Updated: Mar 19, 2021
According to a 2020 U.S. Labor report, women comprise 50.4% of the U.S. workforce. Only 6% of Fortune 500 companies are led by female CEOs. A study by Development Dimensions International (DDI) shows that 80% of women in senior roles have served as formal mentors and overall, only 63% of women have ever had a mentor.
These numbers are a lot to unpack. What is glaringly obvious is the imperative that women must advocate for themselves. Having a strong mentor is critical to empowering women in the workplace and their upward career trajectories. Unfortunately, most do not know what qualities and characteristics to look for in a mentor.
"Having a strong mentor is critical to empowering women in the workplace and their upward career trajectories. Unfortunately, most do not know what qualities and characteristics to look for in a mentor."
The following is a framework of what to look for in a mentor.
CLARIFY YOUR IDEAL MENTOR
This will vary based on your industry and career objectives. Do not be afraid to ask for input from those who have already successfully attained or are attaining your ideal. Your mentor needs to be able to help you define your dream and develop a path for you to get there.
SET YOUR EXPECTATIONS EARLY
Clearly defined goals by both parties from the outset increase your chances of a fruitful mentor/mentee relationship. A surgeon would not perform surgery without a plan and you should not expect to achieve positive career results without one either.
A strong mentor should be proficient in the skills and/or career that you are seeking. Tap into that know-how.
Your mentor must be able to provide honest feedback, opinions, and advice. Likewise, be prepared to deal with such honesty. Without such honesty, this relationship will not get you where you want to go.
Your career is very important to you. If it were not, you would not bother to look for a mentor. Trust needs to work both ways. You and your mentor are a team whose very foundation is built upon reciprocity.
YOUR MENTOR DOES NOT HAVE TO BE A WOMAN
Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. If you work in a traditionally male-dominated industry, you may not find a vast selection of women to choose as a mentor. Do not let this deter you; your mentor does not need to be a carbon copy of you. Knowledge comes from many springs.
IT'S OKAY TO HAVE MORE THAN ONE MENTOR
The mentor/mentee relationship is not one size fits all. It is perfectly acceptable to garner a meaningful exchange from more than one person. As you and your career change and grow, so too will your interactions with your mentor. Keep an open mind to gaining insight from different types of people.