Women Helping Women:
How Mentoring Can Help Your Business
By Nancy D. O’Reilly
Corporate America spends millions of dollars each year to make the
workplace more efficient and productive. Finding and retaining
talented and experienced workers is key to reducing turnover and
high operational costs. Mentoring new employees and helping them
become successful on the job is one way to reduce turnover. Women
can benefit from a female mentor who has knowledge and experience
and can show them “the ropes.” The mentor can be a guide, a role
model and a good advisor.
Michelle always wanted to be a reporter and dreamed of working for a
television station. She was fresh out of school and had some
experience working in the newsroom. When she entered her job as a
research specialist, Michelle was surrounded by reporters she
idealized and admired. One of them was Joan. Joan had been at the
network for 10 years as a news anchor and reporter. She was the
perfect mentor for Michelle. The two hit it off immediately and
Joan spent time helping Michelle gain the necessary skills to
fulfill her dream. Joan admitted that when she started, she had to
go it alone and often felt like no one was there to support and
advise her. Things changed for Joan when a co-worker offered
suggestions and helped her to find the confidence to apply for a job
as a reporter. Joan got the job and to this day thanks her mentor
for giving her support. Like her mentor, Michelle vows to help
other women in the workplace.
Women need mentors, specifically, other women who are willing to
take the time to help them make it on the job. Recent research from
The WomenSpeak project shows that women of all ages can be extremely
competitive and negative to younger women entering a profession. In
this study, women reported feeling isolated and alone on the job.
They also reported they could not burden others with their workplace
issues and concerns. This attitude makes it difficult for women to
mentor and be mentored, even when the opportunity is there for the
taking. If employers do not use mentoring techniques, they can face
the costs of high turnover rates and ineffective job performance.
Fortunately, women today are becoming aware of the importance of
being helped as well as helping others. By watching good role
models, women have learned how to be good mothers, good wives and
good friends. But what about the myriad of other areas that women
are involved with such as jobs or career moves, investing or health
care issues? Where can the average woman share her feelings? Who
will answer her hard questions? Women need to find a mentor, a role
model to offer advice on career, education, parenting or any other
life skill. A good mentor or coach can make the job rewarding and
Having or acting as a mentor in the workplace does not involve an
exchange of money. Instead, a mentor provides free advice and a
relationship based on mutual respect. A mentor can prevent a world
of headaches and it is worth searching for someone with the
knowledge and experience one needs.
Volunteer mentors can be in short supply in some areas, and this has
given rise to the new and trendy position of a life coach. A coach
can help with business, executive challenges, sales, academics,
management and any aspect of personal life. They can help attain
goals and deliver maximum performance on the job.
To find a mentor, look at your community. Is there someone you
admire for her skills or success? Invite her to coffee, or on a
walk, or just call and ask her advice. Everyone likes to feel
admired. Developing this relationship may take some time and effort,
but it will not only help you, but will help your mentor in return.
There’s no shame in needing help now and then. A good mentor has so
much to offer in experience and training that you are bound to
learn, grow and excel in your field. For more information about
mentoring or finding a coach, talk with your friends and colleagues
or search the Internet.
You can also take the initiative and start a mentoring program in
your company. Here are some simple ways to get started:
Send out a questionnaire to all the women in your
organization to gauge the interest in starting a women's mentoring
program. This can be sent through the human resources department or
from a supervisor or department leader. If there seems to be a lot
of interest in such a program, find some leaders who can help put
Search the Internet for information on local women's
professional organizations. See if they have any existing mentoring
programs. There is no reason to re-invent the wheel. If there are
local programs, you can encourage other women in your organization
to come along and join with you.
If there aren’t any programs in place locally, you may
want to consider starting your own. Understand the purpose of such a
program and define guidelines and membership policies. This should
be a voluntary, supportive group of professional women who seek to
help other women coming into the profession.
Decide the focus of the mentoring program you create.
There should be regularly scheduled meetings, whether once a week or
once a month, or even once a quarter. The meeting place can be as
professional as the conference room or as casual as the coffee shop.
Create a system or form that will allow members to pair up based on
similar interests and needs.
Foster the relationships created in the mentoring
program by checking in with members for feedback. Encourage them to
meet one-on-one, build relationships and meet outside the office for
advice and bonding. Networking parties, local charity events and
organizational meetings are ways that mentors and mentees can learn
more about their industry.
Mentoring programs can also help women transition from little to no
education or job experience by assisting them with educational
needs, clothing, social skills and overall support. One of the more
successful is the Suit Yourself Program, run by the United Way.
Women are given professional clothing and accessories for job
interviews, as well as training for their GED. They learn computer
and communication skills that will help them advance in the
workplace. This is a mentoring and assistant program where everyone
Mentoring helps build a healthy workforce and ensures that new,
excited and trained women come up through the ranks.
Read other articles and learn more about
Nancy D. O’Reilly.
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