Don’t Just Lean In, Get Yourself A Mentor


the importance of a mentorThere’s plenty in the news about women, why so few are female CEOs, pay gaps and Sheryl Sandberg’s new book stirring the pot around women in business and the importance of women “leaning in.”

Did you know 1 in 5 women in the U.S. have never had a mentor?
It’s time to change that. If you want to move up the corporate ladder, I believe one of the best ways is by having a mentor at your side.

Having a mentor has been shown to:

• increase productivity
• reduce turnover
• help land future promotions

A mentor is not a substitute for hard work, but having someone who has your back, can give sound, unemotional advice is invaluable. And who couldn’t use some sage advice?

So what role does a mentor play?

• They can lend their personal experience as a view to the situation you are facing or could potentially find ahead. Let’s face it, we all can use some advice and often our family members aren’t the right place to turn to. You need someone in business who understands the industry you are in.  

• You can gain invaluable learning from a mentor’s mistakes and successes. I often think the smartest people in business are the ones who have allowed themselves to make mistakes. It means they’ve taken risks. 

• Mentors take the emotion out of decisions and can give perspective. Co-workers often can’t and if you’re sharing information about the company and frustrations you have there is a danger the conversation will be relayed internally.

• Mentors will give help you weigh all sides and typically give honest advice. They often have the perspective you are missing.

• Mentors can make critical connections and open doors for you. I was fortunate to have mentors just about my whole career and I think it made all the difference in the world. My first mentor told me when it was time for me to leave company, handed me a slip of paper and said, “He’s waiting for you to call.” 

• They can give you encouragement when you most need it. It’s hard for women in business, so a bit of encouragement is so important. I learned years ago, I couldn’t make things happen as quickly as I wanted so staying the course over the long haul is so much easier with an occasional piece of encouragement. A mentor can be a sounding board letting you know you are on the right track and to “keep it up.”

Finding a mentor

Don’t be afraid to ask someone to be your mentor. If they don’t have the time, they will tell you, but more often than not they will be so flattered they will say “of course.” But then be sure not to abuse the mentor by barraging them with questions and asks. They are there for help when you need it most. And you can have more than one! Different mentors with different skill sets can be very beneficial.

If you don’t have a mentor, make it a goal to get one! 

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