Did you know around 60% of professional women aged between 25-65 years of age, working full-time, part-time or self-employed and earning more than $65,000 per annum, agree that their ‘career influencers‘ or “mentors“, have had a positive impact on their professional working lives?
As for the 40% of professional women who do not have a professional support person, 61% wish they did have someone fulfilling that role.  Why? Are “career influencers“, “mentors” or “sponsors” a secret weapon for career success? Do you need a mentor? How can you go about getting a mentor? Is the mentor/mentee relationship only useful for “inexperienced people“? Would it be better understood as being a valuable tool throughout all career stages? What if you are self employed, would a “coach” be more valuable?
I was recently requested to mentor a female, final year law student attending Sydney University through the King & Wood Mallesons Women’s Mentoring Program, which aims to promote the career development of female law students. Of course I immediately agreed, due to my own personal belief systen surrounding the value of “career influencers” or “mentors” both for persons who are new or relatively new to a profession as well as “well established” professionals. I believe in helping each other, for the benefit of all! I recognise the role of mentor/mentee (coach) is a necessary part of professional development, encompassing many areas of professional life and business. In the first year at the Bar, a barrister is known as a “reader“, where the ‘reader’ required to have 1-2 “tutors” or “mentors“. Having mentors that were gracious, self interest not being the overriding factor, generous “mentors” was difficult for me to find! :-) I had to learn the hard way after only 1:7 “mentors/tutors” I engaged with proved to be a true “mentor” in the full sense of the word. I still have contact today and still ask for help. We have a very good relationship!
You may not have the opportunity to be part of a mentoring program or “formally mentored“, this doesn’t preclude you from getting your own mentor, whatever you are at in your career. 8 Tips to obtain and gain the most benefit from a mentor/coach/career influencer relationship:
- Often its getting over the first hurdle….you need to ask for help. This isn’t a weakness its a strength! Ask to have a coffee and it will only take a few minutes. It takes courage to ask for help and that is the first vital step. Most people will say yes and for those who say no, move on….. there are many others willing to assist.
- Seek a professional coach/mentor/career influencer who will provide you with the tools you need, even if you are self employed to build business or act as a sounding board or anything else you require.
- Have a clear direction or goal as to what you would like to get out of the mentor/mentee (coach) relationship. What do you need to learn from this person?
- Build trust over time, don’t divulge all of your “problems” immediately.
- I can attest to this, leave the mentor/mentee relationship, if its not a good “fit“. The relationship needs to be based upon mutual respect and equality, with both parties willing to give.
- Admit you are struggling with [X] and ask for any suggestions, ideas, etc. Vulnerability needs to be a factor in the relationship for the relationship to be of assistance.
- Don’t limit yourself to one mentor, the more the merrier and include in the “mix” diversity (age, culture, differing views, etc). Its vital to have a diversity to obtain a well rounded view!
- Ask a current or previous colleague or manager or a female role model in business or a professional coach or mentor.
I believe the role of the mentor is one which can effect a persons life greatly. A mentor has the ability to install confidence, realise potential and encourage development & be a confidential sounding board for the mentee so as to provide support, amongst other things, to achieve a work/life balance (hard to do when you are working as a lawyer in a firm which expects many hours of overtime work)! The mentor/mentee role is one where both parties can learn and develop. We all need to be willing to learn and grow, no matter how new or established we are. I believe that being a mentor provides an opportunity to give back or possibly an opportunity to empathise with ones who are just starting out or alternatively at any stage in their career who may need help and you want to assist. Willingness to assist needs to be applauded!
With the diverse and difficult challenges women face in business (and men also), I recommend to all women- ask for help, when necessary (who doesn’t need help at times?)!! Get yourself a mentor/mentee/career influencer and that may mean working along with a career professional, which I believe is invaluable. No one knows it all and no one has all the answers, we all need to ask for help, and ask as often as is necessary! Females need to work together, to offer each other support and assistance to achieve greater career success. Mentor/Mentee/Coach relationships don’t facilitate holding other woman back from career success, as mentoring/coaching assists other women succeed, its a noble and important pathway for career success! Be a positive role model to other women, not only in your own career successes. Make sure you have something to be proud of in your own career, which includes how you treat other women, by being supportive and helpful as a mentor/coach in their quest for career success! Be a champion!
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 Westpac Women of Influence Report