The theme of 2021’s International Women’s Day was #ChooseToChallenge, and the best way I can rise up to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality is by continuing to mentor and promote mentorship in my fields -- the legal sector and the cannabis industry. Therefore, I am challenging every executive-level individual to find a mentee (preferably someone who doesn’t report to her or him already), and everyone else to ask someone to be their mentor (preferably someone other than their manager).
Sounds Super Easy! How Can I Get Started?
Well, there’s more than one way to go about it. Personally, I’ve never done well in formal mentoring programs. I choose to seek out a mentoring relationship part-naturally and part-intentionally. What do I mean by this? I usually pick someone to mentor that I know or tangentially work with, and sometimes I’ve even been lucky enough to have a mentee find me! I don’t always say, “Hey, I am going to be your mentor” or “Will you be my mentee?” but I get to know the person and take an interest in their life, and specifically their career growth and success. It may not be an official mentoring program, but it looks the same, sounds the same, and, most importantly, feels the same for me and hopefully the mentee.
That’s just my style, but there are formal programs out there as well. For lawyers, I recommend calling your state and local bar associations, which usually run mentoring programs or provide resources for third-party initiatives. For corporate folks, check with your human resources department. Your company may have a program or even want to start one! For those in cannabis, there are national and local industry groups that may have the ability to pair you up with a mentor or mentee.
So What Do I Do Once I Have a Mentee?
For you executives out there, how did you figure out all of the details on the way up? Things like what to wear to your first board meeting, how to know if you should be promoted, or how much you should be paid for your hard work. Likely, many of you traded notes with or followed the lead of family members or friends. However, many employees didn’t “grow up” professionally with that luxury -- particularly minorities and women.
I’m not saying you should dive in day one and provide a tutorial on how you got to where you are, but in the process of developing a mentor/mentee relationship, you should be open to providing advice and answering questions about those “details” without judgment; things that even fall out of the realm of your ordinary management relationship with your direct employees. You might even find yourself asking your mentee questions to help hone your own management skills!
How About From the Mentee Perspective?
For potential mentees, your job in the dynamic may seem a bit harder at first, but it doesn’t have to be. I found that once I asked someone to be my mentor, they were instantly game and wanted to tell me all about how they got where they were. Once you get over that hump and get to know each other, the relationship should be whatever you want to make of it. Do you want to check in once a month and tell your mentor how you are doing, or do you want to call them whenever you have a question? Do you want to grab lunch with no agenda and just let the conversation flow? The latter is the method I prefer but, again, it’s totally up to you!
If I haven’t convinced you anecdotally, here are the statistics:
So what are you waiting for? Get mentoring!
WRITTEN BYTobi Lebowitz