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Get the right people in your corner
July 16, 2017, 2:37 pm

Some professionals understand the merits of mentorship as it has proven to be a critical element of success by providing protégés with the opportunity to broaden their perspective, build social capital, navigate organizational politics more strategically, and muster up the confidence to speak up when it matters most. In male dominated professions, where women often face even greater challenges building networks and embracing feminine leadership strengths, mentoring has proven even more paramount.

Below are some ways women can help land the right people in their corner and, in doing so, help to elevate and empower other women as they rise.

Clarify your ideal mentor: Get clear about what you want in a mentor or sponsor. Is it an expert who can help with a specific challenge such as how to polish your presentation style or build your brand in your new workplace, or are you looking for someone with an inside track to be a more general sounding board and advocate for you over the long haul?

Be brave and ask: if you would value the advice of someone you admire, have the courage to ask for it. You don’t need to be overly formal about it, just ask if they could give you some time to provide guidance. Let the relationship evolve from there.

Set expectations early:  Anyone whose advice you would value is likely someone who has a lot of demands on their time. So value it highly. Let them know what you would love to gain from talking to them and ask them to suggest what might work best.  Given that learning is the key underlying purpose of mentorship, clearly articulating what you would like to learn from them will help make it a better investment of time both ways.

Look beyond the obvious: Women tend to mentor other women more frequently than men but the paucity of women up the ladder ahead of you may mean that you need to look beyond your ladder to find a mentor.  There is a strong case for building relationships with male mentors, particularly if you are in a male dominated industry.  The vast majority of men value the opportunity to support women so be careful not to assume otherwise.

Make it a two-way value exchange: The value exchange in a mentor relationship can be heavily weighted in toward the mentee, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reciprocate by supporting their work and building their leadership brand. For instance, tweet out their posts, nominate them for an award, share their updates on LinkedIn or start a discussion that positions them as the expert or refer business their way.

Mentor other women even if you doubt what you offer: The fact that women tend to doubt themselves more and back themselves less than men (creating a globally recognized ‘gender confidence gap’) is the very reason more women need to lift as they climb - encouraging other women to raise their sights and act with the confidence they wish they had.

Even if you don’t think you have ‘made it’ (yet) or think you lack the expertise that might benefit a potential mentee, you are still a long way ahead of women who are just starting out or are making a career transition. Don’t undervalue the insights, work/family juggling skills and hard-won wisdom you have acquired to get to where you are today.


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