Posts Taged career

The Importance of Mentors

workplace mentor

I started my career fresh out of college and will never forget my first manager. She was an amazing leader, mentor, friend, and one of the most sought-after people involved in decisions within the office. While I couldn’t pin it down at the time, and it took me many years and experiences with different friends and colleagues to figure it out, I eventually realized why she inspired me in such an impactful way. She was an excellent communicator — confident, positive, willing to be flexible, but also, she approached situations with an understanding of what needed to happen to keep business moving forward. She wasn’t afraid to provide constructive feedback, and she pushed me to try new approaches that were outside of my comfort zone, which was something I needed. All of these lessons I have continued to practice and apply throughout my career.

What Makes a Mentor?

While not everyone is born to manage, it is important to have people in our personal and professional lives who inspire us, listen to us, aren’t afraid to tell us something we may not want to hear, and encourage us to look at situations from a different perspective.

In today’s workforce, where individuals tend to change jobs more frequently than previous generations, mentor relationships are often informal and stem from a mix of people from various areas of our lives, including personal relationships, colleagues, and even general acquaintances. Fortune recently published an article around the importance of mentors, noting the benefits of utilizing the expertise of a broader group of admired individuals as one’s career progresses, rather than just one specific person. It is the different viewpoints that shape our perspectives and help us grow.

The Impact Mentors can have

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some incredible leaders over the past decade, and have been surrounded by inspiring people in both my personal and professional life. It has made me appreciate the impact colleagues, friends, and even acquaintances can have. It’s also taught me that when situations are difficult, or I am at a crossroad, it can be most beneficial to seek out the advice of a trusted individual who tends to look at situations differently, as that can often lead to the most positive outcomes.

‘Office Housework’ – Addressing Gender Stereotypes Within the Workplace

office housework

In a recent op-ed essay in The New York Times, Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg and Wharton Business School professor Adam Grant, address the issue of “office housework.” This piece is the third within a four-part series about women in the workplace. In it, Sandberg and Grant state that regardless of their role within an organization, women are likely to “help more but benefit less” than their male counterparts.

Sandberg and Grant reference a study conducted by Madeline Heilman, where men were more likely to benefit than women for equal help. “Office housework” tasks can comprise of mentoring junior colleagues, taking notes during meetings, planning an office party, etc. Grant and Sandberg summarize the findings by saying, “after giving identical help, a man was significantly more likely to be recommended for promotions, important projects, raises and bonuses. A woman had to help just to get the same rating as a man who didn’t help.” So, are women feeling compelled to take on these tasks in order to advance their careers?

secretary coffee

Photo credit: Stockbyte via Getty Images

Additionally, Sandberg and Grant point out that while women are more likely to complete “office housework” behind the scenes, men are likely to make their contributions known publically. Whether helping others behind the scenes or publically, women are more likely than men to burn out over time. Sandberg and Grant cite research saying, “For every 1,000 people at work, 80 more women than men burn out — in large part because they fail to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting others.”

How best to move forward? While there are no simple answers, Sandberg and Grant suggest a change in individual mindset – for women this means prioritizing their own needs before assisting others, for men it means acknowledging women’s efforts and assuming more responsibility for “office housework” tasks.

What do you think? Have you experienced this in your career?

You can read the previous installments within this series here and here.