The number one piece of advice that successful women give is to find a mentor or coach. A woman once told me she was looking for surrogate parents in all of her jobs while others said that they were looking for someone who could “show me myself” because their mothers only showed them whom she wanted them to be. The power of a role model is enormous for women. My clients whose mothers were not role models are struck at the mere question: “Who were your role models?” It doesn’t occur to us that people have an easier time doing something when they have been able to watch and learn from their mentors.
“You can’t be what you can’t see”. A successful mentor-mentee relationship requires women on both sides able to see elements of themselves in the other. This also includes formal and informal coaching, which provides people with similar support and guidance as mentorships do. In some ways, we are looking for a maternal figure (sometimes literally) and it’s also not unusual to conjure up images of women with major influence over our lives. Role models come in all shapes and sizes. Consider the following questions when thinking about choosing a mentor or coach:
What attributes does she have that are admirable?
What do you wish your mother could have told or showed you about your career?
What aspects of this mentors career do you wish to emulate?
If you’re having a hard time coming up with answers to these questions, you can find some great tips from Harvard Business Review for finding a role model.
Women are told we can have it all but we can limit ourselves if we don’t have a role model or a vision of what we want to be. The slow-to-evolve view of women in the workplace means that sometimes we still don’t have the opportunities and sometimes we don’t recognize them or take them. A mentor helps us become aware of more opportunities, not just in the company or in the job market but also our own strengths and capabilities from within. For this month, I challenge you to find a mentor. If you are in a position to help other women succeed, become a coach! Make your workplace a place where women at all levels have the necessary tools they need to succeed.