Over the years, I have met a large diverse group of young professional women who come from a range of backgrounds, industries and jobs. I have chosen to mentor some of these women (or maybe they chose me!) and it has proven to be beneficial for them, for me, and for where they work.
My mentoring work with these young professional women always motivates me; often surprises me and occasionally disappoints me. This range of emotions keeps me on my toes and helps me focus on the importance of working with them to create the future they want.
I become motivated when I see how these women have come so far by changing their expectations and overriding their automatic thinking. I become motivated when I see them achieve goals that six months ago they thought were impossible. I become motivated when they make a tough decision that changes the course of their lives.
I am surprised when I hear what they young women have achieved in their lives and how they under-rate these achievements. I am surprised at how much these young women are prepared to share with me. I am surprised by their insights about themselves, their workplace and others.
I am disappointed when I learn that these young women are not genuinely being supported to manage the juggling act of life and work. I am disappointed when their “inner critic” is so loud that it is holding them back. I am disappointed when they sometimes are not able to see the value they have to offer.
Despite this range of emotions, working with young professional women is one of the most rewarding activities I undertake. Mentoring does take time, commitment and energy. However, the rewards outweigh any negatives (or costs). Mentees need to learn how to drive the relationship and see value from the engagement. On the other hand, Mentors need to realise that by equipping these young women with the necessary skills and mindsets to “step into” the future, we are creating a win-win situation that is ultimately good for business.
There is no magic formulae to having an effective mentor/mentee relationship. It is all about each person:
• being committed
• genuinely listening
• taking accountability
• being curious
• entering into the arrangement with an open mind
• getting uncomfortable
• embracing the uncertainty of the conversation
• monitoring the value/progress of the mentorship (This includes being prepared to stop the arrangement if it is not working for either of you).
Having a mentor from outside of the work environment creates both psychological safety and distance from internal politics. Being a mentor and investing in others is good for business. While I don’t have the numerical data to prove it, in my personal experience I have seen my mentees flourish, advance their careers and get more comfortable in their own skin.
The first step may be as simple as asking a potential mentor/mentee out for a cup of coffee. Give it a try, what have you got to lose.