person. Instead, become the mentee of several talented people.
So, how do you find a mentor? You can start by following Catalyst’s “Finding a Mentor Action List. ”
Make a connection, but start small. Don’t scare off a potential mentor by calling and asking, “Would you like to mentor me?” Try e-mailing or calling a potential mentor to discuss a project she has worked on or to ask a question within her area of expertise. Remember, get them vested without scaring them off. Volunteer to help. Take the opportunity to strut your stuff in front of a potential mentor. Offer to help on a project or volunteer in a charity in which your mentor is involved.
Find out whether your company has a formal mentoring program. One of the best places to find a mentor is in your own organization. Formal mentoring relationships offer opportunities to focus on specific goals.
Look outside your company. If your company does not have a formal mentoring program, join a mentoring organization, or check out your industry association or alumni group. They often provide coaching on key topics like presentation skills, salary negotiation, and how to run an effective meeting.
Once you’ve found key people and begun developing the right relationships, keep the following tips for being a good mentte in mind.
Exceed performance expectations.
Demonstrate your openness to coaching and feedback.
Listen carefully to your mentor’s advice and incorporate those insights that make sense for your career.
Ask a lot of questions.
Inform your mentor of significant career accomplishments and failures.
Share with your mentor the advice that made the most difference for you and why.
Give back to your mentor—be loyal; return favors.
Finally, as you progress in your career, don’t forget to reach back. Become a mentor yourself.
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Manik Thapar (MBA)