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:

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:
    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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Mentoring Meeting Recap

It has been a wonderful year for de la Femme. We want to thank our speakers who generously shared their time, networks and insights with us.

Our meeting in July was a recap of our six-month inaugural mentoring program that started last December. We had an informal discussion between the mentors and mentees, talking about their experiences and what they’ve learned from their team members.   We also had new attendees who came to learn more about our mentoring program.Attendees Mentoring

Everyone felt they had gotten a lot from the mentor program. One mentee talked about how her mentor has helped her to transition her career. Another mentee said that she learned how to better navigate the politics within her company.   A mentor said that it was a wonderful experience for her to help guide the mentees. Some of the mentors commented that they would have benefited if they had mentors earlier in their own careers.

How to find a mentor?

There was a lot of discussion on how to find mentors and strategies to ask someone to be your mentor. Instead of asking for a formal mentorship right off the bat, the group suggested to let it happen naturally by interacting informally first.Robin and Melissa

When is the right time to start a family?

A question was raised on when is the right time to start a family without penalizing one’s career. I was surprised at the degree to which young women today still have to worry about this type of issue. Unfortunately, we still see this happen quite frequently that women who choose to stay at home and take care of their families for a significant amount of time, end up coming back to much more limited career options. I believe that this varies in different industries; some are definitely more accommodating than others. In some EU countries, new mothers get a year off and the employer retains their positions during their leave. It remains to be seen how the recent Netflix publicity over their new one year of paid maternity and paternity leave and similar policies will affect the career trajectory of women.

Thank you for the group’s feedback in helping us to improve on our next mentoring program.

Looking to the Future

Some people ask me why we need yet another woman’s group when there are so many already. My answer is that there are so many different types of women, in different stages of their career, with different interests. We need everyone’s help to bridge the gender gap, and to provide more support and opportunities for networking. I am happy to report that our members have found jobs and made friends and gotten support through de la Femme.

I am looking forward to our salary negotiation meeting in September, as well as Creating and Branding your LinkedIn profile, and Women and STEM/STEAM, and many others this fall and winter.   Please spread the word about de la Femme and let us know if there are other topics that are of interest to you.

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S[o]WOT next?

S[o]WOT next?

Outstanding Mentor? Check! SMART goals? Check! Now what? Now that you have defined your end goal and both measurable and attainable benchmarks to achieve, you should recognize the talents and skills you possess that will enable you to reach your goal.  Whether you’re an academic post-doc looking to transition to industry, seeking a promotion within your company, or embarking on your first entrepreneurial venture, acknowledging your talents and skills, and the opportunities for professional and personal growth and development will be critical for your success.

How do you obtain this knowledge and initiate this self-analysis? Self-examination and self-awareness are considerable feats, so one tool that de la Femme Mentor Robin Hamilton, founder and principal of Boston Business Operations Group, presented is the SWOT Analysis.


SWOT Analysis

The SWOT Analysis is a tool that businesses use to create strategy, but it can also be used to as a personal tool to help you recognize personal and professional strengths, as well as opportunities for growth and development.  Personal SWOT analysis involves identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.  Mind Tools provides a useful worksheet and examples of questions you can ask yourself to help you get started.  Since this is a personal analysis, try to complete this independently first then seek outside perspectives from your mentor or other members of your community, such as fellow mentees in your mentoring circle.

Identifying your Strengths

Be honest and don’t let your modesty inhibit you.  Celebrate all you’ve achieved, recognize your unique contributions, and find out what differentiates you from your peers.  Look to the community that supports you for further objective perspectives.

Eliminating the negative effect of weaknesses on your work and development

Again, be honest and think of areas for improvement.  What improvements can be made to build confidence? What negative habits can you eliminate to improve your work situation? Again, look to the community that supports you because they could provide incisive insights into potential weaknesses that can be addressed and eliminated.

Opportunities for growth, learning, or advancement

Look within your current company or at your target industry for opportunities.  What new skills or knowledge can you acquire to help you advance? Are there opportunities for you to fill gaps or provide solutions to current needs in your company or target industry? How can you tailor and use your strengths and skills to create opportunities? What kinds of opportunities will become available when you eliminate one of your weaknesses? Perhaps your current network can provide critical resources to aid your development or advancement towards your goal.

Threats as obstacles to overcome

What stands between you and your goal? Do you have competition for a promotion or position at work? Are your weaknesses posing a threat to your growth or advancement? Is your knowledge base becoming outdated? Thinking creatively and perhaps collaboratively can help you find solutions that propel you up and over these obstacles.


Discuss your SWOT Analysis with your Mentor

Again, your mentor has the “relevance” and “gap” to help you succeed (see first blog post) and thrive, so have the candid discussion about the results of your SWOT analysis as a way to optimize your strategies for achieving your SMART goals.  He or she will undoubtedly proffer invaluable insights, such as strengths, traits, or unique aptitudes you didn’t know you possessed that are desirable and necessary for the goal you are trying to achieve.  Be honest throughout this process; all information, even weaknesses and threats, gathered from this analysis will help you realize your potential, areas for growth and learning, and desirable opportunities that can be seized!


Meet our Entrepreneurial Mentors this Thursday!


Come join de la Femme at the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) this Thursday, February 26. Manijeh Goldberg, one of our mentors, will be presenting at the Founding a Startup as a Woman: Overcoming Challenges Panel discussion.  Here’s the link for more information:

We will also have a Resource Table staffed by our Executive Team member Susu Wong and Mentor Robin Hamilton. We hope that you can join us!



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Building a Successful Mentor-Mentee Relationship

de la Femme ended 2014 with the successful launch of our new mentoring program. We have an excellent panel of experienced professionals who are eager to mentor and enthusiastic mentees, excited to learn and further their professional development. Now that each mentee has a mentor, we’ll be publishing a series of blogs about how to build and foster a successful mentor-mentee relationship. We’ll start the series by discussing how one can approach their mentor and establish a solid foundation for a successful mentor-mentee relationship.

Groundwork: The Mentoring Relationship Equation

Mentoring Relationship Equation

In Get the Mentoring Equation Right by Whitney Johnson of HBR, she presented Bob Moesta’s “Mentoring Relationship Equation.” This equation illustrates several key points. The motivation, or “Drive,” of the mentee to attain her goals must be great. The mentor has the experience or knowledge the mentee lacks (“Gap”) and wants to provide the “Effort” (work necessary to provide the mentee with the “Relevance,” which is the necessary experience and knowledge), but the mentee has to be self-motivated to attain her goals and aware of the work necessary to achieve her goals (“Distance”). As a mentor, a large “Gap” relative to your mentee, “Relevance” to her skillset, and the “Effort” to invest in your mentee and her development are critical to a positive mentoring experience.

Get the ball rolling SMARTly

One great way to start building productive communication and collaborative efforts is for the mentee and mentor to establish SMART goals (Lois J. Zachary and Lory A. Fischler). SMART goals are “Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timely” and aim to accomplish key objectives (quoted here):
• Accelerate and enhance the professional or personal development of the mentee
• Represent a challenge or stretch for the mentee
• Seek a quantitative or qualitative improvement that can be demonstrated or measured
• Focus on the future development of the mentee

As a mentee, if you don’t have clear, well-defined goals in mind, or just don’t know where to start, Zachary and Fischler suggest this: “Begin with the end in mind.” If you have “starter goals,” which are defined as goals that are “not fully developed” of “not mutually agreed upon” by both the mentor and mentee, the mentee and mentor can prioritize goal setting and work together to refine and clarify the starter goals to become SMART goals. If well defined, SMART goals have been communicated and mutually established, fantastic! Continue the momentum and keep working towards attainment of your SMART goals!

We took great care to create suitable mentor-mentee pairs and are excited to learn about the successes of your relationship! January is National Mentoring Month, so be sure to thank your Mentor for all of their support and guidance!

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