How to Find a Mentor to Foster Your Leadership Aspirations

By Peter Gamache, Ph.D. & Jackie Sue Griffin, MBA, MS, Turnaround Life, Inc.

Nonprofit organizations have a valuable leadership pipeline that is often untapped: future female leaders.

One example of a nonprofit that is doing this right is Rebuilding Together, a national organization that improves the homes of owners with low income. The organization’s entire senior management team consists of women, as does most of the staff. Recognizing that women need female role models and mentors to navigate being a woman in the workplace, Rebuilding Together leaders support team members along their entire professional path, and when they need to fill a role in the organization, they search within their current team first.

Taking a page from their book, whether or not your nonprofit offers a formal leadership development program, you can identify mentors to foster your leadership potential.

Here’s how to find the right female mentor.

Be brave and just ask.

Men tend to ask for and offer mentorship far more often than women, who say their fear of rejection or “wasting” someone’s time holds them back. Don’t hold yourself back; ask for what you want.

Set expectations.

Anyone whose advice and example you respect is likely someone who doesn’t have a lot of time, so appreciate it! Let them know right away what you’d love to learn from them and suggest a reasonable time frame: a one-hour coffee or call each month.

Set a value exchange for both parties.

The value exchange is usually toward the mentee, but that doesn’t mean you can’t return the favor. You can always show gratitude by giving them a book you think they can learn from or by sharing resources and connections they might find helpful.

Pay it forward: Offer to mentor someone else.

You may feel you don’t know enough to be someone’s mentor. But the fact that women doubt themselves more than men is the very reason why more women should lift each other up and encourage other women to act with the confidence they wish that they had.

Don’t undervalue your work and family skills and the insights you’ve acquired to get to where you are now. An analysis by Harvard Business Review found that when people reach the C-suite, the soft leadership skills matter far more than technical expertise.

Some other ways you can help a female coworker are: share a useful resource, refer a client, suggest someone for a role to help them gain visibility or introduce them to another great mentor. Women supporting other women sets off a chain reaction that leaves everyone better off.

Here at Turnaround Life, Inc., we aim to help organizations and programs that make it possible for people to turn their lives around. For more information about us, visit our website.

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