The recent win of the US Women’s Soccer team World Cup FIFA 2019 was exhilarating and confirming around the disparity between men and women and pay for performance. The women soccer players will get paid $250,000 vs. the men who get a resounding $1.3M in winnings, a seemly mere pittance for being number one in the nation of elite athletes. Regardless of a women’s ability to perform, their pay is different. It’s the hard facts supported by years of research. Changing the mindset of the world is like turning the Titanic. It’s slow, it takes skill for both men and women, and it begins with one woman reaching across the table, helping other women succeed. Mentorship is a hot topic for women who are looking for opportunity and parity at work. Here are a few things to consider when you fill a need for a mentor.
Navigating the need for mentorship
First thing I recommend for anyone who wants to scale the corporate ladder is to find a mentor. You’ll see this recommendation made by many, and there are things you will want to consider before you go searching for a mentor.
First things to consider: Influence not mentorship
If you don’t know the answer the question, how much influence do you have at work, then mentorship is not the first thing to work on, it’s the web of power and your likability score among the people around you and those at the top. If others do not genuinely like you, you will not influence with your current skills set or any of those skills you want to develop. You will get ignored and passed over. Do your homework, and find out who the tribal council members are for promotions and create your board of directors.
Raise your likeability score
What I have experienced over my career, men mentors find other men to mentor without men mentees asking for the formal mentor. It evolves out of relationships. Women mentees, on the other hand, actively look for mentors, looking for that internal women leader who pushes them along the way like a mother duck leading her ducklings to a new water hole. Many women miss the critical step of building relationships with many people inside of the company as possible, to build your brand! The path is a tortuous one and much less linear for women than men.
The hard fact is, the mentors with power find you. Be fearless in sharing great ideas with others, and work to be a great teammate. The two most valuable assets to promotability, your current success, and your likeability score by the tribal council of promoters. How others see you matters, even more, women than it does for men. Men, for the most part, can act badly and still get promoted. If a woman makes one mistake, it comes it a cost. The likability factor is the cushion for forgiveness when you make a mistake than if the masses hate you for your overt pushiness for getting what you want or what you think you deserve.
Find a mentor outside of your organization
If someone in your organization is mentoring you, you as a mentee will take on their narrative for success. The salsa dance of prescriptive next steps may lend some frustration from a mentees point of view. Women I work with want to write their own story, and mentorship within the organization have had some unintended outcomes, a stall, or a misperception of readiness.
My recommendation is to find a sponsor first, someone you have to built a relationship with the inside of your company who can be your eyes and ears behind the scenes. This inside informant will enable your sensors to go up early in the rounds of promotions before the postings go up. It’s also someone who can signal you when projects are in the infant stages of development.
Find your mentor outside of your company to reduce internal bias that exists or the internal leaks that may also create an inequitable opportunity that won’t necessarily play to your favor. If you want to claim your right for authorship for your career, heavily consider finding mentors outside of your company.