Women’s Guide to Finding a Career Mentor
If there’s one bit of advice that we’d recommend to every candidate out there, it’s to find a mentor.
Finding a career mentor can provide a serious advantage to your professional development (we’ll go into why in just a moment), and it may be particularly helpful to women. Many women who rise through the business ranks lack the career support systems their male counterparts take for granted, and this lack of support translates to attitudes that resonate at every level of professional development.
Research indicates that women have lower expectations for how high they’ll climb in corporate settings, and expect to stay in entry-level jobs far more often than men. And while there are a lot of factors at play in these issues, the problem isn’t a lack of ambition—it’s largely due to the lack of career support that women receive.
This brings us back to mentorship.
Benefits of a Mentor
For anyone who’s worked with a professional mentor, the benefits are pretty clear.
Mentors guide us and help us hone our skills. They’re trusted confidants you can bounce ideas off of and use to develop your sense of self—including your personal strengths, weaknesses, and goals. They’re great sources of praise when we succeed, and great sources of constructive criticism when we fail.
In fact, evidence-based research on the role of mentoring in the workplace shows that a strong mentor/protégé relationship can influence positive career outcomes across the board: Skill development, job placement, access to opportunities, and even salary.
With all that in mind, let’s review how to find these mentors within—and outside of—your professional network.
Finding a Mentor
Despite the benefits of mentorship, women, in particular, have struggled to make these critical connections.
A 2017 survey by Egon Zehnder found that while more women than ever are aiming for the top of the corporate ladder, barely half (54 percent) have access to seniors leaders who could act as mentors and advocate on their behalf. And this advocacy is crucial, particularly for women aiming high:
“I’m always asking other female CEO, ‘How do they build relationships?’…it’s often because they’ve had a champion who can talk about them better than they can talk about themselves. Women are so modest; we tend to not really share and talk about how great we are…this is the champion’s role – our cheerleader – and for women, especially, this is something you really need in your back pocket.”
- Christine Power, President and CEO, Capital District Health Authority
Start With Who You Know
The place to start finding this advocacy is in your personal rolodex of contacts. You may find some easy options right off the bat:
- Friends in different professional industries you’re comfortable with;
- Past professors or teachers whom you respect;
- Previous employers you’re on good terms with.
Call or email your prime candidates and tell them what you’re looking for. Most of us love sharing our insights with others, and if you’re on good terms with your options, they should be more than happy to oblige.
Join Networking Groups
Get out there and join a professional networking group through LinkedIn, Facebook, or even sites like Meetup. Many networking sites have groups dedicated to helping professional women connect with one another, and it’s a great way to meet like-minded individuals who share your values.
If you’re a part of any other professional organizations, speak to the organizers and see if they offer matchmaking services for mentor/protégé relationships. Many organizations do, and it doesn’t get much easier than that. But remember, these networks will have their limitations, so be ready to take charge of the process and do your own searching.
Reach Out to Specific Individuals
Another good tactic is to look for nearby individuals you admire and reaching out to them on social media. Make a list of the traits you’d want in a mentor—and in yourself—and find other professionals who fit the bill. Of course, these don’t have to be local professionals, but mentorship relationships work best with regular face-to-face meetings.
But anything is better than nothing, and if you’ve been an ardent fan of an industry influencer, it doesn’t hurt to reach out and say hi.
Find Your Advocates
It might take a while to build a relationship with a mentor, but don’t give up. Like you would with a job search, keep making contact, keep building connections, and keep leveraging any resources you can find. And if you need some help getting started, feel free to reach out to Urgenci and we’ll be happy to give you a hand.