Women know the importance and the value of having a mentor. A recent study by LinkedIn revealed that 82 percent of women in the United States feel that it is important to have a mentor. Despite the majority of women who think it is important, shockingly, nearly one out of every five professional women in the United States has never had a mentor!
So why aren’t women getting mentored more? Many women are afraid to ask, it seems. Chalk it up to having a male boss and not feeling a connection to him, or feeling intimidated by some successful women we encounter. Professional women don’t know who to ask: Just over 50 percent of those without a mentor say it’s because they’ve never found someone appropriate to ask.
[See The 50 Best Careers of 2011.]
Others may not realize the benefits of having a mentor. But learning from someone who has worked in your industry for much longer than you have can help you avoid the same mistakes, and a mentor may be able to help you find a faster path to success. If you’re truly on a mission to be better at your job, you’ll find that checking in with someone who will give you honest, valuable advice will help you improve quickly.
Who is Getting Mentored?
LinkedIn’s studies showed that whether a woman is mentored or not may depend on her age.
More than half of the Gen Y women (18 to 29 years old) are being or have been mentored by women. For Gen X females (30 to 44 years old), 43 percent are being or have been mentored by women. The smallest percentage of women being mentored are Boomers: Only 34 percent of women aged 45 to 66 are being or have been mentored by women.
Why We Need Mentoring
Working with a mentor on professional development can help put you on the right track for your long-term career growth:
• It provides you with guidance on your career path. If you’re not sure how to get from where you are to where you want to go, a mentor may be able to light the way.
• You may be able to get recommendations for new roles, additional projects or even a new job at another company from a mentor who has faith in your abilities.
• Mentoring is great for career advancement. A mentor can help identify areas you could work on as well as recommend skills you could add to your arsenal.
• Collaborating with a mentor is a great way to add new skills and experiences to your resume.
• Chatting about your profession regularly with a mentor can help you keep current on industry news and trends.
Where to Find a Mentor
With so few women working with mentors, it’s clear they don’t know where to look. Any professional event is an opportunity to meet a potential mentor. Keep your eyes open at networking events, trade shows, and conferences. If you meet someone who seems to know what she’s doing, exchange information and build the relationship. Once you know each other better, you can ask if she would consider mentoring you.
Look for people in your industry, or even people within your own company. You’ll want someone at the senior management level who has worked in your industry for a while, and who would be a good person to bounce ideas off of and learn from.
If you’re not finding any potential candidates locally, branch out to your online network. If you interact with industry folks through social media or email, see if any of your contacts might make a good mentor.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.