What’s the value of expert guidance from an experienced mentor for business professionals just getting started? According to executives in Fortune 500 companies with corporate mentorship programs, quite a lot. In an Association for Talent Development study, 75% of them attributed their success to the help they received from mentors.
Women aspiring to succeed in business can greatly benefit from learning how to find a female mentor. The invaluable advice of knowledgeable mentors paired with the right education can lead to thriving careers.
The Value of Mentorship
How exactly does mentorship work? Mentorship involves the sharing of information. Those with experience have learned vital lessons along the way that can prove extremely useful to those new to the game. Mentors support and nurture their mentees in many ways, including
- Answering questions and offering advice about how to navigate complicated business matters, resolve problems, and gain new perspectives on how to address various business issues
- Modeling skills and techniques that can improve key aspects of a business, such as the communication between management and employees
- Offering important methods and strategies that can help grow a business, strengthen relationships with customers, and build positive work environments
Ultimately, mentorship can make a big difference in a business professional’s career. Harvard Business Review reports that mentorship can help people excel in their careers faster, perform their jobs better, and feel more satisfied in their work-life situations.
Mentees aren’t the only ones who benefit from these professional relationships. The process of teaching inherent to mentorship helps mentors sharpen their skills and exposes them to new ideas. Mentoring also allows business professionals to expand their networks and learn collaboratively with those they mentor.
Specific Benefits of Female Mentorship
While women have made gains in corporate leadership representation, men still outnumber women in entry-level management positions, 62% to 38%, according to a 2020 McKinsey report. In senior management, women hold 28% of senior vice president positions and only 21% of C-suite positions.
Mentorship for and by professional women, however, can help close some of the gender equality gap in corporate leadership. Women in business can encounter distinct challenges: gender bias and discrimination, sexism and harassment, and unique expectations for work-life balance, to name a few. Female mentors are more likely to understand these challenges and can help other women in business tackle them.
Tips on How to Find a Female Mentor
To attain the higher salaries, faster-paced promotions, and greater fulfillment that often go in hand with effective mentoring, an important component is choosing a mentor wisely and then thoughtfully managing the relationship over time.
How to Identify the Right Mentor
What skills and characteristics should an ideal mentor possess? That all depends on one’s business goals and needs. Before looking for a mentor, professionals should clarify for themselves what they want to achieve and the obstacles they might encounter along the way. They can then draw up a list of attributes to seek in a mentor.
For example, a novice entrepreneur wanting to strengthen their skills at building a professional network should seek out a mentor with a well-established track record of forging strong business relationships. This requires research. Anyone interested in finding a mentor should be prepared to learn about a candidate’s life work.
Other considerations come into play when choosing a mentor. Although mentors and their mentees don’t need to agree on every business strategy and approach, many of their ideas should align. This allows for more growth opportunities and productive conversations. Even more essential, mentors and their mentees should share values and philosophies. For example, professionals deeply committed to sustainable business practices would do well to seek out mentors who also see sustainability as a core value.
In general, mentors should be passionate about what they do. They also should have excellent listening skills, extensive experience in their fields, and a willingness to be upfront and honest about what they’ve learned. The best mentors feel invested in their mentees’ professional growth.
How to Request Mentorship
Before requesting mentorships, business professionals should build a rapport with the people they hope to work with. This can come out of conversations with influential industry experts at conferences, networking with former bosses and past professors, or communication through platforms such as LinkedIn. With a foundation in place, they can broach the subject of mentorship.
Businesswomen can begin by inviting potential mentors to a low-pressure meeting over coffee or tea to discuss work and related interests. Mentees should come prepared to discuss career goals and ask for mentorship directly. They should finish the conversation by expressing gratitude and requesting a follow-up meeting in a month’s time to expand on the conversation and address specific questions. After the meeting, mentees should send a thank you email.
Successful businesspeople have little free time, so mentees should do their best to show their appreciation and make themselves available to their mentors as much as possible.
How to Manage a Mentoring Relationship
Building a productive relationship with mentors over time involves clear goal setting driven by what the mentee wants to learn. After initial conversations, mentees should propose a structured meeting arrangement. They might ask to meet once a month for six months to work on a specific issue. They can offer to prepare a simple document that lays out goals and milestones along the way, which can help ensure each meeting is constructive.
Throughout the mentoring relationship, mentees should clarify their goals with the help of their mentors and establish a time frame in which to achieve them. Together, mentors and mentees need to define their roles and responsibilities and set up guidelines for how the process will work.
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