Finding a Mentor to Propel Your Career Forward

If you are the first in your family to go to college or to work in a large organization, and you didn’t have many professional role models growing up, you may not be fully aware of the value of finding a mentor. Yet, the sooner you realize it, the better for your career prospects.

The practice of mentorship systems goes back to ancient Greece and to the beginning of most religions. But the modern use of “mentor” and “career mentorship” in the U.S. started in the mid 70s. That’s when advocates for workplace equity tried to identify and address obstacles for the career growth of non-dominant groups.

Inspirational mentoring quote by Marisol Gonzalez

Finding a mentor is a wonderful way to make your journey a much more fulfilling one!

Marisol Gonzalez, Producer at HBO, shares the impact of mentors in her career: “I have been lucky enough to have great mentors. People who believed in me even when I didn’t believe I could do something.  Mentors have impacted me greatly.  They have guided me to be the best I can.  They have pushed me to always work towards excellence.  The biggest impact that my mentors have made in my life is that I know I am not alone on this journey. They have my back, and they are there for me.”

Is there a process for finding a mentor?

Well, if you’re not surrounded by professionals in your field, finding a mentor is a task you must undertake deliberately. You should join professional organizations and attend conferences where you can easily meet the right people. Start developing the relationships as you would with anyone else, and eventually establish either a formal or informal mentoring relationship. Most people’s first mentors tend to be their bosses. The advantage here is that your boss knows your job, the culture of your organization, and your field. The disadvantage is that if conflict ever arise with your boss, then you have nobody to consult with.

Finding a mentor inspirational quote by Will Robalino

Most mentors agree that they derive great satisfaction from seeing their mentees’s dreams become realities.

So you may start with your boss and then set out finding a mentor outside of your organization. Keep in mind that you can have more than one mentor and you can also change mentors as your career evolves and your interests change.

Informal mentoring relationships

Also, when finding a mentor, it’s good to admit that many mentoring relationships are pretty informal. If you have a relationship with someone you really trust, admire and like, you may be able to “use” them as your mentors without formally asking. These can be very fulfilling and productive relationships. Lily Benjamin, SVP Leadership development and organization transformation at a large financial institution in the banking industry, shares:

Two women talking

Have you ever tried this powerful modality of mentoring?

“I have never had a formal mentor, but have had many informal mentoring relationships.  Everyone has valuable attributes that we can learn from, whether we admire or disapprove of them.  Given that we, humans, are evolving creatures, to become our better selves, it is imperative that we are conscious and open to continuous learning.  Being humble and receptive is necessary to make the best out of our relationships with either formal or informal mentors.  That is why I believe the Chinese proverb that says, ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.’  Because I am a perpetual learner, I learned from my mentor-figures how to think critically, network, and be respected.  As a result, I am very comfortable with ambiguity, navigating through complex matrix environments, and building meaningful relationships in support of everyone.”

Difference between formal and informal mentoring

Some research shows that finding a mentor and establishing a formal relationship results in more promotions than informal relationships. So besides having a supportive group of informal mentors, you should find someone who understands what it takes to make it in your field. Someone with whom you can establish a more formal mentoring relationship. That means, someone you meet regularly, who sees your potential, challenges you to achieve what you sometimes feel impossible, and helps you set your goals.

What you should know before you go off finding a mentor

Before you go off finding a mentor you should know that research shows that diverse employees (and women) tend to have less access to mentors in their organizations. And often, when they are assigned mentors, they tend to be of lower hierarchical level. Inevitably, this affects the access that the mentor has and the probability he or she will become a sponsor for the mentee. So, if you find yourself in this situation, it may be time to talk to your boss or to the HR team so you may be paired with an executive who can mentor you.

It’s also worth understanding why someone would invest time in your development. To this effect, the answers from these two executives resonate with most mentors I know.

Lucía Ballas-Traynor, a senior marketing and media executive, said:

Lucia Ballas Traynor mentoring quote

It’s important to know your potential mentor’s motivation for investing time and energy in you.

“My main trigger on mentoring others is the fact that I did not have mentors who truly understood the unique challenges faced by a Latina early on in my career.  I had no one to turn to when I needed advice, words of encouragement or just a likeminded sounding board who could share lessons learned from their real-world experience, when I needed it most!  I find that companies and leadership (especially male-dominated) are not taking the time to coach and develop the next generation of professionals.  Consequently the need for mentorship has increased.”

William Robalino, VP, Controller at Prudential Annuities, shares: “There are many reasons I enjoy mentoring. My biggest is the satisfaction I get in seeing someone’s goals and interests become a reality.”

Don’t miss my article on coaching and mentoring where I review different types of mentoring relationships.

The more you know the value you can bring to you mentor, the more productive the relationship. And the more interested your mentor will be in investing time in you. That’s why my biggest recommendation is: Think of the mentoring relationship as a two-way street. Bring as much value to your mentors as they bring you. Explore your mentor’s agenda, their goals, their aspirations and find ways to support them.

Role model inspirational quote by Mariela Dabbah

Role model inspirational quote by Mariela Dabbah

Role models inspire you by showing you what is possible with their own example. Mentors help you manifest your dreams and goals. They can help make the impossible possible. So surround yourself with the greatest mentors to achieve your greatest potential.

And if you are serious about finding mentors and coaches to propel your career forward, consider joining our Step Up program.











Talent Strategy — The Weakest Link in HR Strategies

Do you want to take your talent strategy to the next level? Today we’ll cover how to Retain Top Talent. Read on!!

Key piece of your talent strategy —How to retain top talent

Sometimes, attracting top talent is not the hardest part of the talent equation. It is retaining talent that keeps heads of HR up at night. As a matter of fact, how to retain top talent (particularly women and diverse employees) has become a highly competitive sport. Even more so with the Millennial Generation, known for needing to be valued.

Read about the 10 Successful Tactics for Motivating Millennials at Work.

We had a chance to talk to Arturo Poiré, Vice President & Global Head of Talent Management at Ericson, the giant technology company. (Full disclosure, he is, with Mariela Dabbah, the co-author of The Latino Advantage in the Workplace, and the voice of Arturo’s Corner in Dabbah’s Find Your Inner Red Shoes.) Prior to his position in Ericson, Poiré was the Global Head of Talent Management at Marsh & McLennan Companies.

Arturo Poire, VP and Global Head of Talent Management at Ericson

Arturo Poire, VP and Global Head of Talent Management at Ericson-
Co-Author of The Latino Advantage in the Workplace

As many of its competitors, Ericson recently released its diversity data and committed to setting up recruitment goals for increasing the number of women and minority hires. In the last couple of years they have ramped up their diversity and inclusion efforts. They have been involved with initiatives to increase women in operations and decision-making positions such as Battle of the Numbers and Women Up.

Do you have an answer to the million dollar question, How to retain top talent? And more specifically, women and diverse talent?

There is no single answer to this question. Organizations need a whole range of supporting systems in place to make them an attractive employer. In research conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation (Off-Ramps and On-Ramps Revisited 2010) they describe what motivates highly-qualified women as high-quality colleagues: job security, being able to be themselves, flexible working, collaborating with others, giving back to the community, recognition and compensation. An organization that focuses on these areas coupled with development at all levels, agile career paths, sponsoring and mentoring, and a culture that embraces differences is off to a good start.

Talent Strategy Advice

What is the best talent strategy advice to attract women to male-dominated professions and industries?

Organizations need to work harder at not only getting women interested in male-dominated industries but also getting young girls interested from an early age. Talent acquisition and talent management functions need to work together and align on talent strategy to enable processes, initiatives, programs and offerings to complement each other. Talent acquisition needs to focus on establishing long-term communication and engagement with diverse talent communities, high schools and universities, while talent management focuses on retaining and developing diverse talent.

Many opinions about male-dominated professions and industries are quite outdated. Focusing on what a career within a specific field may actually look like and what opportunities it may offer is just as important as shedding light on specific initiatives, activities or offerings targeted towards female potential employees.

Align your talent acquisition and management functions with the overall talent strategy. And make sure all HR roles remain aware of their own biases.

My advice to women – Performance will always be key to a successful career no matter the industry. Show interest in many areas and broaden your competence every chance you get. Do not be afraid to step in to bigger roles and stretch assignments. Seek roles where you develop a customer focus. Make sure you have career and development plans in place. Get yourself a mentor or a sponsor. If you are not satisfied with the situation where you work, raise your voice and if you have ideas of how things should work differently – bring them forward. Build your network, both internally and externally. We can only change things if we all strive to improve and find solutions for the future.

Always focus on performance and show your interest in a diversity of areas. | Inspirational quote about performance

Always focus on performance and show your interest in a diversity of areas.

What is an effective way to get your entire organization behind your diversity and inclusion talent strategy?

Engaging the entire organization in a culture of constructive dialog around diversity, inclusion and talent is a first step. In many cases, progress is hindered by lack of awareness, by the inability to challenge unwritten rules, or by the culture of the organization itself. Organizations need to engage individuals at all level to get buy-in, not only on talent strategy but also in its implementation.

Commitment from top executives is also important to confirm that diversity and inclusion is recognized as business-critical and a must for retaining talent.

How do you get past the idea that the moment you actively try to diversify your talent, you are not getting the best people for the job?

Every time we talk about diverse talent, this is linked to not hiring the best person for the job. We need to move away from this bias that women or ethnic minorities, if selected for a job, are not the best talent. I believe competence always comes first. We (organizations) need the best talent regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, etc.

In order to continue to stay competitive, organizations need to further diversify their workforce. A diverse team is better for business; it delivers better results, more creative solutions, connects better and easier to the world around us, and has a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

How to retain top talent when its quality is questioned

For all the talk about retaining talent, we keep hearing stories about high- achieving diverse employees leaving companies after having been passed over for promotions. How do you integrate the overall talent strategy with specific tactics for retaining talent?

An organization needs to define its vision, mission and talent strategy as a starting point. We must agree on what we are trying to achieve and the ways to do it. Once this has been defined, an action plan or specific tactics can be defined for an integrated approach.

An important aspect to remember when talking about retaining talent is not only focus on how to “fix” the “diverse talent” but rather to look at it from two perspectives. The talent (and all aspects connected of supporting and building talent) and the hiring managers, recruiters and decision-makers (and their mindset, approach and potential prejudice.)

Are we truly unbiased when working with our talent pools, nominating employees for assessments, appointing to key positions and strategic projects? Are we honestly an equal opportunity employer?

Being an equal opportunity employer may not necessarily mean offering male/female/homosexual/disabled candidates exactly the same benefit and compensation packages – it is about creating the same opportunities for advancement and success. That could mean offering a single father a daycare solution or someone who is visually impaired the best-in-class tools. But the question remains: are we offering equal opportunities to let everybody explore their full potential?

How to retain top talent when organizational practices get in the way

What organizational practices are contributing to unconscious bias? What are companies doing to review the processes they have in place to mitigate potential biases towards women and diverse talent?

Talent strategy: Engaging the entire organization about diversity talent strategy is a critical first step

Engaging the entire organization about diversity talent strategy is a critical first step

Talent management must be a role model when it comes to scrutinizing their own behavior and how it impacts others. As the professionals in talent management and HR are the people who maintain the organization’s culture, we must pay extra attention when defining, describing and phrasing behaviors and characteristics that are required and identified as desired in a candidate.

We may unconsciously be confirming stereotypes, cementing behaviors in leadership and performance, when designing incentive schemes and defining recruitment criteria. As an example, we can look at mobility where we tend to use confirmation bias in the belief that men are, generally speaking, more mobile than their female counterparts. In the same manner, we align mobility with leadership and also promotional opportunities, which ultimately creates a bias against women.

Sufficient awareness of unconscious bias will enable organizations to review and question processes and definitions of leadership. It will also provide the opportunity for the business to discuss potential biases when key processes are being implemented, such as performance management and at calibration when key decisions about people are being made. Only education and constant awareness will help mitigate biases, as this is something that is always present as part of human decision-making.

Read About The RSM Step Up Plus -- A Year-Round Empowerment Program
A sustainable, measurable way to attract, engage and promote your talent.

A sustainable, measurable way to attract, engage and promote your talent.

3 Ways to Lose Your High Potential Latinas

Are you making these mistakes after hiring those high potential Latinas? Would you like tips on how to identify these high potential employees? Read on!

It happens so often it’s painful. A high potential Latina goes through a relatively short period of unbridled excitement about her new job, and after exceeding all her boss’ expectations, she does a 180 and looks for the door. You can’t help but ask, what the heck?

Mistake 1- Breaking promises to high potential Latinas

The story goes something like this. A high potential Latina, let’s call her Arlene, is hired to fulfill certain duties. After awhile, her boss, Henry, realizes she’s really good at her job and he gives her increasingly larger responsibilities. She’s excited, steps up to the plate and produces outstanding results in a short period of time.

3 ways to lose your High potential Latinas. Read on to find out how to identify them!

You may be surrounded by high potential Latinas.

Arlene invests long hours at work not only because she loves what she does but also because Henry told her that when her colleague, Tony, leaves in six months for another position, she will be promoted.

The six months come, Tony leaves, and Henry tells Arlene that he has decided that the results she produces are very hard to come by, therefore she needs to remain in her position. They will hire someone else to fulfill Tony’s job. Come again?

But wait, Arlene surely got a salary bump, right? Producing such great results and all… Nope. Not a dime. Zip.

Disillusioned and feeling undervalued, unable to make sense of what happened, Arlene decides to look for another job where her “unparalleled contributions” are appreciated and compensated. But most importantly, a place with a clear career path.

Mistake 2 – Not seeing a high potential Latina as a high potential employee

Yes, unfortunately, this happens quite often as well. You’re desperately looking for those unique gems to create a strong talent pipeline but inadvertently overlook the high potential Latina employee staring you in the eye. Why? Because she (or her resume) doesn’t look like they have the qualities of a leader. My question is: are you looking closely enough?

Let me give you an example. Daysi was the first in her family to go to college and she inspired, motivated, and supported her two younger sisters to do the same. She studied aviation administration at CUNY (City University of New York,) founded an organization for women in aviation at her college, did internships in aviation and at my non-profit organization, Latinos in College. She worked for JetBlue and for an aviation services company at La Guardia Airport before starting a career in retail at Target and now at Macy’s. She has a very unusual background to work in retail and you could be fooled into thinking she’s jumping around. Or you might underestimate her, because she didn’t go to a top tier school.

Are you making these 3 mistakes after hiring those high potential Latinas? Read on to find out!

High potential Latinas may have unusual backgrounds. Photo credit:

But believe me, you’d regret overlooking Daysi as the high potential Latina with all of the leadership qualities you seek. See, when you dig a little deeper, you realize this is a young woman committed to her community, who always goes above and beyond the call of duty both in her personal and professional lives.

Daysi thinks outside the box, is solutions oriented, has an enviable ability to network with high-level people, and is unusually open to feedback. She knows what it means to make do with few resources and how to prepare for things not working the way you expect them to. In her early thirties, she has assumed more responsibility than a lot of people will in their entire lives. Her challenging life-circumstances have built her resilience, grit, and hopeful outlook on life. No, you don’t want to lose your Daysis.

Mistake 3 – Pigeonholing Latinas

In a way, this mistake is connected to the previous one. If you pigeonhole Latinas, you’ll hardly see their high potential, right?

What I’d like to propose, is that you might be assigning your high potential Latina employees to areas that you believe they’re well-suited for when, in fact, you’re just following stereotypes for Latinas. Like customer facing or support positions, event planning, and so on. It’s as if you couldn’t imagine an Indian employee anywhere but in the tech department. What happens when that employee is actually a brilliant operations person?

You run the same risk with high potential Latinas. Pigeonhole them and you miss out on their real potential for your company. So it’s smart to keep yourself tuned into your subconscious biases and ask questions.

Supporting the Red Shoe Movement, students from @SLU_AphaRho and @SLU1987

Supporting the Red Shoe Movement, students from @SLU_AphaRho and @SLU1987

When you notice that one of your employees does something brilliantly outside of her job description, explore. Is this something you love to do? How come you’re so good at it? Do you do this in your spare time? If you’re able to connect that amazing skill with a position, she’ll do much better than if you keep her in the box you put her in.

Take a look and you’ll start seeing high potential Latinas all around you. Just keep in mind that quite often their backgrounds, resumes, or schools probably won’t look like your more typical high potential. But digging a bit deeper will unveil a treasure trove of talent in your own backyard.

Meanwhile, take a look at how to ignite your team’s fire!!

Discover how to ignite your team's fire with the RSM Memberships!

Ignite your team’s fire with the RSM Memberships

The Top 10 Qualities of a Good Leader

Discover the top 10 qualities of a good leader for the 21st century! Do you have them? Or would you benefit from leadership training and development? We believe you can teach many of these qualities at effective leadership development programs.

Discover the top 10 qualities of a good leader

There is a wide range of opinions regarding the top qualities of a good leader. What is clear is that, among the many identifiable characteristics shared by leaders, some are more innate than others. Which means that there are certain basic traits individuals are born with and others you can help them develop via leadership training. For our list, we chose key characteristics for leaders of the 21st century to remain relevant.

Oprah Winfrey, inspirational leader | Discover the top 10 qualities of a good leader!

Oprah Winfrey, inspirational leader

The top 10 qualities of a good leader

10 Ability to Connect and Communicate– Leaders are master connectors and communicators, a skill that, despite being largely innate, can be taught. They must have the ability to: Connect with employees, clients, vendors, partners, the media, and others and connect their ideas with the needs of the market. And also the ability to communicate their ideas and their vision, the effectiveness of which depends on their communication styles. Go ahead and read Communication Styles That Won’t Carry You Up the Ladder and see if you may be making these mistakes!

9 Ability to inspire- One of the qualities of a good leader most often recognized in iconic figures such as Oprah or Steve Jobs is the ability to inspire others. Although some individuals’ inspire others with their natural charisma, it is possible to teach the mechanics of inspiration. A mark of a true 21st century leader is the ability to inspire others to be leaders themselves

8 Commitment- Only when a leader is committed to their organization’s goals, principles and values can they inspire others to be committed. That commitment needs to be felt in their willingness to work hard and to be measured by the same standards as everyone else. In other words, when employees see leaders making sacrifices, they are more willing to make them themselves. Commitment is a hard (if not impossible) to teach quality. Leadership training is not really effective here.

The top 10 qualities of a Good leader | Leadership development

The top 10 qualities of a good leader

7 Focus- A laser focus on the organization’s goals is necessary to move it forward. The most effective leaders are those able to keep their focus on the long-term mission even when dealing with short-term challenges. This is one of the qualities of a good leader for which leadership development can be effective.

6 Intelligence- It may go without saying that in order to lead an organization you need to have a certain amount of intelligence. You don’t need to have the highest IQ in the room as you could compensate with street smarts, preparation and choosing the right team, but you do need to be moderately smart.

5 Multicultural sensitivity- We live in an increasingly diverse world where the ability to connect with people from different backgrounds is critical to the success of any organization. Leaders who are conversant in cultural sensitivity have a big advantage over their peers who remain in the ivory tower. Leadership development focused on cultural diversity training can be useful here.

One of the good qualities of a leader is passion. - Albert Einstein talent quote

One of the good qualities of a leader is passion.

4 Passion- At the center of what characterizes a leader is their passion. Passion is the energy that makes things happen, that makes people attractive to others. This is a very hard quality to instill via leadership training in people who are not passionate about anything. You can try, however, to help individuals who are passionate about a variety of things to focus on something specific.

3 Positive Attitude- Leaders must always have a positive, can-do attitude. It’s the only way to face difficulties and overcome crises. Although you can teach how to see things in a positive light and keep up a positive attitude, we tend to think that, to a large extent, people are born with a tendency to see the glass half-full or half-empty. Leadership development may have a limited effect on this trait.

2 Vision- This is what distinguishes leaders from followers. It’s the dream. Their vision of what can be created that doesn’t yet exist, of how far the organization and its products or services can go, what dream can be achieved. Another one of the very intrinsic characteristics of a leader that is hard to teach.

And the number one quality of a good leader is!!!

1 Willingness to make mistakes- Every leader worth their salt is a risk taker and embraces mistakes as part of the journey. They know mistakes will happen along the way. But a true 21st Century leader also:

  • Encourages their team to make mistakes
  • Doesn’t punish people for making mistakes as a result of risk-taking
  • Uses mistakes as learning opportunities


Richard Branson, one of the top inspirational leaders | Leadership training

Leaders are dreamers focused on their vision!

Leadership training is it effective for leadership development?

It depends on the kind of leadership training. Some leadership training programs are particularly good at eliciting employees’ most important leadership skills. When you combine these programs with leadership development in the areas where the particular employee is weak (perhaps communications or focus) and you can easily see a leader emerge. There are other leadership training programs, however, that would have you believe that you could make a leader out of someone who lacks some of the very basic qualities of a good leader such as intelligence, passion and vision.

Not everyone is a natural born leader and not everyone is even interested in being a leader. The challenge is to look beyond your own stereotypes to find diamonds in the rough and to offer them the right leadership development opportunities so they can flourish.

Career Coaches: Men Mentoring and Coaching Women

Men mentoring and coaching women - Career Coaches

Men mentoring and coaching women – Career Coaches

Men Mentoring and Coaching Women

Many of the powerful women I interviewed for my book Find Your Inner Red Shoes shared that they had received most of their mentoring and coaching from men. Some had early male career coaches or mentors who made a big impact in their journeys. Some sought out male mentoring and coaching as they moved through the ranks and became these men’s protégés. Regardless of the industry these women were in, they all found men who saw the value in helping them become leaders in their desired field.

The Real Role of Career Coaches

When you look for potential mentors to coach your female employees up the organizational ladder, it’s easy to settle for the more common role of a career coach: Helping people advance in their careers by refining their strengths and overcoming their weaknesses. What is harder to find are career coaches who guide your employees through a process of self-discovery that eventually leads to a better alignment between their inner strengths and passions, and their career track. Someone who functions as a catalyst for your employees’ ambitions and who guides them in the path to self-fulfillment which is the surest way to heightened career engagement and productivity. This is exactly the type of mentor that the successful women I interviewed had!

The Real Role of Career Coaches: Having a Career

The Real Role of Career Coaches

As you look for potential career coaches to match with females on the fast track, keep in mind that mentors don’t need to look like their mentees. For good mentoring and coaching to occur, it’s less important for it to be delivered by someone with the same background/gender as the mentee than by someone with the ability to unleash their mentees’ interests. In addition, what makes a mentor/coach most valuable is the ability to help mentees crack the code for career advancement in the organization—who to approach for what, what strategies will land them a seat at the table, best ways to leverage their background, and so on. In the best-case scenario, as the relationship progresses, mentors become sponsors introducing their mentees to key players and becoming conduits to bigger and better career advancement opportunities.

The Advantage of Men Mentoring and Coaching Women

When the goal is to promote more women to leadership positions and the dominant demographic in power is men, it’s important that men do some of the mentoring and coaching of the high potential women (particularly women from diverse backgrounds) to create a succession plan that includes both genders.

There are many advantages for your company to have men as career coaches for women:

  • Men can help women decipher the unwritten rules of the organization, the ignorance of which can affect women and other groups negatively.
  • Men can become powerful sponsors of the women they are mentoring and coaching, vouching for their abilities and integrity when a desirable position becomes available.
  • The exposure to women’s thought process, collaborative style, and approach to problem-solving can help men see the value of including more women at higher decision-making levels.
  • The positive impact of working with smart women who are advancing through the ranks can help change the perception that they are a threat to men’s power and elicit more support for women in the organization.
Career coaches

Career coaches

Potential Disadvantages of Men Mentoring and Coaching Women

Because men and women have very different management and leadership styles and because in most companies the top echelon of the organization is highly male, when you assign men as career coaches for women there is a  risk of perpetuating the stereotypes that have created the disparity in the first place. So it behooves you to identify the right men for the job.  Men who embrace change and welcome different approaches and ideas. Those who feel comfortable sharing knowledge and power because they understand that in the end the strategy will benefit the entire organization.

Finally, to achieve your goals of promoting more women to the highest decision-making positions, you might need to assign both a male and a female career coach to your fast track employees. The first one will share insights on the way men climb the ladder and the second will hopefully offer the tweaks necessary to succeed as a woman in your particular company.