By Tamara Alexander-Johnson
“Our Legacy isn’t the work, it’s the people,” is a quote by Todd Henry in his book Herding Tigers. One day I wondered to myself: five or 10 years from now, when people think back about me and my career, what will they remember? That’s when I decided it was so important to consider how I could help to build confidence and success in young people, especially the women trying to find their place in male-dominated industries.
Mentorship is one of the greatest tools for investing in future leaders and while we often envision mentorship as a long-term relationship between two people, mentorships come in many different forms during the seasons of our careers. According to recent studies, the supply-demand imbalance is severe: while more than 75 percent of professional men and women want to have a mentor, only 37 percent have one.
You might ask yourself, “Will a prospective mentee reach out to me for help?” Perhaps, but you should consider that there are others who could benefit from your knowledge, and they’re right within your own professional sphere. Many of us know that there is likely someone—perhaps a younger woman—who you see as a “rising star,” or someone who shows promise and needs some guidance in their career. Us more seasoned women in the workforce know that young women have a harder time finding a mentor. You have been in their shoes and know the unique challenges they’re likely to come up against. Senior female professionals are still sometimes few and far between and can be overwhelmed by other work and non-work responsibilities.
So, if you are in a position of authority in your industry, it’s safe to assume that your expertise will be welcomed. And remember, not only women should mentor other women. Professional men and women should equally be willing to invest in talent wherever (and in whomever) it lies. In today’s age of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), a diverse workforce benefits all of us.
We as senior professionals should be actively engaging in the professional development of both men and women, and another good source for mentees are the students at local universities. You can find a way to be a person who invests a bit of themselves to help pay it forward and help to build a life and a career for someone else!
Mentoring can also be a great environment for developing your own self-awareness, and there is always someone out there who can benefit from your coaching. So, you may ask yourself, how do I become a Mentor? Here are some suggestions that can be helpful:
- Find out if your company (or an organization that you belong to) has a mentor program. Then, do an honest assessment of your time availability, your dedication to the program, and your abilities.
- Choose a mentee that challenges you and stretches your ways of thinking; think of someone who you can help to develop their personal and professional skills.
- Decide to mentor the whole person, extending beyond their work/career, and include discussions about behavior, values, relationships, parenting, finances, etc. This more holistic approach can be more effective in helping the mentee fulfill their true potential.
- Ask your mentee to take advantage of personal assessment tools such as StrengthsFinder, Myers-Briggs, Emergenetics, or related personality profiles tools.
- Mentoring relationships are safe places to test out techniques, receive feedback and learn what is needed to help the mentee. Be prepared to have a candid conversation with your prospective mentee about your expectations and theirs.
How do I make it work you may ask yourself?
- Any mentorship that you choose to engage in will need to be a balance between what you can offer and the needs and wants of your mentee.
- Be clear about what your expertise is and your willingness to share it with others. Start by defining a few clear objectives for your mentee, and have them provide their short-term goals and long-term goals. Reevaluate those regularly as a mentor/mentee pair.
- Affirm to the mentees when you see them thriving and help them strengthen the places where they’re weak.
- Explore your mentee’s innate gifts, aptitudes, personality characteristics, and passions. Get to know the individual that you will mentor; most younger people have limited self-awareness about how they are uniquely “wired. ”
- Encourage them to work toward their goals, and leave them with a clear path forward.
Know when to let go:
- Don’t expect every mentorship to last years; some may be project-specific, or time-dictated per a specific program (i.e., CREW Denver has an annual six-month mentor program), or the mentee may only need help through a career transition.
- Some mentees will walk away after only a few meetings, and some will become lifelong friends and colleagues. Both of those examples are a sign of success!
In conclusion, don’t forget that mentorship is not only valuable to the person being mentored but to you, the Mentor, as well. What matters most in mentorship is taking someone’s hand and helping pull them up another step along the way. So, step up, be the change to help a new and/or younger person in the business world, and then count yourself fortunate to be there to watch them achieve success.
Tamara is an experienced real estate professional with over twenty-seven years of experience in lease transactions, due diligence, financial analysis, TI project management, acquisitions and dispositions of investment properties, and has completed over $3.5 Billion in commercial real estate transactions locally, nationally, and globally. She has a proven track record to help companies understand the role of the corporate real estate professional: to assist with the optimization of a commercial real estate portfolio to provide the best workplace environment for the employees at the most effective P&L cost to the business. Tamara is currently the CREW Denver Mentor Committee program chair.