This is the second ‘idea’ in our Eight game-changing ideas for women at work series, published over the next two weeks. Yesterday Marina Go wrote about what might happen if companies where to offer flexible ‘transition’ periods for mums returning to work
The current and next crop of school leavers will have it tough, with budget cuts set to increase university fees, along with a stalling job market and an oversupply of recently qualified workers across numerous industries.
The challenges ahead for these career starters come on top of an already high 20% jobless rate for young people, as well a rise in the number of students and graduates pursuing unpaid internships in order to get the experience and skills they believe they need.
Both young men and women are being and will continue to be affected. But, as we know, it’s women who will ultimately earn less than their male counterparts throughout their careers.
While there are a number of options to help, it seems young career starters – both male and female – would benefit from a little guidance from somebody who’s a little older and, hopefully, wiser than them.
Enter the Compulsory Mentoring Service scheme: the second in our ‘Eight Game-changing ideas for women at work’ series and one we believe could ultimately assist women and men in planning their job-seeking strategies; considering the full potential and trajectory of their careers; navigating difficult office environments and bad bosses; becoming effective and empathetic manages themselves; and in pursuing work that satisfies them.
Perhaps making it ‘compulsory’ would be stretching it too far – but one would think most career starters would be more than open to being offered the help. The word ‘compulsory’ is given to imply the widespread and mainstreaming use of such a service – pushing the option to as many young people as possible, rather than those at the top of their class or merely to those who have the nous and/or the confidence to ask for a mentor at that stage.
On Women’s Agenda, we’ve found plenty of women are interested in working with a mentor to offer them the career guidance they need. However, such a perceived need usually appears to emerge when they’re first given management responsibilities or during the middle stages of their career. It often comes in reaction to a career challenge, or sadly. some kind of discrimination experienced at work, rather than a proactive measure for pursuing a great career form the get-go.
For many women, the difficulties that will come up in navigating a career often only emerge during the childbearing years — whether they’re having children or not — a point where a certain level of confidence regarding what is and is not possible is already well and truly entrenched.
Meanwhile, many women often cite lost opportunities during their twenties. It’s a decade our mothers may not have had – given the average age women are having children has risen in recent decades – yet we’re not always making the most of it.
As Macquarie University’s Professor Leigh Wood recently shared with Women’s Agenda, giving students access to mentors helps them consider all their career option before they enter the workforce. For women particularly, she believes having access to such mentors can help them prepare to overcome any challenges associated with breaking the glass ceiling.
Wood has seen the examples first hand, recounting a mentoring program amongst students at Macquarie that has given mentees countless skill for getting a career headstart, including tips on resume writing, applying for jobs, mock interview practice and networking skills.
On the other side of the relationship, mentors would also benefit from such a wide-ranging program for career starters.
Mentoring graduates is an opportunity to get in touch with and learn from a whole new generation of employees. These young people are tomorrow’s leaders, and bring different attitudes and thinking to solving the big issues of our time. And, from a big picture point of view, all of us would benefit from young people being offered guidance and advice in pursuing their careers – well before their work/life satisfaction and ambition is struck down due to any negative experiences in the workplace.
Recently, entrepreneur Jo Burston described mentoring to me as “one of the greatest exchanges of information on the planet”.
It would be great to offer such information at the beginning of the career journey, rather than as a reactionary measure somewhere further down the line.
Did you have a mentor when you started your career? Or do you believe a mentor would have helped?