Getting started in your career is never easy. You will always be faced with rejections, setbacks, and of course the patriarchal structures that are often perpetuated in the workplace. However, despite these numerous obstacles, the continuing increase of women leading in the workforce has given many of us the confidence to reach out to the strong women in our lives to
get advice on how to achieve our goals. These ongoing experiences have encouraged many female leaders to establish themselves as mentors in order to help elevate the success of other women, colleagues, and companies all while closing the gender gap in leadership.
Having a female mentor, or “femtor” as many are calling them today, can be extremely valuable to your personal and professional growth as they can help to promote your aspirations, provide you with advice, introduce you to various networks, and act as a shoulder to lean on when things don’t go as you hoped. Most female professionals have gone through it all so they are well equipped to make sure you are prepared for opportunities when they come!
This past month, I had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Andrea Siow, a Brand Manager at Andros Barker’s Australia, who has established herself as a mentor for young women who are having trouble figuring out what career path they want to pursue the same way she did. Andrea, who also had mentors in university, said, “Just hearing stories from women who were a few steps ahead of me gave me so much insight that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, so I found having those mentors to be really helpful in navigating each stage of my elite career.” For Siow, having so many powerful and supportive female mentors in her life encouraged her to become a mentor for other young women as a way of “giving back to the larger community of women who have so generously invested into [her]” and also to “share [her] experiences with anyone if it helps.”
Andrea explained that her main goal as a mentor is more than simply helping her mentees land their first job or internship, but more so to “help them build their self-awareness around what their strengths and weaknesses are so that they can make more informed decisions about their career and what they want to do in the future.” And beyond that, she hopes to help her mentees build their own support network of other women “because women are still a minority in the workplace, not to mention women of color, so it’s important for us to uplift each other and to share experiences and struggles so careers beyond college don’t seem so foreign or intimidating.” Through her help as a mentor, Andrea has been able to see her mentees “become more and more open to other opportunities and possibilities” as they realize that there isn’t just one linear path to their dream job.
Having a female mentor is one step we can all take to elevate our professional careers as well as form meaningful connections with women who care. Whether it is through sharing their story or giving advice, there will always be something new for you to learn from. It could be intimidating to reach out to women you have never talked to before but don’t worry! It’s more than likely that female professionals are humble enough to offer their advice and direction! With
that being said, here are a few tips to keep in mind when reaching out to a potential femtor in your own profession:
1. Know your goals, both short and long-term.
It’s important to have an idea of what you want to accomplish professionally so you have specific goals to discuss with potential mentors. It always helps to establish these goals, whether it’s by writing them down or discussing them with a family or friend. This way, you are able to visualize your goals and hold yourself more accountable of working towards them.
2. Do your research.
Find someone whose career and achievements match your interests. This could be on LinkedIn or through an established mentorship program (e.g., mentorship programs at your university or online programs like BetterUp). It’s helpful to have a mentor that is in a career field that you are interested in so you can learn more about the career-specific obstacles that they experienced, and have the expertise you are looking for. Consider an identity-based female professional, especially if you are looking to talk about issues you're facing as an underrepresented person in your professional surroundings. Identity-based professionals typically openly associate themselves and their brand with the discrepancies due to gender, race, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, etc. that they have experienced and overcome.
3. Have an elevator pitch ready.
Be ready to share who you are and what you are passionate about with an elevator pitch! An elevator pitch is a quick and concise statement usually about your background, what you do or want to do, and why you do/want to do it. It’s important to show potential mentors that you are committed to your career from the start.
4. Express your interest.
Be sure to tell them why you admire and are interested in what they do. This will reassure them that you will truly consider any advice they have for you and aren’t trying to waste their time.
5. Don’t be afraid of getting ‘No’s.
Once you have found someone that you can connect with, don’t be nervous about asking them to be your mentor. Everyone is busy, so committing to an established mentoring relationship is not easy. If they say yes, great! Always remember to show your appreciation for them and their time. If they say no, don’t be discouraged. Simply mention that you admire them, and thank them for taking the time to speak with you nonetheless. That will leave the door open for a future professional relationship.
Having a female mentor is extremely helpful when it comes to elevating your personal and professional growth. I know taking the initiative to seek a femtor out is scary and intimidating, but chances are sending a quick message to someone who inspires you is easier than you think and might even lead to a productive relationship. So get out there and reach out to the women you look up to. Whether they say yes or no to mentorship, give yourself a pat on the back for taking that big leap forward!