In 2014, Bain & Co published a surprising commentary on men and women and their level of confidence and aspiration when they enter the workplace. The infographic revealed this “crisis in confidence” that occurs for women in year 2 of their careers. The driver for this reduction in both confidence and aspiration is attributed to three factors:
1. Limited paths to the top
2. Lack of supervisor support
3. Few role models
Bain & Co infographic can be found here: http://www.bain.com/infographics/parity/
Let’s first and foremost celebrate YOU for defying these odds. At this stage of your journey, you’re past this two-year phenomenon as an employee, however your employees may not be. So it’s valuable to know.
However something ALSO happens after two years in a leadership position as well. You begin to tire of the endless battles for supremacy in the conference room, on the conference calls or in the manager’s office.
Your leadership “legs” are building muscle and you have experienced a level of success or achievement in your role. You’re ready to look for bigger opportunities to take on, larger teams to lead or a new and innovative approach to solving problems.
Yet the battles wage on. You look up and may not see many like you at the top. You begin to ask, will the battles ever cease or are they even contributing to winning the war? Perhaps you have a manager who supports you (Yay!) and they may be moving on or are looking for their next opportunity.
Where are the role models and do they have time to mentor you? Do you even know how to find a mentor for your next career move…or are you so heads down the world has passed you by?
At this point in your leadership career, about 2+ years in, mentors become the lynchpin to your continued career growth. There has recently been a resurgence of “mentoring” in the tech industry because of the growth of tech startups and their need for guidance, along with the continued need for creating upward career movement for women in tech.
The other factor bringing mentorship to center stage is the “push” and dialogue around S.T.E.M. and inspiring more girls to focus on these key subjects. How disastrous would it be to build this groundswell and not have career paths, support or role models for them as they enter the workplace?
Then this 2014 infographic becomes prophetic instead of a warning and fewer girls think a tech career is cool…and attainable.
Mentoring them is a priority. Along with startups, mentoring women who have brilliant and inventive ideas has become the de facto way of developing and growing a career. It is also something men recognized long ago as key to their development and they do not hesitate seeking out mentors to help them.
If you have a mentor, congratulations! If you do not or you recognize having more than one is desirable, then let’s get going.
Finding a mentor is very similar to dating, which is why you’ll find speed mentoring programs popping up. You really do want to spend some time with a woman or man you admire to find out if you’d be willing to create a relationship with them. If you find yourself uncomfortable with them in any way, regardless of how smart, talented or connected they are, then you will not get what you need.
The mentoring relationship is a sacred one. You want to feel comfortable asking any and every question possible. You may need to role-play a discussion with an employee, manager or colleague. You may want to try out a planned presentation or get their two cents on a muscle to build or one to let go of. And by all means, you MUST trust them.
I recall a mentor who helped me secure a great leadership position. When I shared that I was working 14-hour days while people at a higher level were not, instead of coaching me in how to have the discussion with my manager, she went to the manager directly and complained.
She was very supportive yet not at all smart. I was to bear the brunt of that impulsiveness. If I had been more comfortable with asking for her help in having the discussion, we could have averted a lot of drama. And I would not have had to “fire” her as my mentor.
Here’s how to get ready to choose your mentor.
- Ask them on a “date” by offering to buy them coffee, lunch or a beverage of their choice so that you can get to know them.
- Ask them about other mentees they work with and what’s the difference in those who are successful in mentoring with them.
- Find out how they like to “mentor.” Some leaders view it as a pleasure, others as a chore that must be done.
- Finally, trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right now, it won’t get better later.
A word about multiple mentors… I am a huge advocate of having multiple mentors in your life and career. The challenge for those who are new to mentoring is keeping all of the advice…straight. Not everything a mentor gives you is “gold.”
Remember they are coming from their perspective on life. You have to take what you can use and discard the rest. Knowing what to take and what to discard requires knowing yourself and what you truly want…yet it’s both possible and rewarding.
Chris Makell is a fierce advocate for women in technology leaders. She connects you to the simple strategies, like "curiosity" which accelerates your success as a confident leader and engages your employees effectively. Discover how to turn generational/diversity issues in the workplace to your advantage in this executive briefing here: http://chrismakell.com/generational-advantage/