December 15, 2011 Practice Points

Looking for a Mentor? Just Ask

By Suzanne L. Jones

A recent article in The Glass Hammer showcased the November event: "Professional Development: View from the Top," which was hosted by Step Up Women's Network. At the event, participants were given advice from successful senior women on how to advance their careers by connecting with mentors. According to the speakers, the best way to approach someone you would like to connect with or be mentored by is to simply ask. "Don't be afraid to approach a mentor or someone you want to connect with professionally and just ask," says Pattie Sellers, editor at large and cochair of the Most Powerful Women Summit, FORTUNE. "Walk up to that person and introduce yourself. It could change your life and it could change the older person's life."

The speakers also emphasized that the best approach to getting noticed when asking someone to be your mentor is to be authentic and show your eagerness to learn. According to Sellers, "You need to be normal—don't put on airs." Carolyn Buck-Luce, a global pharmaceutical sector leader for Ernst & Young recalled a woman who approached her for a job and, while the woman had gotten mixed reviews, she was impressed with her authenticity: "She didn't defer to my position. She was incredibly authentic. She was very clear and she knew what she could do."

The Step Up organization is designed to help professionals connect and network but also has a strong mentorship component. One of Step Up's important messages is "not getting caught up in preconceptions" about what young women are supposed to do or how they are supposed to behave, but to encourage young women to follow their passion and achieve their dreams. As part of its mission, the program connects professional women with underserved high-school girls. The girls attend after-school and weekend enrichment programs to help them build confidence and develop college and career skills.

Keywords: women, career, pay, earnings

Suzanne L. Jones, Hinshaw & Culbertson, Minneapolis, MN

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