Of Caesar Salads and Career Mentors

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“I’ve been in the same job for over 10 years, and I really need help updating my resume. I can’t ask anyone in my company for tips because I’m afraid they’d realize I’m looking to leave! How do I find someone who can help?”- Female, 33, finance professional”

 

“I accepted a new job offer and they need me to start ASAP. I was hoping to spend a couple more months with my newborn before starting a new position. Should I try to negotiate with the company or will it undermine my drive/ambition?”- Female, 30, engineer, new mom”

 

“I don’t eat meat and my customers always want to do meetings at steakhouses. I’m SO sick of Caesar salads. I wonder if I should be more assertive in my choice of food or save the tough act for the deal negotiation.”- Female, 30, technical sales lead

 

The above are recent challenges voiced by professional women who happen to be my close friends. None of these women wanted to discuss their situations with anyone within their respective companies. While I, as a close friend, could listen and offer my 2 cents, I’m not in a position to offer real help — for instance I don’t know the first thing about editing a finance resume. My friends would benefit from talking to people that are experienced in the same industry as them, and those that have been through similar experiences. They could benefit from conversations with suitable professional mentors who could not only advise them on their specific situation (e.g. how do I assert myself) but also help them dig deeper to get to the core of the career advancement issues (how to manage and grow customer relationships).

You’re probably wondering why we’re only talking about women when men have career challenges too? The reason is that after years of working closely with both men and women, I (along with most of the world) have come to the conclusion that men and women are …. different (surprise!). Women think, feel, act, react, and network differently than men in most professional situations. And that is exactly why it’s great to have a gender balanced team, because such teams foster more creativity and innovation which ultimately helps with the bottom-line.

Unfortunately, recent studies indicate that especially in tech, more and more women are leaving the workforce because of difficult work environments. Career mentoring is just one of the many potential solutions to helping recruit and retain women in organizations. Every professional woman I’ve ever met has been advised to get a mentor, and/or she’s advised me to get one. Surprisingly, I’ve not heard a similar sentiment from men. One could argue that’s the case because mentorship happens more organically for men or because the nature of networking for men leans more heavily towards professional matters already. Whether or not that’s the whole truth, I think it’s safe to say that women have different challenges of varying complexity and that they’d benefit from having focused career discussion sessions.

In my next post, I’ll share some of the feedback I’ve received from women around the impact of mentorship (or lack of it) in their careers. We’ll also explore the diversity discussion beyond gender-based diversity and I’ll shed some light on how our team is working on the vision for a more gender diverse workplace.

Until then,

Nitya

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