Being a Mentor is About Seeing Yourself as a Mentor

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Please note: While the opinions below are my own, I was compensated by Johnson & Johnson for this post.

In the United States more than 50% of the work force is women. Yet, less than 15% hold corporate board seats within global companies. Organizations that embrace women on their boards enjoy a number of potential advantages, including financial performance and problem-solving capabilities. However, the numbers remain dismally low.

It is clear that we are missing something vital — an unsung element that could possibly help more women reach their potential.

One such element that may be vastly underutilized is mentoring.

Without mentors, meeting our potential can elude us. We might fail to build the mastery and confidence we need, or envision our own potential. While there is ample research to back up the merits of mentoring, we need to pause and reflect on the topic.

Why are so many women seeking mentors — yet cannot find them?

It is time to pause and openly discuss this question.

One great example of elevating the mentorship conversation is Johnson & Johnson.

At Johnson & Johnson, they have a steadfast commitment to the role of mentoring in women’s careers — as they are committed to igniting the power of women to create a healthier tomorrow.  More mentors are stepping forward. Two ideas are central to this initiative. Firstly, mentoring is a valid tool to increase the number of women in management (at Johnson & Johnson this is 43% in the U.S.). Secondly, reaching out to young women in their formative years is critical. Through Johnson & Johnson’s mentorship partnership with Girls Inc., women executives are being paired with high school students who would like to make an impact within their own communities.

Why are mentors so scarce? While we often offer support to initiatives that seem worthy, our directed energy may not fully match our commitment. Not because we do not believe in what we are supporting, but because we are unsure how to move forward.

Check out their video, “Igniting the Power of Women & Girls Through Mentorship,” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NKs-IMDDL0.

Why are mentors so scarce? While we often offer support to initiatives that seem worthy, our directed energy may not fully match our commitment. Not because we do not believe in what we are supporting, but because we are unsure how to move forward.

Becoming a mentor can feel like a daunting task. However, it doesn’t need to be. We can all do more.

The bottom line is this: We hesitate to step forward and mentor women. Yet, mentoring relationships can alter someone’s life and career — serving as a loud, positive internal voice in an often noisy environment.

Strong, empowered women are raised by many.

Addressing the reasons behind our hesitation is vital. Research has pointed to the reluctance concerning time commitments and concerns about appropriate expertise. We need to collectively move past these thresholds. Move beyond our fear of a misstep, when we can do so much that is right.

Let’s pose a collective challenge.

Mentor another woman — a young girl, a student. A less established co-worker. Another woman’s daughter. Your niece. Your neighbor.

Someone who might truly benefit from your knowledge and experience.

A few things to consider:

  • You may not see yourself as a mentor — but you do have that capability. Every time a contributor reaches out to you, it is a signal. A signal that you may be viewed as a mentor. Explore the following questions: How can I help or support this individual today? Is there something I have learned in my journey that may help another woman evolve positively? To help them grow?
  • Mentoring is about small steps. We tend to think of mentoring as an overwhelming, grand commitment. However, it takes a community of people to build a strong career. Small moments can matter. They sum to a notably stronger foundation on which to build a career.
  • Be honest about your own journey. Although it may not feel entirely comfortable, reflect on the moments where you needed guidance and received it (or did not). Use these moments as a guide to help others.
  • Consider sponsorship as well. If you remain hesitant to make the mentorship commitment, consider sponsorship as an alternative. Shine the spotlight on another’s work. Make an introduction. Encourage productive collaboration. Help build stronger networks of expertise.

We do not need justification to nurture another’s talent or recognize a job well done.

Mentoring is about seeing ourselves in a supportive role.

It is about being generous.

Sharing what you know.

Supporting the same inflection points, where you may have needed a boost.

It is about building someone up.

Helping someone see their own potential.

Mentoring is the right dynamic.

You are perfect for the role.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

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