Regularly speaking with a woman who understands gender issues and is experienced enough to give advice on how to handle situations can be a critical asset in understanding and climbing the corporate ladder. Female mentors build our confidence that we, too, can press through challenging circumstances. That is the importance of mentorship. Find women in your industry to partner with. Informally invite similarly positioned women in your office or industry to go out for a nonbusiness dinner. With your schedules, it may only happen twice a year, but it’s a great way to connect and build camaraderie.
However, don’t limit yourself to finding female-only mentors. It’s equally important to have a male mentor for several reasons. One, they may be the highest up in your organization or other organizations you may be considering. Two, advice from a male’s point of view can sometimes be the missing link to getting ahead.
Finding a mentor may appear daunting, but understand it is part of most business cultures. Following are a few sample tips from my book, The Unspoken Code, to help you find success as a mentee.
- Have an idea what you want to be mentored on. Make an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. Make a list of the top two or three issues and bring these to your mentor meeting to ensure you are prepared to get the most value from their limited time.
- Be punctual. Know that your mentor is busy and carving out time to help you.
- Ask good questions and be a good listener. Ask your mentor what they see in you that would be helpful to adjust for your business growth. Take notes you can refer to later. Ask for suggestions. Ask permission to email subsequent questions, not to exceed one or two per month.
Even if your mentor is not physically present, you can mentally call on them time and again to help you navigate tough situations by considering what they might do in your situation. Even without someone to guide you, you can still stretch yourself to find different perspectives on your situation. That’s what being a successful mentee is all about.
Marja Norris is the CEO and Founder of MarjaNorris.com, a company dedicated to helping women achieve their career goals with style and confidence. With a distinguished career in finance, Marja has successfully navigated the male-dominated business world. Working her way up from an entry-level assistant to a Senior Vice President, she draws on her three decades of experience in the corporate world to empower women to pursue their highest goals and blossom into everything they can be.
Marja is passionate about coaching women on projecting their best professional selves. With the publication of her latest book, The Unspoken Code: A Businesswoman’s No-Nonsense Guide to Making It in the Corporate World, Marja’s mission is to provide women with the tools to successfully navigate the workplace through heightened confidence, excellent communication skills, and dressing the part to achieve career success.