Since launching a women's mentorship community 20 months ago, I have had the life-changing opportunity to listen & learn from thousands of women. Some fascinating trends have emerged from those conversations, like which women most directly benefit from female mentorship.
When She Needs Exposure
I often think back to my own experiences with this one. I was a high school senior in the Midwest determined to pursue public relations.
Now, did I know anyone in PR?
Did I understand what the work entailed? Or what a PR career may look like?
Had I ever set foot in a PR firm?
Are you kidding me?!? My hometown's population was 954. I knew, or was related to, everyone in the community! Starting an effective PR campaign meant channeling the local grapevine.
We must better prepare young people for the careers they are about to sink thousands of dollars into pursuing.
In the form of mentorship, this comes as exposure---introducing young women to the jobs, women, and career paths early & often. This includes the majors she is interested in, and especially the ones she has no idea even exist.
When She Needs Skills
The most striking example of this type of mentorship comes from a young woman whom had just entered her first "real" job. We met for lunch, and she shared with me that she had a very helpful mentor.
When I asked what type of mentorship was offered, I expected the response to be a leadership or growth opportunity. Instead, she responded that the mentor took the time to teach her how to craft a professional email.
Higher education prepares us for a trade or industry. It doesn't do enough to prepare us to work---how to be an employee. There are so many skills like business communication, time or self-management, task & project organization that we enter our first job struggling to develop.
Finding a mentor who has mastered & can teach those skills saves years of heartache and painful lessons.
When She Needs Career Enrichment
This stage is by far the most common among the women I have encountered. It usually creeps up about 3-5 years into her career. The woman has now developed an unique skill set, professional mindset, and approach to doing work. She is armed with skills, tools, and a network.
Often she likes her job...and for the most part, the company around her. But yet, she can't imagine doing it every day for the rest of her career.
She is professionally unfulfilled.
These women may not know it, but they are in pursuit of a passion-fueled mission or purpose. They are searching for meaningful work.
To most effectively navigate this phase, the woman must inventory what she has already experienced. This includes the skills acquired, natural talents, innate interests, available tools---and apply as many as possible to what she's passionate about. It may take shape as a passion-fueled hobby, side project, or perhaps a professional pivot.
Female mentorship provides us examples of women who have already connected these dots and how they did it.
When She Needs Career Pathing
This phase became apparent thanks to some forward-thinking companies. The leaders approached me understanding that they needed to invest in their future female leaders. I've seen this phase emerge most for women in STEM, or other male-dominated industries or businesses.
Women who see few female leadership examples ahead of them don't see their own career advancing within that company. CNBC reported earlier this year that "80% of women would leave a company for one that offered better gender equality."
Developing female mentorship programs within those organizations & industries is crucial to building diverse future leadership.
The best way to create these programs is to have a real discussion about what the future of the company looks like, what leadership skills will be needed to get there, and inventory the current available talent. Determine what you must hire or develop now to be the future state organization.
Most of us don't know what we "want to be when we grow up" or how to get there. We discover it one step at a time...or with a little help from generous mentorship.