54%. More than half. That’s how many women are asking for a raise this year, according to a study conducted by Laurel Road. That seems like a solid figure, until you consider that 75% of men are asking the same of their employer in 2021.
What’s up with that, ladies? How do we achieve confidence and comfortability in the workplace, so much so that we start asking for more money in the same numbers that our male counterparts are?
As a gender, women have, for decades, kept our heads down and done our work, grateful for the opportunities to work in what are often male-dominated spaces. But we can counter that now, in a major way. We can take the necessary steps to find our voices in our offices, and we can guide those women who are coming up after us on how to do the same.
We can do that through mentorship.
Most of us would say we’re familiar with the concept of mentorship. It’s when someone who “has expertise in that which you love, and is willing to guide, challenge and inspire you,” says Illana Raia, founder of Être, a mentorship platform for middle school girls. There’s no better way to pay it forward in the workplace than becoming a mentor for someone who can learn from the path you’ve paved, or to find a mentor who can help guide you through your career.
HOW TO BECOME A MENTOR
There’s no formal schooling required to become a mentor. Raia considers the basics of mentorship to entail: “the intentional transfer of knowledge from one more experienced person to another eager to advance in that field.” To achieve that, all you have to do is, well, what you’ve already done to get to the incredible place you’re in right now. A mentor’s main goals are to cheer on and to challenge their mentee. To say, “Hey, I’ve been where you are, and I made it out alive. Here’s how I got through it.” Essentially, it’s someone who’s got your back, no matter what.
To actually cash in on that knowledge and impart it to a mentee, you’ll have to take some steps to find the perfect pairing, Raia explains.
- At some companies, mentors are assigned to all incoming employees. Check with HR to see if your company offers a similar program. If so, find out if you can throw your name into the ring.
- At other companies, mentor/mentee relationships are expected to “evolve organically,” explains Raia. Which means, you might end up being a mentor without even realizing it.
- Oftentimes, people in leadership positions — teachers, counselors, coaches — find themselves mentoring at some point, and these relationships can either be short or can last a lifetime.
- Someone may ask you to be their mentor. After your butterflies subside, you can sit down with them to ask what they expect out of your mentorship and what role they’re hoping you’ll play in their life.
- And finally, Raia welcomes the notion of offering your mentorship to someone. “If you have expertise to offer and see both interest and potential in someone, you might change their life with a mentorship offer. Involving all the key players (if mentoring a student, for example, connecting with parents is important), an offer of mentorship might be just the springboard someone needs to truly excel,” she says.
Once you lock in that mentor/mentee relationship, you have to be honest about your ability and capacity to be a mentor and keep those lines of communication open always. “Set clear parameters and outline your preferred mode of communication. Then, give freely of your expertise and encouragement, never underestimating the impact you can have,” says Raia.
HOW TO BECOME A MENTEE AND FIND A MENTOR
If you’re someone looking for objective advice, or someone seeking wisdom borne of experience and an investment in professional encouragement, you’re qualified to be a mentee, and to find a mentor of your own.
Finding someone to guide you through the trials and tribulations of this crazy working world we live in can be difficult… And awkward. A prospective mentee doesn’t always feel comfortable approaching someone senior and asking for mentorship. But those who do will be thankful for their boost in confidence and knowledge (and their close relationship!) forever. Here’s how you can land yourself that role.
- Mentors exist everywhere. Your organization, school, community, and workplace. Simply reaching out to those who inspire you and asking them to be your mentor is the best way to go about establishing that relationship. Even though it’s scary to ask, we promise they’ll be flattered and appreciative.
- If no one in your immediate circle is checking off all the boxes for what you want in a mentor, keep in mind that a mentor can be a friend of a friend, or a speaker whose talk you attended, or an influencer you obsess over on Instagram. These role models can turn into mentors through future connections and engagements, Raia says. “Look closely at leaders whose work resonates with you – someday, under the right circumstances, admiration might spark into mentorship!” she adds.
- If right now you find yourself asking your computer screen: “But there’s a global pandemic, how can I meet anyone anywhere?” let me remind you that many peopleare actually having an easier time connecting with mentors during COVID. How? Well, since so many people are so tied to their email accounts and social media while working from home, they may be more likely to respond. So shoot off an email, slide into someone’s DMs, and ask away… Remember whenever you reach out that specific questions and light asks are the best way to go, explains Raia.
As a mentee, it’s crucial to be respectful of your mentor’s time and to understand that they are a busy boss lady who can’t be there for you 100% of the time. Be up front about what you are expecting of them as a mentor, and let them know the best way to communicate with you. Work hard to establish trust by respecting your mentor’s privacy and keeping confidential information under wraps, even if it excites you. You never know what your mentor might trust you with down the line.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE/BE A MENTOR?
If we don’t encourage the next generation of women, the gender wage gap will continue to grow. It’s increasingly important to have powerful women guiding us and encouraging us in the workplace, and in life. Which is why being a mentor isn’t the only thing we can do. Finding a mentor is equally as important, to allow yourself to learn from those before you. “Learning from someone who remembers exactly what it feels like to be a girl your age, those are the mentors that can so often make the difference as women ascend to the boardroom. If we want to see more women at the table, it is crucial not only that we save seats for girls, but that we mentor them as they make their way into the room,” Raia says.
- HerMoney Podcast: How To Be A Mentor To The Next Generation Of Women
- Ally, Advocate, Mentor, Sponsor: How To Be One, How To Get One, And Why You Should
- 6 Traits To Look For In A Mentor
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