One of the fastest ways to achieve greater success in your career is to have the proper guidance and mentorship to help you know what to do and what mistakes to avoid.
I started my career as a software engineer and spent all of my corporate career working for high tech companies, where often, I found myself being the only woman in the room. Not only did I not have a mentor, I didn’t have peers who were like me.
Then I learned about and joined Women in Technology (WIT) and discovered my tribe. It was wonderful meeting, talking to, and spending time with so many women in Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), who shared similar experiences.
I wanted to get more involved with WIT and was looking for an opportunity to give back when a WIT newsletter arrived, asking for volunteers to participate in their Mentor/Protégé Program.
A mentor provides concrete information and advice, sharing their experiences or knowledge of an organization and/or specific skill in order to assist their mentee.
The Work I Did with My First Mentee
My first experience was mentoring a young woman who worked at a Microsoft (MS) retail store but wanted to advance and transfer to work for Microsoft Corporate. I admired her ambitions and asked her if she had a plan. She did not, so we started working on one together.
We started with questions to clarify her goal, intentions, and purpose:
- Why did she want to make this change?
- How that would benefit her?
- What type of work did she want?
Then we identified her top three skills that would be best selling points.
- Sales awards
- Customer service experience
- Knowledge of Microsoft consumer products
Next, we brainstormed who did she know at the local MS office? Had she talked MS corporate HR and enlisted their support?
She objected to this aspect of the plan because she had discovered she had to wait three months before she was allowed to apply to any job opening at the corporate office.
This is where experience makes a difference!
I explained that introducing herself and asking for advice and guidance is an excellent way to start developing key relationships in the right places and is not the same as applying for the job. I advised her to ask HR to look at her resume to provide feedback on it. What additional skills should be working on? What would make her a more qualified candidate for when she was authorized to start applying for jobs? Who are the sales managers, and can she be introduced to them, so she can learn about their needs and what the most important characteristics and skills they look for in an employee?
Additionally, I recommended she finds out if HR is planning any company events, social or charitable events where she can volunteer? Volunteering, after all, is not the same as working for a company but does provide the same access to contacts, skills, and knowledge. Are there clubs bowling, chess, Toastmasters? In other words, my guidance was for her to discover all the ways she could network with corporate employees. People like to do business with and hire people they like and know.
I further explained this will demonstrate she’s a team player, is driven, and possess a genuine desire to work at corporate.
At the end of the mentoring session, she was energized and excited. She now had a plan. For me, seeing the smile on her face and her excitement was such a terrific experience.
The Benefits of Being a Mentors
When I volunteered, I knew it would be a great way for me to give back. What I didn’t know, is how much I would enjoy it and all the wonderful women I would meet. They were all smart, hard working and fun. We exchanged emails and stayed in touch after the mentoring sessions. They would share their progress and I would encourage them, ask questions and send then articles.
Something else happened, it made me realize the value of all my experiences, everything I have lived and been through. Mentoring has been one of my most rewarding experiences.
If you don’t think you have the time to mentor someone, make the time. It is a Win-Win-Win. A win for the mentee, the mentor, and the organization. Seeing the proteges grow and succeed was my best experience.
Two years later, this would lead to me present at Fannie Mae, Win! Win! Win! …. Why When Done Right, Mentoring Benefits Everyone. Fannie Mae was one of the sponsor for the WIT Mentoring program.
Have you been part of a mentorship program or relationship? How did it help you achieve new goals and next level firsts? Have you served as a mentor? Is it something you are interested in doing? Join us in the #365FirstsChallenge Facebook Group and let’s talk about it.