So, you signed up for your workplace mentorship programme or you reached out to someone who is inspiring and they have agreed to help support you.
Everything seems great but after three to five coffee sessions, the meetups feel more like chatting sessions and your career has not moved at all. If this sounds really familiar to you, then don’t worry. A lot of us have been in this scenario at one point or another. Often times, people look for a mentor because they have heard that it is the right thing to do. This is a problem if you are going into a mentorship without a specific goal in mind that you want to achieve. It wastes your time and the time of the person who has offered to mentor you.
So what can you do to move in the right direction? First, it depends on the goal that you have in mind for yourself. Consciously or subconsciously, many people look into getting a mentor when they are thinking about their next promotion or pay raise. No matter what you do, please take a moment to get really specific about your needs and desires. Second, you need to do some homework to ensure that you make the most out of these sessions. Do you know the background of your mentor? Are you prepared with questions and ideas?
Getting a promotion
If you want to get a promotion, you need to know what the gaps are between the skills you have now and the skills you have to build to get ahead. This is an opportunity to get insight into the promotion process in your workplace. Equally crucial is knowing and understanding the internal politics. Sometimes you can be at the top of your game, but if the company is short of funds or making cutbacks, going in for a promotion may not land you the results you want. A mentor can help you “fill in the blanks” on a number of these issues, but you have to pay attention to what is happening within your organisation. Mentors can also provide a good reality check. When I received one of my first promotions, my mentor was open about the fact that cuts could mean the promotion might not be a reality. I lowered my expectations and worked a lot harder to beef up my reviews and connections. The promotion went through but knowing what was happening within the organisation made a difference.
Ask your mentor about the top three things they did to get promoted. Are there key resources – books, events, networks – they recommend for getting promoted? How can you gauge the political situation and if this the right time to apply for a promotion? Use your coffee meetings to think about these strategies.
Getting a raise
Many women have had the unfortunate experience of learning that they are being paid less than the men on their team. If you have not received a raise in a while, especially if your responsibilities have increased, then it may be time to think about getting more pay. There is an old saying that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Your mentor can help you think about the skills and training you need to get ahead of the game. They can also be a great source of information about salary ranges. One former contact ended up with a package £10K higher than planned because a mentor who was in the same industry helped identify the correct salary range. Another friend got a huge boost – to the tune of £100,000 – after her mentor explained the benefits of asking for additional company stocks. Talk to your mentor about the best ways to approach your boss, how to research salaries and what is needed to move to the next pay band or increase sales.
Getting ahead with a mentor by your side can be good for your career if you are prepared and ready for the next steps. Prepare for each meeting and track your progress towards your goals. You’re on your way!
About the author
Joy Adams is a blogger and one of WATCs 2015 Rising Stars. She is a British-American businesswoman who has worked in both the public and private sectors in the US and UK. Joy currently serves on the Advisory Board for Vital Voices Europe, an organization dedicated to supporting and developing women leaders. She also writes a lifestyle blog for budding philanthropists and art collectors at Luxeher.com.
The Workher blog is all about taking your work life to the next level with practical tips and details on the latest news about pay, progression, and opportunities.