There’s no denying it: The Millennial generation has entered the work force and they are here to stay. As the next generation readies to lead our countries and take over our companies, we need to ensure they are prepared to handle the challenges that lay ahead. As a woman leader who is also a mentor, I can tell you how important and rewarding of an experience it is to help mold the next generation into future leaders.
Getting the chance to help another woman get a head start in her career or guide her onto a path she has always wanted to go on is an experience like no other. However, it’s not always easy to know if you’re teaching and guiding them the right way to become their most successful selves. Over the years I have learned what works best and what to avoid as I help woman forge their careers. Below I have compiled my best tips on how to become a successful mentor:
Be a good role model
If you decide to become a mentor to a young woman, it is important to be a good role model. This doesn’t mean just talking about helping people on their career path; it means that I too take action. Volunteering or being part of an organization that gives back to the community are great examples of how to be a good role model. For example, I’m involved in an internal resource group at Dell, the Women in Search of Excellence (WISE) group whose interest aligns with women’s issues, rooted in accelerating the role of women in the workforce.
Be 100 percent committed
When making the decision to become a mentor, make sure you are 100 percent committed to taking part in all of the responsibilities that come with it. Being a mentor is something that has to be taken just as seriously as starting a new job. It’s similar to a job in the sense that you are coming in with a purpose of helping someone accomplish their own goals. How successful you are in your career is determined by the amount of time and effort you put into your job, just like how successful you are as a mentor will be determined by how much time and effort you put into guiding your mentee.
Share your knowledge and past experiences
One of the main reasons people become mentors is to help someone benefit from your experiences. Sharing your knowledge that you’ve learned along the way is a great way to help your mentee, but sharing your own experience with her is even better. I love to share my experiences, both the good and the bad, because it’s something people can learn from. I always share how I got to where I am today, including the disappointments I endured along the way. It’s important to share your experiences because when you tell someone how you succeeded, they believe they too can succeed and when you describe how you failed, they realize that it’s okay to fail and that it often leads to a much bigger success. It’s all a part of our personal and professional growth experiences.
Giving feedback to your mentee, both good and bad, is a very rewarding experience for both parties. It can help them improve in an area they have been struggling with, or highlight where they have been successful so they can duplicate their actions to be more successful in the future. It is important to have their peers look at all of the progress your mentee has (or hasn’t) made by keeping feedback simple, specific and actionable. I always welcome any and all kinds of feedback from my peers, colleagues and leaders to ensure that I am always striving to be the best that I can be.
Encourage your mentee
It’s important to encourage your mentee to take that next big step and get them out of their comfort zone, while letting them know it is okay to be scared to pursue something new. By encouraging your mentee to challenge themselves to do something out of their comfort zone every day, it will help her develop confidence that she never knew she had and could lead to a greater career opportunity. When did I step outside of my comfort zone? Taking on the role of Dell Channel Chief was a daunting challenge that I addressed head on and now I’m proud to say that our channel partner program has grown to be well over 40 percent of Dell’s global revenue. It was one of the biggest leaps of faith I’ve taken and one of the best decisions I have ever made in my career.
Bottom line is, there are going to be many young women in the generations to come who will want and need mentors, and while there are many resources available that outline how to be a successful mentor, I thought I’d share with you a few of mine.