Navigating career growth and transitions on your own can feel daunting. But with an experienced mentor by your side offering wisdom and support, the path ahead seems clearer and more achievable.
That’s why workplace mentoring programs are so invaluable for progression and development. Guidance from those ahead on the career ladder can help you gain skills, confidence, and connections to reach that next level.
Recently, we hosted an impactful mentoring-focused panel with moderator Ashima Sharma, CEO and co-founder of Dreami, the mentorship platform supporting The Mom Project’s RALLY mentorship program. She was joined by three incredible women leaders —Stefanie Beach, Founder and CEO of SMB media consulting, Albina Gashi, a contract specialist at Comcast, and Jacqui Porter, a personal and executive coach — who shared advice and defining moments from their own careers that illuminated how a trusted mentor can profoundly shape your trajectory.
Mentorship has proven to be invaluable in The Mom Project community. During the application period for our first cohort of 2023, we had over 850 applicants, which caused the Dreami site to temporarily become overloaded. Clearly, mentorship is important to many — let’s dive into why!
Defining your mission
The panelists each described their driving missions and values that guide their leadership approach and career aspirations.
For Stefanie, she discovered that her mission and vision are things she stands for in her life, which is putting her family first. Part of her journey in starting her own company was so she could be a more present parent. This prioritization of people above all else has made her customer-obsessed in her work — she aims for an empathetic, people-first focus with employees as well.
Albina is fueled by advocating for others without a voice at work after overcoming challenges she faced herself, which has shaped her mission and values that she continues to hold prominent in her career.
Jacqui centers family while inspiring women to pursue leadership roles she was once denied after returning from a career break. She had left a career in finance to become a stay-at-home mom after realizing the difficulty, and myth, of doing it all. She redefined her career based on this experience to pursue a new path.
As a mentor, you can use your experience to help mentees understand their own mission and values to help define the next step of their career. Guided by this knowledge, we ask questions to understand how mentees feel about clarity in their next steps and goals. What we’ve found has been enlightening:
Four out of ten mentees have clarity on next steps in their career
Five out of ten mentees feel they are able to rely on the strength on their network
This gap demonstrates how important these topics are to talk about. By helping mentees identify their true north stars early on, mentors can better understand motivations and align opportunities for others to lead with purpose.
Transitioning into leadership
Making the leap into management is thrilling but often rocky. Stefanie, Jacqui, and Albina described tackling those uncharted waters through trial and error or upskilling to gain the confidence and strategic know-how to guide teams.
Stefanie first moved into leadership at a small start-up and had to figure it out. As the people she led began to ask questions and rely on her guidance, she developed more confidence. Through this, she learned that she loves being a part of someone’s career journey.
For Stefanie, understanding the type of leader you want to be is important. In her experience, a good leader or boss leads by example. Start to understand what motivates and drives them after working with them.
It was difficult for Jacqui to get a job after she took a career pause. Because of this, she decided that she needed to upskill, so she went back to school and got her MBA, which allowed her to transition into leadership. Balance has been a challenge, so she has learned to set boundaries and expectations with her family, which has meant a shift to giving them space to learn and grow.
“There’s this release of control because you can’t have it all ways. You really have to balance it out. And the key is giving [your kids] grace and space to learn, and giving yourself space to relinquish that control as well as the worry of what others will think.” - Jacqui
Albina’s experience made her realize that she wanted to be the type of leader she never had, with a priority of making sure everyone around her feels comfortable and safe.
With guidance from an advisor who has walked their own path, you can avoid pitfalls and amplify your strengths.
How upskilling can change the trajectory of your career
Feeling stagnant or encountering roadblocks in your current role? The solution may be upskilling — actively developing new, in-demand skills to expand your capabilities.
Whether hoping to tackle imposter syndrome blocking that promotion, transition to management, or pivot careers after a break, strategic upskilling empowers professional growth.
As Jacqui advised, “Assess your strengths and look for skills that already speak to you” when deciding where to focus. Build on natural affinities rather than radically overhaul your skillset.
For those returning from extended leaves, enrolling in returnship programs provides the opportunity to gain new skills while working.
Stefanie described leadership as a way of being, not necessarily a title. Even before formally advancing, you can start practicing emerging leadership abilities like strategic decision-making and communicating your vision.
Albina noted that in any situation, considering how to guide others from point A to point B builds leadership skills. Even informal mentoring roles can help you practice these competencies.
Keep an open and growth-oriented mindset. Be honest about current limitations but view them as launchpads rather than barriers. Commit time regularly to building skills for the next step on the horizon. With strategic and consistent upskilling, you can intentionally design a career path that leads you to where you ultimately want to be.
Navigating career breaks
Returning to work after a hiatus is a common scenario for many mentees, and this was the case for our panelists. After parenting pauses or layoffs, the panelists all faced that crippling feeling of irrelevance due to their resume gaps. But with relentless perseverance and support, they rediscovered their latent talents.
Transitioning from taking a break to returning to work was a lot for Stefanie. She didn’t know how to navigate her new reality of being a parent with a career. Talking to the important people in her life helped put it into perspective and allowed her to define her priorities.
After being laid off, she reassessed what was important, which led her to start freelancing so she could build the future she desired. If this sounds appealing to you, consider checking out SelfMade by The Mom Project, a new product designed to help freelancers build their companies and employers find experts for their projects.
Albina experienced her own setbacks after moving to the U.S. from Europe. She applied and interviewed nonstop with no luck. But her determination won out in the end, and she got an offer in a new industry that she was excited to learn more about. It taught her that tough times will eventually pass.
“Just because I am stuck in this now does not mean I am stuck in this forever. You never know what is around the corner.” - Albina
Having her daughter and the experience of motherhood gave her the boost of confidence she never knew she needed. It prompted her to ask questions and be honest when she didn’t know something and needed help. Because of this, she learned to live with fire underneath her and not give up because you never know what tomorrow will bring.
Jacqui struggled with her own insecurities after trying to return to work after a career pause, but it was her family that put her fear in perspective.
“I felt irrelevant and was wrestling with all of that; however, I was making bits of progress everyday but sometimes it doesn't feel like that if your expectations are so high. But one day my third grader said, ‘Mom, you’re so persistent.’ And that felt so good, and someone is paying attention…[it made me realize] we are still inspiring our children by persevering.” - Jacqui
While your family can be an amazing inspiring force, having a mentor who has walked a similar path before can provide guidance and solace. Mentors offer the judgment-free partnership needed to appreciate your worth and envision the road ahead during uncertain transitions.
Invest time building your own personal board of directors
True mentors offer more than resume reviews. They share hard-won lessons, help you build connections, and provide you with the encouragement and knowledge to help you grow your confidence. They spot growth opportunities tailored to what makes you shine. They hold you accountable to goals balanced with personal priorities.
Are you interested in becoming a mentor and helping guide others on their career path? RALLY is now open to mentor applications! We are currently seeking mentors for our Winter 2024 Cohort. If you’re ready to inspire others and truly make a difference, check out our RALLY mentor program today!
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