Both working and non-working mamas need mentors. Whether you are in the office or out of the office, after having a baby or inheriting a bonus mom role, walking into the workplace can make a new mother feel like an outsider. Suddenly your workplace Zoom meetings or in person meetings may find new anxieties and challenges with either a nursing baby, arranging childcare plans, caring for a sick or happy child, and/or pumping in the workplace. Navigating motherhood brings shifting responsibilities to the workplace that can be daunting.
How a mama mentor can help: They provide guidance on your career decisions
There is nothing like an internal voice uttering, “You cannot do this!” Finding a mama mentor in the workplace or a peer entrepreneur may help you quiet the self-doubt, provide some guidance, and empower you with strategies to navigate your career and motherhood journey. A Mentor/Mentee relationship can provide the tactics and the courage to excel in your career and build the businesses you are striving to accelerate.
Establish Senior Influencers/Board of Directors
Yes, you can have more than one mentor that influences your decisions. You may want to consider adding more senior people, either at your manager’s level or a few levels up. Choose your influencers wisely: at least one working mom on that personal board of directors who can relate to your current season of motherhood. Consider adding a resource that aligns with your demographics and consider adding someone that maybe differs! The more the merrier. You will be amazed at the various viewpoints each influencer offers.
How to find a mentor
At my company, they offer a formal mentor matching program. This program provides training as both a mentor and mentee, matches you based on your interests, and sets up a framework for the dialogue to take place.
Outside of this construct, setting up this mentor-mentee formal relationship can be intimidating. Where do you find a mentor? How do you serve as a mentor? How do you setup and validate that relationship? The truth is, it does not need to be formalized.
Take a look at the senior people in your department that you have worked well with. Consider more senior people in your department or others. Perhaps they are people who led projects you worked on. Maybe it’s a manager who has moved up. Look at up-and-coming leaders in your industry outside of your employer. Speak to people you hear at conferences or read about. Start those conversations and see if they lead to a natural fit for mentorship.
Be direct when you ask. It can seem difficult to do if you are introverted but use the ask as an opportunity to compliment them. For example, “I have really enjoyed working with you; you have had quite the career path. I am looking for a mentor to help me navigate my career and some decisions. Would you mind if we connect more often?”
Tips to have a stronger relationship with your mama mentor
To make the most of your mentor relationship a few guiding principles can help:
- Take your time to build these relationships. Setup a regularly scheduled time to meet virtually or in person once a month at a minimum. The mentee should initiate the meeting. Use video cameras. Seek out your mama mentor prior to a new baby’s arrival. You don’t want to find mentors while making changes if you can avoid it.
- Be strategic. Find the right mentors to talk to for your needs. Set goals on networking like you do all other strategic areas in your life (e.g., what do you want to accomplish from the relationship, how are you looking for their support and guidance). Find a good fit for personality, style, and approach to career.
- Establish a communication cadence. Decide when, where/how, and how often you’ll meet. Will you have a more formal or informal approach?
- Get the most out of each interaction. Be respectful of his or her time (and of your own) and prepare for your conversations. Know the points you want to cover and send an agenda beforehand if it’s more formal. Be engaged during your interaction and use active listening skills.
- Follow up and follow through. After each interaction, follow up and say thank you to your mentor for his or her time, insights, advice, etc. Share any feedback, decisions or an update on actions taken. Mentors want to ensure they are being heard, and their advice is being considered.
- Evaluate the Role over time. Don’t be afraid to make changes over time. For example, your needs or interests at work could change, your mentor have a more demanding role, or you or your mentor may change companies/firms. Keep in touch because you never know when your paths will cross again.