We have all been there. The point where we need to make a decision— either big or small— in our professional lives, and we look up to someone else for guidance in understanding the path or options.
On International Women’s Day this year, Porter Novelli explored the power of mentorship. The goal was to examine what happens when we reach those critical crossroads in our lives when we so desperately need advice, and could benefit tremendously from having someone to turn to. When we started to further explore the topic, we talked about our mentors. It turns out that most of our mentors had been men. There’s nothing wrong with that, but here we are, in 2017, at a time when women occupy more leadership positions than ever before, yet women still do not represent the mentorship voice behind our women leaders or any leaders. Why?
Last Wednesday night, we invited women from a wide range of industries to explore this critical relationship and the powerful impact it can have in both men’s and women’s professional careers. In collaboration with LMHQ, Porter Novelli planned a panel and speed-mentoring event where more than one hundred attendees came to ignite a conversation on mentorship.
The evening started with a panel discussion moderated by our own Soon Mee Kim, EVP, Global Diversity and Inclusion Leader with guests Tania Salavand, Head of Marketing for North America at ThoughtWorks and Chandra Briggman, Founder of Wide Angle Media.
Tania shared her insight and humor as she recounted an annual performance review that took place early in her career. During the evaluation, she described her professional goals to her mentor, to which he responded were not enough. Challenged to set more ambitious goals for herself, Tania responded with what she believed to be higher-reaching targets. He remained unimpressed. Finally, Tania responded that her goal was “to run the company”. He jokingly replied that this goal may be a bit too far-reaching. Tania described this conversation as her formal adoption of a more ambitious goal setting mindset – all because her mentor had pushed her to not settle for what she originally believed to be enough.
We were further inspired when Chandra tackled the question of how to manage politics and work. In her answer, Chandra acknowledged that the corporate world was a very political one, but that women should never compromise their values. She said, “We need to know how to play the game, but not let the game be played on us.”
After the panel, attendees were broken up into groups for speed-mentoring. Each person had the opportunity to sit down with leading women who acted as mentors and ask a burning question on their mind. While the other groups waited for their turn to participate in the speed-mentoring activity, attendees had the opportunity to network. The positive energy was tangible. Mentorship was no longer an abstract concept. In every conversation, either formally or informally, peer-to-peer, junior-to-senior, senior-to-junior, all of our guests were actively engaging in mentorship.
As I walked around the room, I heard comments like, “This is the best event I have attended at LMHQ”, “I feel inspired and energized to change ‘x’ in my career”, and “I could have listened to that panel conversation for three more hours.” The evening was successful in sharing the importance of mentoring (from both parties) and rallying a call to action to seek a mentor.
International Women’s Day might be over, but I would like to leave you with this thought: next time you are in situation where you have to make a seemingly-daunting decision, know that you are not standing alone. Like you, there are many people who have been at that exact crossroads before. For this reason, and others, having a mentor can be the single most important step towards understanding all of the options available to you and making a more informed decision. Remember- no one ever reaches success alone.