Seeking guidance from other professionals who have succeeded in balancing a career with family life can be the best way to understand the strategies they used to succeed.
Ultimately these mentoring relationships, whether formally arranged by your employer or informally developed by you, can help more women reach senior roles, improving gender diversity at management level.
Cathy McGlynn, Financial Controller at Robert Walters, talks about some of the key benefits of seeking a mentor, and the best way to go about doing so.
Finding a mentor or sponsor in a senior role can help you in a number of ways;
- Providing support and advice you when applying for promotions
- Offer advice on how to progress in your career
- Put you forward for new projects or challenges
- Help you gain an awareness of the business at a senior level
While women in senior roles may be able to offer you specific advice on how to approach challenges unique to professional women, male senior managers can also offer much of the same support.
“Finding a mentor you feel comfortable going to for support and advice is key," said McGlynn. "Don’t limit yourself to building relationships solely with sponsors who work in the same field as yourself.”
A mentor does not necessarily have to be a member of the same organisation as you. Networking events provide an excellent opportunity to make new contacts that can connect you with a mentor.
Dedicated organisations also exist to help professionals connect with career mentors. If you are unable to find a suitable mentor from your own network of contacts, joining these organisations can connect you with a wider pool of potential mentors.
"Senior staff from a range of backgrounds will have experience of a different career path that could still yield important lessons. They are also likely to have a broad contact network; even if they do not seem in a position to help you directly they can open doors to those who can.”
“Don’t feel discouraged if the feedback from your mentor is more negative than positive. As long as it is constructive, negative feedback is vital to helping you improve your approach and develop your career. Being challenged can help you to instigate change and challenge the status quo.”
There is no need to limit yourself to a single mentor either. Developing these kinds of relationships with colleagues at different stages of their careers will ensure that you have the broadest range of advice and support to draw on.
If your first contact is unable to help you with a particular challenge, ask them if they can introduce you to one of their contacts who might be better placed to offer advice.
Cathy McGlynn is Financial Director at Robert Walters and is based in our head office in London.
T: +44 (0)20 7379 3333