Ask any talent management executive at a major company what tops his or her list of concerns and you’ll likely hear this: Not enough women are advancing to the highest ranks. (Still!) To remedy this, many companies now offer an impressive array of programs designed to help women build the skills and connections they need to grow and get promoted—from mentoring and career coaching to leadership training and affinity groups.
If you’re lucky enough to work at one of these progressive companies, the choices may seem endless—maybe too much of a good thing. You can’t be everywhere at once and still get your job done. To help, we’ve vetted each of the most common options to help you choose which will work best for you now and in the future. And say you don’t work for a forward-looking operation like those on the NAFE Top Companies for Executive Women list? Well, we’ve got some DIY suggestions for you, too, to help you build your career and increase your effectiveness at work.
How it works: You are paired with a more senior executive (either formally or informally) to receive professional and/or personal advice. Also effective are mentoring circles, peer-to-peer mentoring and reverse mentoring.
It’s best for: Everyone, including the CEO.
A mentor may last a month or a lifetime. In fact, the more mentors, the better! Just make sure your mentor knows more than you about something you need to learn, such as how things really get done at your company, how to deal with a difficult boss, tips on making presentations or even how to put the latest technologies to work for you. “What’s exciting about a mentor relationship is that you start talking about development plans, then you’re discussing strategies and what risks to take,” says Michele Byrd, 40, Kraft Foods’ customer manager for Walmart. “You establish trust, and eventually, you’re talking about your family.” Michele, mother of Marshall, 8, confides that her mentor helped her through both personal and professional challenges this year. “[My mentor] helped me see things from a broader position,” she says. “Now I’m more collaborative and communicative.”
Do it yourself: Formal mentoring programs are great, but don’t wait for a mentor to come to you.