For ambitious women in business who have clear goals that they want to achieve, having someone to offer support and clarity on crucial career-defining decisions, is simply invaluable.
And, while business mentoring is not a new concept, it does appear to have gained more recognition from women in business in recent years, owing to the fact that tapping into the knowledge pools of those higher up the corporate ladder, is a sure way to business success.
But, as most women entrepreneurs and successful business women will tell you, this may not always be straight-forward if you set your sights high, and from applying strategy so you find the right mentor, to being absolutely clear on your set objectives, there are certain boxes that need to be ticked if you want to get the most out of mentoring.
Identifying the challenges
The challenges that women face in business have been well-documented, and while having a mentor to get past these challenges can help, it is crucial to understand what the barriers are in the first place. So, have a determined focus on understanding why you are not finding the success that you want. Without a good understanding of what is in your way, neither you or anyone else will be able to help you navigate your way past these challenges.
It is also worth pointing out that women have mentors for different stages of their careers, and for a variety of reasons, so while wanting to become a parent but not wanting to leave your career could be one issue that mentoring could support, other women might want help developing the skills and knowledge to access key roles or specialist posts, or to gain a promotion within their company.
How to find the right mentor
While men in business have a large pool of other successful men already hitting the boardroom and ready to mentor others into the same roles, women who are keen to get advice from other women might struggle – simply because women are so underrepresented in British boardrooms. However, instead of seeing this as an issue, see it as an advantage, because men might be able to offer you an insight into networks that were previously tricky to get into as a woman.
Also important is striking the balance between having a mentor with enough status to help you meet your set targets, and having one with which you can build a strong working relationship, never sacrifice one for the other.
You don’t get if you don’t ask
One challenge that many women in business face is having the confidence to ask for a mentor in the first place. When it comes to mentoring it is a simple case of ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’, so target certain individuals and ask the question. Going to them with a list of the objectives you want to achieve over a given period will help convince them that you are serious about making good use of their time and have already put a significant amount of your own time and effort in taking steps towards reaching targets.
The benefits of having a mentor to give you the inside track, so you can be certain that all your energy is being channelled into driving your business and career forward in the most significant way, are clear. Having the confidence to find access to the right mentor, who will help you on the right projects, to gain the level of success you need, can be the tricky bit.
Use this article to make immediate changes to the way you approach your work, identify the challenges you face, write them down, and then with the help of a mentor, design a strategy to help you make effective progress in all aspects of your career.
About the author: Karen Murphy, women in business expert at Muika Leadership. Mui Li and Karen Murphy are the women in business experts at Muika Leadership, and their latest training programme Leadership development for Women – Breaking through the Glass Ceiling has been designed using over 20 years of experience in working with women in some of the UK’s largest organisations. Muika Leadership is the UK’s Number 1 corporate training provider of Focussed Thinking workshops.