Source: Financial Times
by Maura Herson,
Expert advice on how to build a network of support at work
The benefits of providing women with mentors are clear. A 2016 study by Frank Dobbin of Harvard University and Alexandra Kalev of Tel Aviv University found that when employers introduced such programmes, “managerial echelons [were] significantly more diverse”. And companies with diverse perspectives on their leadership teams have better results.
According to Iris Bohnet in her 2016 book What Works: Gender Equality by Design, mentorship for women leads to increases in salaries as well as promotions and higher career satisfaction. She also notes that such programmes are associated with an increase in diversity in management.
Through its clubs, its leadership
What should women who are finishing MBAs and preparing to start work consider when seeking a mentor?
My advice is to cultivate three types of mentors:
- Coaches to help develop skills and capabilities, and prepare you for advancement by providing constructive feedback
- Sounding boards to provide guidance on important choices about your career, graduate school
- Champions are perhaps the most important for career trajectory. These are people who will advocate for you for high-profile assignments, promotions or board positions
One person does not need to be all three, and mentors will probably change throughout your career. In the beginning, you may need someone to help you navigate the organisation. As you advance, you may need to cultivate relationships with people in different parts of the organisation and find mentors to champion your projects. And throughout, you will need a sounding board to help sort out career and life decisions.
Many mentoring relationships are informal. One accomplished senior finance executive told me that her first boss’s mentorship helped accelerate her success at an investment bank. She purposely sought his counsel on best practices to focus her efforts.
She took his advice, and her performance stood out, which resulted in her advancement. But neither of them defined his role as mentorship at that time. In fact, if she had asked him to be her mentor, he probably would have declined due to lack of time.
Mentorship can mean small amounts of time here and there to talk about work. Ask for advice on how to perform better, listen, and express gratitude for feedback.
When looking for mentors, seek out common ground. I have very little in common with one of the senior men in my
Finally, seek mentors at appropriate levels of seniority. It might sound appealing to have the chief executive as a mentor, but is he or she in touch with what is needed for professional advancement? Do they have time to serve as a champion?
There are plenty of good men and women willing to be mentors. Take the time and effort to build that network. And remember that the shift starts early from being a mentee to becoming a mentor. One of the greatest things women can do to support each other is to become mentors and bring up the women behind them. The bottom line is that mentorship helps everyone.