Why Every Working Woman Needs To Find A Mentor

Posted: March 10, 2014
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Having a mentor can make a big difference to a woman’s career, career choices and ability to make the best of those choices.

A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you.” – Bob Proctor

When I became a first-time mother my career gears shifted. Having been on top gear for about a decade, I quickly recognized that as a working mother, “I have to switch gears for some time.”

First, I was on maternity leave. Personally, this in itself was a big change to deal with because my professional identity was a big part of ‘Who’ or ‘What’ I was, and ‘How’ my every day was organized. Second, when I resumed work, my priority was the elusivework life balance’ which most working mothers aspire or strives for. These two factors drove a lot of the career choices and decisions I made at that phase of my life. And these choices and decisions did come with their own pros and cons; which affected both my professional and personal life.

Today, as I look back to connect the dots – I can say that I am happy with the choices and decisions I made. And thankfully, they were possible due to the role played by a few trusted mentors who provided the much need ear and advise when I was going through phases of change, dealing with uncertainty, or was just unsure about myself / things!

I’ve been fortunate to have a couple of mentors as a part of my career journey – They primarily included my father, my husband, ex-managers at work and a couple of close well-wishers and advisors.

What women need in a mentor

So here is the first fact. From my own career journey, I can say that having a ‘real mentor’ can make an ocean of difference in the life and career of women.

And here’s the second fact. The sad reality is that many women leaders have never really had mentors; and so they don’t know what it means to have one or what difference a mentor can make in your life

At the outset, let’s try to define who exactly is a mentor.

Someone who:

  • Is a listener; and a good one
  • Is non-judgmental
  • Has your best long term interests in mind
  • Who truly understands a personal context/situation
  • Is experienced to handle a diverse set of ‘real-life’ issues
  • Is neutral and balanced in views, outlook and perspective
  • Has the maturity to act as a trusted guide, confidante, counselor, adviser
  • Does not have any personal motives/gains from the interaction / mentorship
  • And specifically in the case of women, has some insights, understanding and appreciation of the unique challenges that women could possibly undergo in their career journey

While the above list may not be exhaustive, if you can find someone who qualifies for the above, he/she can potentially be your mentor.

How mentors impact a woman’s life at work

Mentors make a difference in a number of ways:

  • By listening – to your thoughts, emotions, questions and the dilemma at hand
  • By helping you acknowledge and recognize that phases of change/transition are only ‘temporary’. For example, as a new mother tending 24 X 7 to the needs of your baby, it is so easy to wonder if that’s how your life is going to be – forever! During one such phase, what made a difference was when one of my mentors told me, “Children will not remain babies forever”. Logically, I knew this! But when you are a first-time mother, it is almost impossible to look beyond your little world!
  • By enabling you to accept what is in your control, and what is beyond your control
  • By compelling you to think about possibilities, choices and alternatives
  • By suggesting options/alternatives with a logical and balanced view taking a holistic and long term view of the issue
  • By helping you reach a decision; and take responsibility for the decision
  • By extending support, as applicable/feasible to execute and live the decision

Looking back at my own career journey and in interactions with other women leaders, I can definitely say that there are a few milestones that influence the career choices a woman makes. And during these phases, having a mentor can truly make all the difference:

Career role transitions such as taking up a new role which is very different from her current or past line of work (for e.g., a move from Project Management to Marketing, a move from a customer facing project to internal support project, etc.) either due to personal choice or circumstance

Career breaks due to personal priorities and commitments such as marriage, raising children, spouse’s transfer/re-location, tending to ailing parents, personal health issues, personal emergencies, etc.

Career shifts such as moving from an IT job to becoming an entrepreneur

Career exits such as the decision to not pursue an active career for a finite or infinite time – either by choice or lack of choice

Call for action: What you can do here and now

If you’re a woman and at a crucial point in your career, try to find a mentor who can help, guide or advise you. Sometimes, we fail to recognize that people around us such as parents, spouse or friends and relatives can be very good mentors. If only we speak up, share and listen – It can really make a difference.

If you are a leader in a position of influence, play the role of an active mentor to a woman – It can change someone’s career and life!

In conclusion, some food for thought:

  • Are enough leaders playing the role of mentors – especially for women?
  • Are mentors more important / significant in a women’s career?
  • Are successful women leaders mentoring other women – either within the organization or as part of the industry ecosystem?

I would like to hear your views on the subject. Leave a comment to let me know. 

Pic credit: net efekt (Used under a Creative Commons license)

Nischala Murthy Kaushik

Nischala Murthy Kaushik

Working Mom • Marketologist - Digital Artisan - Brand Storyteller • Ideapreneur • Writer - Blogger - Columnist • IIMB Alumni • Mentor • Horizon Gazer • Alchemist • Creator - Connector - Catalyst - Collaborator - Community Builder • Chief Happiness Officer of my Life


Author's Blog: http://nischalamurthy.wordpress.com/

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Comments

7 Comments


  1. Enjoyed your personal perspective on this, nischala. Any suggestions on how one can find a mentor at work? My managers are not very supportive, and at home, I really don’t feel my husband has enough distance from our personal challenges to give me unbiased opinions….

  2. CP

    Very good topic Nischala. I also feel instead of searching a mentor in one person, mid level working women may reach out to many people at a time (both men and women) for inspirations, aspirations and knowledge sharing. It might be difficult to find one mentor who can answer all your queries but if we observe all the seniors with whom we get a chance to work with ten we can pick and choose the skills and techniques we want to absorb in our lives. Recently I got extremely benefitted working with a senior just through teleconferences and email communications. I haven’t seen him but I learned a lot from him 🙂

  3. Hi… Nice read! What is your idea on hiring a personal coach…considering people talk abt coaching and mentoring? Do u know of effective online vouchers to keep the anonimity factor? Love to hear ur inputs?

  4. Good read Nischala..crisp and clear. And like Chandrima also mentions, having various mentors also help. I also feel, having people (a friend or spouse or colleague) who really believes in you and sees the higher self, full of potential can also do a world of difference…they might not have experienced what you have but they see you for who you are and who you could be & anchor you in that reality. Sometimes others’ experiences can be true for them but not for us and despite all their good intentions their advices can also pull us back from stepping into our potential and power.

  5. The article was really very good Nischala- crisp and clear. I believe that having mentors can really world of difference in the life of women professionals since these people really believe that u have the potential to achieve great things. I am in govt job and found that such services are really lacking for women in this sector since the working environment is not so open minded and progressive in terms of thinking about career guidance and enhancement. I really have been looking for mentors who can help and provide guidance and support as I am keen for career change. This is very much needed in the govt jobs for women who tend to adapt themselves to the current situation as there is no other alternative despite having potential as they are unable to take decision on their own.

  6. Pingback: 12 months in 2014 taught me 12+ lessons as a Working Mother | Nischala’s Space, Thoughts, Expressions…

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