This piece was first published December 4, 2012
Mentoring is a personal interest area of mine. I was recently approached to mentor an emerging female leader and feel honoured to have been asked. I have formally and informally mentored a number of women during my long, long career and welcome the opportunity to assist another woman with her journey.
There are many more who have asked for smalls bits of advice only, some of which I have compiled below. If any of this helps just one more woman climb the ladder of her personal goals then I will have done my job.
- Set goals. And not just the end goal. Break it down into chunks of stages and focus. For example, when I was 16 I decided that I wanted to be a magazine editor. So I did some research and was advised that I should get a newspaper cadetship first, to train as a journalist. The stages from cadet journalist to magazine editor went like this:
a. Cadet journalist on a newspaper
b. Feature writer on a newspaper
c. Feature writer on a magazine
d. Deputy editor of a magazine
e. Magazine editor.
- Progression isn't necessarily linear. You may need to be working two runways to achieve your desired outcome. So in the example above, while I was working for a newspaper, I started writing freelance articles in my own time for a magazine. I didn't do it for the extra income, although that was a nice side benefit. I did it to make contacts and so that my byline would become known by the magazine editors that I was hoping would employ me someday.
- No two experiences are alike. Don't be put off by another person's bad experience. We all respond to challenges differently. Remain focused on the bigger picture and your outcome may be different. If I had listened to those around me on the newspaper I may never have made the jump to magazines. There were about a half dozen women from the generation ahead of me who had been there and hated it.
- Don't get involved in office gossip or politics. The easiest way to sidetrack your career is to get caught up in petty bitching. It will not only earn you a bad reputation as a negative influence in the office, but how can you be 100% focused on your goals when you are spending 20% of your time engaging in office politics?
- Say yes before you say no. I hear the hesitation in the voices of young women all the time when they are invited to step up to a new challenge. I have listened to emerging female leaders tell me why it will be tough for them to do the role. That sort of talk makes me squirm. I feel uncomfortable having to talk people into a role that they are more than qualified for. Instead, do what I have always done. Say "yes", and embrace the role. Do your research so you know exactly what's expected of you, write a plan and then go for it. You never know, if you never try.