This Women’s Month, Pamela Xaba, Human Resources Director at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa, says it’s important to reflect on and honour those #WomenWithDrive who have worked so tirelessly for gender parity, breaking stereotypes, and paving the way for equal opportunities that women in business enjoy today.
Mentorship is one of Xaba’s biggest passions, and with first-hand experience as a mentor and a mentee, she offers some insights on how empowering and impactful this kind of professional relationship can be.
Having a mentor can help break the glass ceiling
If your goal is career advancement and you want to soar, deliver great results, and reach your full potential at work, you need to find a mentor.
Formal mentorship and informal mentorship programmes are both valuable
There is merit in organisations implementing formal mentorship programmes with specific guidelines, structure, and objectives. There is also huge value in informal mentorship relationships where employees and leaders in the organisation initiate their own, more loosely defined programmes.
The styles of the mentor and mentee should complement each other
The mentee should be strategic about what they want to learn, and establish short-term and long-term goals. The mentee then needs to take a good look at their proposed mentor’s outlook on life, core values, and how they are perceived in the organisation to make sure that they are aligned. The ideal mentor should be a sponsor, a coach, and a networking agent, a good listener, a compassionate supporter, a solid role model and an advocate for the mentee.
The mentee should own the professional relationship
The mentee has to show up, be present, eager to learn, prepared to work hard at their goals, show initiative, take risks, but also understand the need for patience. The mentee should pay attention to their mentor’s guidance, recommendations, and constructive feedback, then take steps to apply what they have learned.
The mentor should ideally be in the same field as the mentee
Besides the mentor helping the mentee gain industry-specific knowledge and expertise to fast-track the mentee’s development, the mentor can also facilitate professional networking within the organisational context, and this can lead to career success.
As a senior leader now, I believe it is time to pay it forward. Together with a group of female colleagues, we started what we call the Professional Women’s Network in South Africa, with the aim of supporting one another, and inspiring and empowering other ambitious young professionals in the organisation. We believe that if you approach the right people, ask the right questions and have the right mindset – the sky is the limit.