Get a mentor: get ahead
Whilst they apply to all employees equally, mentoring schemes are used in Enterprise as a strategy for nurturing female talent.
Many female employees who have been recently promoted attribute some of their success to an active mentor who has sponsored their progress through the business.
For mentoring to work as a strategy for getting women in leadership, it is essential for both the mentor and the mentee to understand the nature and purpose of the relationship. Some of it is about building confidence, but it also goes beyond.
Drive spoke to mentee - and now mentor - Candice Turner, recently promoted to Area Manager in U3, to understand how mentoring played a role in her success. She describes how she first went for an Area Manager position after attending a female leadership conference organised by Enterprise about three years ago.
“I had never put myself forward for a position, I had always waited to be asked. Other women were saying the same thing. So I went back to my job, got my numbers 100 per cent in line. I went for a job without being asked and - I was told I completely blew the selection panel away!”
Candice’s decision to put herself forward resulted in an interesting question from U3 GM Gary Palmer. “Everyone asked, why have we not noticed this person before? I didn’t get that job! But I got invited onto Gary Palmer’s mentor scheme.”
Candice identifies several areas where mentoring helped her.
First was personal reassurance to boost confidence and self-belief.
Second was coaching on how to present achievements and identify skills needed to succeed for a specific position. Mentors review CVs, portfolios and other materials to ensure that there are no gaps that an assessment panel will question.
Third was networking. “I used Gary to help me network and build contacts. I met the female GMs and eventually my next interview was with Diane in Scotland. I didn’t get that job either! Gary reassured me that my time would come, and helped me with my third application. This time I was offered the position.”
Candice has played a part in broadening out the mentoring programme so that people who were mentored are now mentors themselves, passing down their knowledge. The focus here is on women and minorities though anyone can apply.
Her recipe for mentoring success is a blend of regimented structure and regular open dialogue.
“Everyone is busy, so set up a recurring meeting every 10 weeks or so when you catch up. The first few meetings are all about getting to know one another. It feels awkward to begin with. At first you talk more about personal things, but then you start to talk more about business and it gets easier. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone whenever you need to if you have a question or an idea.”
Candice now mentors several women and is always surprised at the positive impact even after only a few meetings with new mentees