I was recently speaking to a friend of mine about the power of mentoring. Like many women in construction, she had concerns about how to create her own career path after she had built some experience, was unsure who to ask for guidance (as well as how to ask), and worried about how having a family might impact her career. I know how overwhelming it can feel to wonder how you can manage everything without becoming a stressed-out wreck. Interestingly, finding a mentor helped her address all of these concerns – here’s how.
Decide What You Want
The first step is deciding what you want or need. If you want to map out a career path, how are you going to develop the skills you need to get the role you want? Maybe you won’t be able to develop those skills in the role you have now, so a side hustle might help. Or perhaps you need more schooling or professional development activities.
However, for many of us, pinning this down is harder than it sounds. Often, we are in our own small capsule, dealing with each day as it comes, and it’s difficult to see the bigger picture. You may be aware that things aren’t how you would like them to be, but you might not know how to address that.
My friend found this the most difficult part, she told me. She knew she wanted to develop, but she wasn’t sure what would be the best move for her – a role that would challenge her but leave her time for her young family. It wasn’t until she found a mentor that she finally started to get a clearer sense of direction and make progress.
The Power of a Mentor
You need to find someone who has a bigger view of you. Mentoring is more visible and available than it used to be, but many of us don’t even realize that asking for help is an option. The key is finding someone you trust that you can share your concerns with who also has an objective – or bigger picture – view of you and your role.
For women, you might not want to discuss your family (or plans for a family) with another colleague. If that is the case, you might want to consider a business coach from outside your organization for some paid mentoring. If you would feel more comfortable with a female mentor, then look for a woman who is doing well and whom you admire and approach her. That said, don’t rule men out completely – there are plenty of working fathers who are also trying to juggle work and parenting responsibilities.
As for my friend, she struck up a conversation with one of the senior managers, outlining how she thought she could help with a certain project. That manager listened to her and gave her the chance to put her plans into action. After that went well, she got involved with other projects for the same manager and eventually found the confidence to ask him for guidance on her next steps, ruling out roles that would see her traveling or working long hours so she could still be there for her family.
Next time, I will give you some actionable tips – let’s call it some pre-mentoring – on how to get a little clearer on what you want before you approach your mentor. Until then, check out my posts on finding your confidence, getting the most from mentoring, and how a male mentor can benefit your career, or let me know what your thoughts are on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.