The meetings, getting-to-know-yous and strategizing have begun. Women facing career and personal crossroads are meeting, one-on-one, with established successful professional women who have been carefully selected based on their abilities to provide valuable guidance. More than a dozen mentors have been matched with mentees to kick off the 2013 session of JVSLA’s innovative WoMentoring program. In addition to working with each other, mentors and mentees work closely with the JVS career staff to help the mentee reach a career milestone. The current crop of mentees include a marketing manager looking to expand her network; a classically trained ballet dancer hoping to bring her love of the arts to help abused and neglected children; an entrepreneur hoping to start her own nonprofit agency and an attorney who hopes to transition to creating a business selling sustainable and fair trade products to women around the world.
Helping these mentees to reach their various goals, we have company CEOs, talent agents, stylists, writers, artists and educators.
The following is a personal account of Lauren who joined JVSLA’s WoMentoring after a successful career as a researcher:
One afternoon, a coach came to my office and ran a team building workshop for our department. I was hooked. I asked him afterwards how one becomes a coach and a few years later I became a Certified Professional Coactive Coach. I am no longer at my previous position and I am now trying to “re-career,” by starting up my own business as a life and business coach.
This is a big departure from my previous life as a researcher and I have no business experience. However, coaching is no hobby for me. I am serious about this new career path. I have done what I can on my own – joined a professional organization and online communities. I have participated in webinars and tele-classes for beginning a business, getting clients, writing a business plan, and creating a website. Yet, I still feel that I am flailing about on my own without a clear path to follow.
About half of small businesses fail within the first five years. But, I am driven to make my venture a success. When I discovered the WoMentoring program at JVSLA, I thought that it sounded perfect. I know the program helps all sorts of women, and an important part of the program is designed to find mentors for people like me – women in the midst of a mid-career change. I phoned the WoMentoring Program Manager, Keisha Chandler, to see if she thought I was right for the program. Keisha was fantastic. She totally “got” me, coaching, my goals for my business, and what kind of help I would need in order to make my business successful. I hung up the phone and immediately submitted an application and my resume.
After being accepted into the WoMentoring program, I had an in-person interview with Keisha. We discussed my goals, my strengths and experience, my needs, and how a mentor can help me to create my own success. Keisha and I talked about what sort of mentor would be best for me. We determined that a mentor with a strong business background is more important than one with a strong coaching background.
Recently, I participated in the orientation meeting along with the other WoMentoring mentees who have been given this amazing opportunity. We learned about the meaning of mentoring. Since we all come with different skills and backgrounds, the help we can give one another will provide added support over and above what we get from our mentors. I think this sense of camaraderie and community among the participants is part of what has made this program so successful. We also learned that a mentor will advise, support and encourage us, but a mentor will not do the work for us. This is an important tenet of the program. The upfront knowledge that we are in charge of our own success creates both personal responsibility and empowerment. This, too, is key to WoMentoring’s success.
Keisha worked to find me a mentor who would fit my needs. And, indeed she did. I am a bit intimidated, but also thrilled to be working with the woman who has agreed to be my mentor. I am determined to wow her and more importantly to take advantage of everything she has to offer me so that my business will be a success.
As I stand at the beginning of my WoMentoring journey, I find myself amazed that a program like this exists at all, let alone free of charge. As Keisha has noted, my fellow mentees and I are responsible for our WoMentoring destinies. Half of getting a job or creating a viable business is who you know and each of us is starting down this road with an important and valuable professional connection who will help us expand our professional networks. Although there are no guarantees, if we, as mentees, all put the maximum amount of effort into this program, then with our mentors’ help, there is nothing we can’t achieve.