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Stephanie Puzak

How to Make the Most out of your Mentorship: PART 2, Mentoring Resources

Last month we shared some tips to make the most out of your mentorship. If you missed it, read it here. This month, we’ve compiled a list of resources to help with the journey- whether you’ve joined our Women Accelerator’s mentoring group OR just want to strengthen a mentoring relationship you already have in place, these links will help!

In many cases, a mentor’s advice and the mentor/mentee relationship has an impact that lasts long after the official mentorship ends. To preface the resources, we asked the Women Accelerators leadership team to share some of the best advice they’ve ever received.

“I try not to sweat over little things that are not that important. The other thing is I stop myself when I start becoming a perfectionist because no one is.”

“If you aren’t LOVING your current role, look around for the resources available to you within the organization – ask the question if you aren’t sure you can take courses. Take as many classes or accept as many opportunities as you can. Learn as much as you possibly can. Continue to work hard in your current role but exploring resources and learning may make you more qualified for your next role or ignite an old passion for your current position. ”

“Sometimes you will just not be a fit – for an organization’s culture or a specific role. That is OK. If you don’t get the job, walk away from a job or lose a job, it doesn’t mean you are a failure. Keep your head up and remember some of the best things in life are found after someone failed. Press on and find a spot that clicks – you’ll be much happier.”

“You’re mad because you suck and you don’t want to suck. You’re used to being the best. But you need to understand you’re going to suck for awhile and that’s OK. [in context of starting a new role and the learning curve that comes with it].”

“I used to get burned out very often. One of the best advice I have gotten is to “not lose sight in the current and always remind yourself of what you want” because work requests can be endless and some of them don’t necessarily lead to anywhere career wise. It is important to remember what excites you the most and follow that.”

Can you think back to advice you’ve received from a mentor that still impacts your life today?

Mentoring can be an incredible opportunity with SO much gained but it can also be SO much work especially if you don’t know where to start or what to ask. Check out the resources below to help guide you as you navigate through a mentorship as a mentor or mentee:

Mentee

  1. Demystifying Mentoring
  2. 40 Questions to Ask a Mentor
  3. 12 Powerful Questions to Ask a Mentor about Career Path
  4. What mentors with their Mentees knew
  5. Tips for Mentees
  6. TED: The Career Advice you probably didn’t get
  7. TED: Why we have too few women leaders

Mentor

  1. Top 10 tips for mentors
  2. What the best mentors do 
  3. How to mentor someone who doesn’t know what their goals should be 
  4. A quick exercise to explore different life paths
  5. Good Mentors help you work through strong emotions
  6. Demystifying Mentoring

Want to learn more about our annual mentoring program? Find out more here.

 

Finally, remember that we are in this together. Empower, Engage and Elevate!

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How to make the most out of your Mentorship

First things first, what is a mentor and what does mentorship mean?

You’ve probably heard the word mentor AT LEAST 25 times in your professional life – if not more, but it’s possible the reference could have been made in a variety of contexts. For all intents and purposes, how I will refer to it in this blog is as “an experienced and trusted advisor” – straight from Merriam-Webster.

It is important to understand that a mentor is someone that provides professional guidance and advise to help a mentee evaluate their professional landscape and grow in that realm –  even if they are a professional within a certain field, a mentor is not providing a mentee services to that end (ie. lawyer, doctor etc..). The mentorship is the period of time the mentor provides the mentee career and professional advice. The time period can vary from a very short period (a day to a few weeks or months) to years, depending on the relationship formed. The connection could be made through an informal or work connection or a more formal program, like our annual mentoring program (learn more here: https://womenaccelerators.org/mentoring-program/).

A mentorship can have a huge impact on your professional life IF you take advantage of what it can provide. In nearly all cases, a mentor is senior to a mentee and has a wealth of knowledge AND consequently, a strong network in a certain industry or realm. Most importantly, a mentorship is a relationship based on trust and respect. A mentor is someone, with experience, that you can discuss insights and issues. A space to discuss, without judgment, can help you sort through issues with a new perspective which can help you overcome those issues – reaching career heights you may not have thought possible before.

So you have a mentor, now what?

Take time for introspection

Take time to think about your ‘WHY’. The better you know yourself and your goals, the better you can navigate through the benefits of mentorship.

Think of this as a journey, if you don’t know the destination – how can you make it there?

To start, consider the following questions:

  1. Can you summarize your current professional experience? Make a list of highlights.
  2. What are your short and long term professional goals?
    1. If you don’t know – check out this HBR article for extra considerations: https://hbr.org/2018/07/how-to-mentor-someone-who-doesnt-know-what-their-career-goals-should-be
    2. Still struggling? Look at the career histories of people you admire or want to emulate, see if you can find anything that aligns with your passions and goals to use as a taking off point.
  3. Is there an aspect of business/professional life that particularly intrigues you or you want assistance navigating?
  4. Can you make a list of what you hope to achieve from a mentorship? (ie. are you looking for ideas to obtain skills, reach a new level, learn leadership tactics, increase your network etc…).
  5. Consider what your personality type is, are you an extrovert, introvert or analytical in nature?  And what kind of work environment or management style meshes best with your personality?
  6. Try taking personality tests such as Myers Briggs, Insights Discovery,or a DiSC personality assessment tool, etc. for additional insight.
  7. Think of anything else you may want to learn or know – professionally and personally.

Make a plan

As the mentee, unless your program dictates otherwise, you are responsible for driving the program.

  • Think of a few major topics you want to focus on throughout the mentorship and touch on them your first meeting.
  • Plan to bring your mentor up to speed as much as possible about your personality type and communications preferences.
  • Keep a list of things you are interested in discussion for quick reference.
  • Consider the timeline of the program and how many interactions or touchpoints are specified. If there is not a concrete schedule, draft one and have a discussion with your mentor to see if it works for them.
  • Pre-plan meetings! Have questions and topics ready before you meet with your mentor. Send them a note or email in advance with those topics to help facilitate conversation.
  • Write a summary of your discussions or key points, and plan for action items for the next meeting.

Take Action

Mentorships are WORK.

They take coordination and investment of both time and emotional capital from both parties. As the mentee, it is important to set the schedule in advance. Plan the meetings, follow up and facilitate the discussion. No one understands what you are seeking out of the mentorship better than you. Use the time wisely and act on the above guidance to make the most out of your mentorship!

We’re excited to see you grow and reach new heights – Be sure to stay tuned for more mentoring resources coming soon!

Finally, remember that we are in this together. Empower, Engage and Elevate!

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3 ways to spot a glass ceiling BEFORE you take the job

According to a recent joint study from McKinsey and Lean In, progress towards gender equality in the workplace has not just slowed down but stalled completely. “Only about 1 in 5 C-suite leaders is a woman, and only 1 in 25 is a woman of color.” Contradictory to the typical arguments, women are earning comparable education and experience, asking for promotions and also staying in the workforce at similar rates to men.

So why is there still such a large disparity?

According to the study, the management of talent pipelines might be to blame. From day one in an organization, cultural aspects will impact how minorities and women are seen. But also how they are interacted with (potential discrimination), grow (access to senior leaders and/or mentorship/sponsorship), and feel included (are you the “only” woman in the room?). Many companies talk the talk but do not walk the walk. In other words, we need leaders to show and consistently act on promises to create a more diverse workforce. Check out the article and link to the complete study here: https://mck.co/2ORF0Ob

For women and minorities seeking career growth, lets even say – at the speed of their peers, it is important to be cognizant of the organization’s culture and how it impacts our personal experiences and opportunities. While some organizations do not have a culture conducive to growing and nourishing female leadership and inclusion, there is a lot that DO. The trick is deciphering between the two. To do so, you need to pay close attention to the culture and the pipeline that shapes employee growth.

It is important to remember that a job interview is more than just an evaluation of your skills and credentials, it is a chance for YOU to interview the company.

 

 

Here are 3 tips to spot a glass ceiling before signing the offer letter to join ranks within an organization:

1. Take time for introspection

Clearly define your expectations and needs within an organization.

What is most important to you in order to thrive? Opportunity, networking potential, and sponsorship/mentorship are common needs for anyone in an organization but what does that look like for an inclusive workplace? Some organizations are lacking resources for minority and female employees so it is important to decide what you desire and need. Do you want pre-existing organizations set up or is it enough to have diverse backgrounds in the organization? Some may argue lean in circles are important for female inclusion. Is work flexibility important? Many organizations create more flexible work environments to help increase the retention of female high performers but that might not be a breaking point in your job search. How does the organization recognize and give feedback to their employees? For some, and in larger organizations, if feedback or ratings are not explicit, the role and progression can be difficult to navigate or question.

The bottom line to remember is that all women have different “ideal” work environments. Understanding what an ideal environment looks like to you will help you start the search, figure out what questions to ask and refine what companies to apply to.

2. Do your homework

    1. Dig deep into the organization’s public website. What information is available on the culture, mission, and vision? How large is the organization? Is anything listed about diversity and inclusion? If so, what does it tell you about the organization (statistics, business plan, action plan etc..)? Many organizations also have leadership profiles listed on their website, what does that tell you about the organization? If they do not have any diversity on the leadership team, that might be a red flag.
    2. Look at job review sites. Like any mass anonymous review site (see yelp), it’s important to take these with a grain of salt. However, reading multiple reviews may at least help you develop a list of potential topics to probe. An issue mentioned across multiple reviews may be indicative of a cultural trend within a company, especially if respondents are from multiple departments or locations. Some good large scale review sites to check out are: indeed, glassdoor, career bliss. Another site for women by women: fairygodboss.
    3. Reach out. This takes time. LinkedIn is a wonderful tool to find jobs and also to make connections. Before you even apply to a role, spend time finding a few current employees on LinkedIn. Reach out with a message and ask if they have a few minutes to speak to you about their job or organization- also known as an informational interview. While most people want to help, you likely won’t get a response to every message you send. Don’t get discouraged! If you aren’t getting any responses, adjust the message. It helps to be specific in your inquiry. Ask for what you want to learn about up front to shape the conversation but always remember this person may be a future co-worker. Tip: Find someone you have something in common with and you may get a better response rate. If you are able to speak with someone, ask them about their personal experiences. This genuine human connection will most likely provide more detailed insight than you can find online from any public site or anonymous review.

3. Ask the hard questions

*Certainly focus initially on questions about the role but don’t forget the important cultural and environmental questions! The formal interview is an opportunity for you to interview the employer too. Take note of how you are treated, how the office environment is set up, how employees interact and the body language between people.

  1. What is the culture like here?
  2. How is feedback provided or how is success rated?
  3. What are the daily expectations for a time in and out of office? Any flexibility of schedule? (be careful of when and who you ask this question but do include if important to you)
  4. Consider the environment of the office & ask to take a tour – are you comfortable with the surroundings/interactions?
  5. What is the leadership team like?
  6. How is inclusion encouraged within this organization?
  7. Do you have any mentorship programs? Or networking groups?
  8. Why is this position open?
  9. What makes you stay at this organization

Although most modern day companies speak to the value they put on diversity and inclusion, it isn’t always as transparent as we might hope. Learning to listen carefully and being brave enough to ask the tough questions can help female candidates identify gender inclusive employers.

Finally, remember that we are in this together. Empower, Engage and Elevate!

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Tackle self-doubt: How to overcome imposter syndrome

On October 24th, Women Accelerators was thrilled to welcome Melody Wilding for a webcast on “Imposter Syndrome.”

Melody Wilding is a performance coach and licensed social worker. She helps high-achievers master the mental and emotional aspects of striving for a successful career and a balanced life. Her clients are managers and leaders at places like Google, Facebook, and HP. She helps them gain more confidence, assertiveness, and influence. That allows them to reach goals like being promoted twice in one year and doubling their salary. Melody also teaches Human Behavior at Hunter College in NYC.

She helped us learn more about imposter syndrome, something we’ve all heard about and most have experienced, if not, on a daily basis. More importantly, Melody taught us a few ways to combat imposter syndrome and thrive!

 

So what is imposter syndrome?!

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong? That you are not good enough or smart enough to be filling a role you hold? Imposter syndrome can also be thought of as imposter phenomenon. The feeling that you are a fraud and that you do not deserve whatever accomplishment, experience, role etc… is what imposter phenomenon refers to – and it IS real!

History

Imposter syndrome was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. They were doing research and noticed a pattern in successful women which they termed “intellectual phoniness.”  They coined the term “imposter syndrome” which described the feelings they observed presenting most commonly in high achieving women. Further defined as, the crippling feeling that you do not feel you are worthy of the success you get. The phenomenon is marked by the inability to internalize your achievements although there is a lot of evidence to the contrary. Since the initial study, though still most prevalent in high achieving women, research has shown that everyone can experience the phenomenon.

While it was discovered by a pair of psychologists, imposter syndrome is not a clinical disorder. It does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders (DSM) but can be a contributing factor leading to anxiety and depression. Fundamentally imposter syndrome represents an “inaccurate self assessment.”  This may sound harmless but imposter syndrome can have detrimental effects on your daily life so it should not be ignored.

 

What does it look like in life?

Imposter syndrome can manifest itself in what may feel like anxiety or depression, which it is certainly related to, but in itself, imposter syndrome is more of a phenomenon or experience. It can be tied to a fairly predictable cycle (see image below).

Generally the feeling starts with a triggering event, this event could be a project or challenge generally related to work.  That then sets off a chain reaction of habitual thoughts and feelings.These thoughts and emotions influence behavior. The reaction usually falls within two camps: over preparation & procrastination – generally individuals fall into one category but could be a combination of both. Then at some point we experience something good, a “success” and get a feeling of relief. Along with the relief, we get positive feedback but we usually ignore or push back this feedback, contributing it to effort and discredit it or say it was luck — then the cycle goes around again. How do we stop it?

What are the effects of imposter syndrome?

Of course, this constant cycle leads to a lot of self doubt.

But it can lead to a lot of other detrimental effects too. Things to watch out for:

– Reluctance to ask for help at work

– Turning down/avoiding the search for new opportunities (because fear of failing)

– Perfectionism and procrastination tendencies/distractions

– Negative self talk

– Triggering anxiety and depression especially if there is a predisposition to the conditions

 

How do you manage imposter syndrome?

Up to 70% of people will experience imposter syndrome at some point in their career. We tend to glorify success and feel the doubt or feeling with go away the more successful or higher you become within an organization but it is actually the opposite. For a variety of reasons, women are much more vulnerable – 2/3 of women experience imposter syndrome!

With the realization that you are not alone, learning tools to manage imposter syndrome can help limit its effects on your life. We do not want those feelings to go away but we want to manage them so we can go forward. Address the thoughts when they first pop up in the cycle!

 

UNTWIST YOUR THINKING!

Negative self talk is a hallmark of imposter syndrome. Up to 85 percent of the thoughts we have every day are the same, this applies especially to the negative thoughts. Which means that the negative thoughts become automatic when faced with a stressful event – called cognitive distortions (unhelpful thinking patterns). Types of cognitive distortions are listed in the table below:

 

Catastrophisizing You expect disaster What if I end up broke and in the street
All of nothing thinking Things are black and white, good or bad. I have to be perfect or I’m a failure
Overgeneralization If something bad happens once then you expect it to always happen I’m always screwing up
Mental Filter You dwell on a  single negative detail You obsess over the one “meets expectations” on your performance review.
Emotional Reasoning You believe what you feel must automatically be true. I feel stupid, therefore I am.
Mind Reading Without their saying so, you know what people are feeling and thinking She didn’t respond to my email so I know she hates me.
Personalization You hold yourself accountable for things that are beyond your control The project failed. I didn’t spend enough time on it.

 

How do you fight cognitive distortions?

 

For the long term, work to change thought patterns.

  1. Record your thoughts! What is your inner dialogue saying to you? What are your greatest hits?
  2. Name the pattern (ie. mind reading) – psychology shows that once we label something – it actually helps us create emotional distance and lower the power the thought has over us.
  3. Generate 1-3 facts to dispute the thought.

*Mood kit is a phone application that can help you do this real time!

For the short term,

  1. Accept don’t deflect – be cognizant of the phrases that you may be using “it was nothing” “I just threw this together” start practicing welcoming in praise and not pushing it away- when you get a compliment, keep it at a tweet length response OR even better – just say “thanks.”
  2. Create a brag file! It is a natural way to start to eliminate the bias we feel against ourselves. This provides a visible solution to start to have pride in your own accomplishments. Take stock in each day of what went well and what you’re proud of– make note of any outcomes/successes.
    *Bonus: A brag file is good to have when you are prepping for an interview or updating your resume.
  3. Go on the offense. It is helpful to practice more/exposure technique. Ie. if you are afraid of getting feedback asking for it more will actually help you build the tolerance to it more. When we proactively solicit feedback we find it more helpful. Confidence is a skill and like anything else it takes practice and failures will occur.
  4. Seek a mentor or sponsor. Imposter syndrome thrives in a setting where we are lacking role models- seeking mentorship and sponsorship in your workplace or joining events & groups can help tremendously.  Join Melody at melodywilding.com/community for a pre-established growing community for accountability, inspiration and a place to find advice as you grow in your career.

Want to learn more about Melody or sign up to work with her? Check out her site here: https://melodywilding.com/

Finally, remember that we are in this together. Empower, Engage and Elevate!

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