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Why is it that we think we have to have everything figured out? How come we have to have all of the answers when we don’t expect that of anyone else? Would you like to acquire skills or knowledge to advance your career quickly? Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, someone who champions you and can make suggestions and introductions?

Well then, you need a mentor; AND if you are serious about taking your career or business to the next level, then the one thing you need to know is that you won’t do it alone.

By definition, mentoring is simply when someone more experienced or knowledgeable helps guide someone who is less so. That’s it. It doesn’t mean that the mentor needs to be older or even in the same industry. It doesn’t even have to be time-consuming.

Sounds great, right? But why is it that women are mentored less frequently than men?

According to the Working Mother Media 2019 Study: The Gender Gap at the Top, 54 percent of men had a career discussion with their mentor or sponsor in the past 24 months vs. 39 percent of women. The WBC Women in the Pipeline initiative is working to change those numbers and get more women involved in both mentoring and leadership development programs.

I believe that mentoring is widely misunderstood. Everyone knows what it is, but too many people have a narrow view of how it can happen – that changes today!

Early on in my career, I needed to familiarize myself with company financials so I at least would be able to have a basic understanding. I asked my friend, an accountant, to guide me through them, and during a series of lunches, we reviewed them, and I got to ask lots of questions. That was mentoring. Even though she was much younger than me and worked in a different department, she was a “subject mentor.”

Mentors don’t have to be long-term. They don’t have to be older or in a higher position. They don’t have to work in the same company. In our online environment, they don’t even have to be in the same state or country.

What it does require is you being willing to ask for what you need from a mentor. This requires that you know what type of mentor you’re looking for according to your career or business goals.

To get you thinking, here are some other types of mentors or mentoring categories:

Career Mentors – This is someone you meet with routinely and for a specified period, say 6 or 9 months or more. In a more formal career mentoring relationship, you’d be wise to have structure and goals around what you wish to accomplish with your (and their) time. This gets you the guidance you need to develop your career overall.

Group Mentoring – This is when someone mentors a group of individuals. I recently spoke at a women’s affinity group on this exact topic, and essentially, I was mentoring them on mentoring. Perhaps someone in your office is willing to present their knowledge about a specific topic to a group of people for a group mentoring experience. What do you want to learn? Chances are others do too.

Mentoring Moments – This happens when you make an ask for a specific reason and at a particular time. Perhaps you want to increase your negotiation skills so the next time someone in purchasing is going to have a call or meeting, you can sit in and then debrief after. Maybe you want to understand contracts better, so if you know someone from legal, you might make the
ask to explain some of the legal jargon in layman’s terms.

There are also Virtual Mentors. These are the books you read, courses you take, coaches you work with, YouTube videos you watch, all for the goal of increasing knowledge, skills and gaining advice and wisdom.

So how do you find a mentor? They are most likely right in front of you. You seek them out because they probably won’t fall in your lap. Once you get clear on what you need to achieve in your career or business, pay attention to the people you work with or meet who have the skills you need to succeed. #MakeTheAsk

If you’re a manager or in a higher position in the organization, can you reach back to mentor someone or put your energy into the development of a mentorship program? For mentoring to work, the outreach must go both ways.

Until next time, here’s wishing you the full power of mentoring in YOUR career or business!

Register for this year’s Action for Impact Summit happening on September 25, 2024!