The Secret Success to Escalate in Your Career

Mentoring relationships & guiding women up to the talent pipeline.

By Christina Ioannidis

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Women to Women

As a speaker, facilitator and entrepreneur, I have engaged with audiences worldwide, and seen that one of the biggest challenges for women in business in breaking the glass ceiling is the lack of female role models in their organizations, those Senior women who can lend a helping hand and extend their supportive reach in guiding women up the talent pipeline.

Another attitudinal issue which women have irrespective of where they are from is that firm belief that “my work should stand for itself” attitude. However, women often tell me they believe we have to work twice, if not three, times as hard as their male colleagues in order to be recognized. Whilst we have great intuitive skills, this particular attitude is exemplary of a sense of our strict code of ethics and morals in that we want to stand out for our professional contribution rather than our networking skills.

What this does, however, is accentuate further the distance from the cultural backdrop of business, where, particularly in male-dominated environments, successful talent is identified from senior managers’ radar lists. It is the famous quote “It is now what you know, but who you know” that gets the next job or promotion.

“Putting yourself out there is just as critical as working hard”

In my long professional career, I have always worked in more male-dominated organizations and industries, often being the only woman in the team. In fact, in my first professional role fresh after my Masters degree, I was the first saleswoman in a 250-strong sales force in Spain. The testosterone flowing in the sales rooms was definitely palpable. However, I did learn at a very young age that putting yourself out there is just as critical as working hard. I could have said to myself, “I was Head Girl of my school, I got my Masters with a Distinction, I was selected out of 2,500 applicants to join this international organization – my achievements speak for me.”

However, I decided, albeit rather impromptu, that I would ask the European President of the organization I was in, to be my mentor. He accepted, much to my surprise, with amazing glee. Lo and behold, I received a call from him proposing an opportunity as a Brand Manager in a different territory – which I took on with no second thought. Had I waited, such an opportunity would have taken at least 2-3 years to come by, as in Fast Moving Consumer Goods businesses, you have to move “up the ranks”, first doing at least one year as a Junior Brand Manager, then move to Brand Manager and then up to Senior Brand Manager. My mentor had shortened this process by at least two years.

There are many stories like that out there. Mine is not unique. However, it is important to understand that that women have to fight against their natural instincts in talking about their success and putting themselves, or their work for that matter, forward and recognizing their achievements to those who matter.

Top of Her Game Initiative to break stereotypes

I founded Top of Her Game, the GCC’s first online portal and job board aimed at breaking stereotypes of women in technology, business and sport. One of our roles is to promote Arab women how have being trailblazers, or Game-changes as we call them, in their fields. By showcasing them, we are breaking the perception women cannot succeed in a man’s world; additionally, we are sharing their pearls of wisdom to encourage other women to progress. And our top initiative is the creation of a peer-mentoring Female Majlis concept.

The objective of the Female Majlis is to create an environment of trust and support with a diverse group of individuals who meet at regular intervals. I have designed a format where we leverage diversity of responsibilities, expertise, age, race to offer support, advise and, ultimately, Breakthrough Thinking for specific challenges faced by participants.

The power of the group (and the pun is intentional) is that it does take the discussion beyond traditional frameworks. Purely because participants are not under pressure of trying to solve their own problems or face issues entirely on their own, they are open to advice and even on-the-spot brainstorming. The outputs have been amazing. So much so, we have developed our Female Majlis even further, encouraging participants to access their own Board of Directors.

Breaking the proverbial glass ceiling or un-sticking ourselves from the sticky floor requires investment, time and a positive attitude, an attitude that as women, we can control our own destiny and can leverage the support from others in the organization or outside our personal circle of influence. Having a new set of eyes to understand and advise us on our issues is extremely powerful; being able to re-pay the favor instantly is even more constructive for our self-confidence. Take the bull by the horns – tap into the Secret of Success and join the Female Majlis.

7 STEPS TO BUILDING YOUR MENTORING MESH 

The world of business is very challenging these days. Companies are being put under extreme pressure to satisfy shareholders, employees are been pushed to the limit in terms of performance. Utilizing the power of your own Board of Directors and building a mesh of mentors can guide you through your career and personal transitions. As with everything, having a diverse range of mentors, each with differing experience, viewpoints and contacts, is key.

So, how do you go about identifying your most appropriate Mentoring Mesh, or your Personal Board of Directors?

  1. Be strategic Start by understanding yourself – what you are good at doing, and want to do more of? What roles are most suited to use these skills? Where you see yourself in five years time?
  2. Set objectives What is important for you to have achieved in the short term and long terms? What are the important milestones for you?
  3. Identify individuals who could help you on your Career Path Think of who may have gone through a similar transition or challenge as you to get to where they are. How did they get there?
  4. Have courage Remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
  5. Be specific What do you want to achieve with your mentoring relationship? What is it you would like this person to advise you on? Why do you think they are relevant for you?
  6. Be flexible Senior executives have little time, so work in a way that fits in with their diary. If they can only give you 15 minutes, then arranging a conference call to discuss specific enquiry or issue it has to be. Meeting face to face is great, but won’t be very likely.
  7. Be a mentor to others Mentoring does not have to be a long-winded commitment. You will not only feel good about yourself, you will make an enormous difference to someone who is now where you were we few years ago.

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