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While mentoring programs in India are growing, you need to learn how to use a mentor's time effectively. Tips for working women in India.
While mentoring programs in India are growing, you need to learn how to use a mentor’s time effectively. Tips for working women in India.
In ‘Why Women Need Mentors’, part 1 of this series on mentoring, we looked at the basics of mentoring programs in India, how they can help working women in India achieve career goals and how to go about looking for a mentor. Here we look more closely at male vs. female mentors, how best to use a mentor’s time and other aspects of mentoring.
Given that work-life balance is a critical issue for many working women in India, a woman mentor may be more empathetic and can offer suggestions to work around them that a man might not. To quote a speech (PDF) given by Anu Waklu, Founder Director of Pune based Management Consulting Firm, Pragati Leadership Institute (P) Ltd., “.. The mentoring process can help younger women employees learn how to build their careers, get valuable tips from the more successful women on how to manage their careers, handle any emotional issues, and build a successful career. Having a woman mentor would make it easier for the younger women to discuss both personal and professional issues.”
A woman mentor would be especially helpful for junior and mid-level employees, who are usually the ones most affected by the motherhood track. Some women may also feel less comfortable with a male mentor, both in terms of discussing sensitive topics and the unfortunate office gossip that it sometimes gives rise to.
Some women may also feel less comfortable with a male mentor, both in terms of discussing sensitive topics and the unfortunate office gossip that it sometimes gives rise to.
At a senior level, where many women have presumably made it past the stage where their responsibilities at home are heaviest, gender may be less relevant in mentoring programs in India. Still, given that the top management of India Inc. is heavily dominated by men, a male mentor might help a woman go past the invisible barriers set up by the old boys’ network. Strictly in terms of coaching on professional aspects, gender may not matter to working women in India.
Schedule time. While a mentor is available for advice and handholding, one should not under any circumstances expect the mentor to firefight for one or open doors as a matter of right. It is important to schedule a working relationship with at least one face to face interaction in the course of the week, and keep the mentor updated on key developments in the course of the week. Also, do revert with how you’ve actioned inputs and advice given to you by your mentor promptly.<
What to discuss. One can approach a mentor with issues that affect day to day work as well as have the mentor assess one’s overall growth path. Says Sana Salam, Senior Features Writer for Entrepreneur magazine, “After I completed a year with the company, I was offered a broadcast job with better prospects. But I was undecided because it involved a wildly hectic life. The first person I went to for advice was my mentor. Even though it meant losing an employee on whom she had invested a lot of time and patience, she worked out the pros and cons with me and supported me wholly when I decided to make the shift.”
Even though it meant losing an employee on whom she had invested a lot of time and patience, she worked out the pros and cons with me and supported me wholly when I decided to make the shift.
Sairee Chahal, Co-Founder, Fleximoms points out that this long-term understanding of the mentee’s situation is the key difference that a mentoring program brings.
Mentors don’t always take it up just out of the goodness of their hearts! Prof. Nandini Vaidyanathan who teaches entrepreneurship in business and engineering schools around the world and Co-Founder of Startups and CARMa both of which mentor entrepreneurs, writes in the Aug 2010 issue of Entrepreneur on Mentoring, “Some mentors charge a small monthly retainer fee against which they provide mentoring and this may be articulated in the terms of engagement. Some may ask for a stake in the company, typically anywhere between 2-3%. Some may invest in your company for a 10% stake and mentor you. The models are many and may be tweaked depending on mentor-and-mentee convenience.” <
Those who mentor juniors within an organization need not be paid by the mentees, but take on this additional assignment as a way of paying it forward. If you decide to sign up with a professional mentor, you might be expected to pay a consultancy fee.
Mentoring programs in India are a new concept, but are quickly catching on. In the entrepreneurial sector, mentoring programs are now deemed essential. Says Sairee Chahal, “In India, we are at a good place, where there is a definitive bench strength of senior professionals from diverse industries, who have rich experience on one hand. On the other hand, we have a large group of women who are entering the workforce, taking entrepreneurial plunges, who could do with strong mentors who will guide them towards their objectives in a responsive fashion.”
She concludes, “The developed economies show us clearly that once a certain amount of wealth has been created and a certain degree of success has been achieved socio-economically, the mentorship piece begins to grow. This is India’s chance to invest in mentorship as a path to bypass some of the failures of developed economies.”
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