Category Archives: BLOG

3 Mistakes that Make Mentoring a Waste of Time

Women are not only missing critical relationships such as allies, mentors, and sponsors in their careers. You also are not managing those relationships so that you get the most benefit from them.

A mentor is one of the most important strategic assets in your career advancement toolkit. Yet, you don’t treat your mentoring relationships that way.  Mentors can help you understand the types of skills and experiences you’ll need in order to progress in your career, and can help you grow in those areas.  They also can help you understand how things really work in the office and help you avoid landmines in your career. 

I hear women speak about how “a mentor didn’t work out” or “the mentoring meetings were a waste of time.” Be aware of these 3 common mistakes women often make, and take these steps to avoid them:

Mistake #1: Women don’t manage the mentoring relationship and fail to get the outcomes you’re looking to achieve. 

Most women enter a mentoring relationship expecting the mentor to drive the agenda and progress. This often results in disappointment and sometimes strained relationships because the process is floundering along.

You are accountable for your mentoring relationships and outcomes. 

A good mentoring experience doesn’t just happen without planning and care throughout the process.  There are four stages of a mentoring relationship that will guide your progress:







Each stage has its own set of objectives and tasks.  You must take the responsibility to consistently manage through each of the four stages. 

For more details on the success factors and implementation for each stage of the mentoring process, check out the complete FuelForward Mentoring Guide

Mistake #2: Women Select the Wrong Mentor

Selecting the wrong mentor can be a waste of everybody’s time, as well as detrimental to your self-confidence and career progression. 

When I worked for Humana in the early stages of my career, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Management Intern Program.  Though that program came with a formal mentoring relationship, being matched with the right mentor was just as important as selecting my own mentors in other stages of my career. I learned that being thoughtful about and carefully outlining my needs was one of the most important first steps to a successful mentoring relationship.

Before selecting a mentor, know what your development areas are and what skills you need to build for your career path. Seek a mentor who is knowledgeable about the skills you need to enhance or roles you’re considering on your career path. Find someone who has common personal or professional interests and aligns with your expertise.

Connect with the right mentor, someone you can benefit from. Don’t only select someone who’s deemed “important” as your mentor. This will backfire on you.

Mistake #3: Women allow the mentoring relationship to lose momentum

Trying to juggle all the responsibilities of work and home often take priority for women.  Actions that most benefit you and your career get pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. Think about the times you’ve canceled a scheduled meeting with your mentor. Or, if your mentor is busy, weeks pass before you get the session back on your calendars.

You lose momentum in your mentoring progress when you minimize its importance. If it doesn’t seem important to you, it will be less important to your mentor, and harder to keep the sessions going.

Set aside time to invest in your career. You are worth it!  And, you add greater value to your organization when you are growing and advancing.

Step Up to Own It

Women will continue to be left behind until you step up to take more ownership in gaining access to and benefiting from important relationships and opportunities,  Take a deep breath, and make it a priority to take the first steps of learning more about these relationships and engaging with a mentor who can be instrumental in helping you Fuel Your Career Forward.

Download our free guide Getting the most from your mentor and take your first steps to Fuel Your Career Forward.

Get Out of That Rut

Lisa was one of the hardest-working people on her team. She would come into the office early most days and stay late to get the job done. Then, she’d head home for the evening. She got a lot of pats on the back; plenty of attaboys, and ’thanks for being so committed.’  But, she found herself stuck in the same job for six years.  Her career wasn’t going anywhere.

What’s the problem?

Why isn’t Lisa getting someone to pull her out of the pile?

While she’s got a reputation for doing good work in her current job, do the right people really know that?

And, do leaders think she’s capable of doing anything else?

Could we put your name in this situation?

How can you get a sponsor that is willing to help you move up in your career?

Lisa has gotten pigeonholed into a certain type of job.  You may be, too.  And, there may be things that you’re doing, or not doing, that have put you in this rut.

A challenge for women is strategically building and leveraging the types of relationships that act as a support system throughout your career.  You wait for permission or wait to see if you’ll be selected for the official ‘mentoring program’. Stop waiting! You don’t need permission. You are accountable for your own career and for being prepared for each successive step you wish to achieve.  Take the initiative to seek and maintain meaningful relationships throughout your career.

If you’re not using Reach strategies to get ahead, then you’re missing out on opportunities.

Reach is the second accelerator in the Career FuelForward Model.

Reach is an advertising term, which refers to the total number of different people or households exposed, at least once, to an advertising medium during a given period.  This broad reach to a potential audience increases the opportunity that your brand message will be seen or heard.  You have to broaden your potential reach across your career.  This enables you to start building connections with more people you may not get to work with or meet otherwise.   Reach gives you ways of getting your brand message out and helps more people to know more about you.  If you’re strategic about it, you’ll have the right people knowing more about you.

I have defined three “I’s” of Reach, which are Involuntary Reach, Intentional Reach, and Invited Reach.  Your goal is to get to the point where you’ve earned Invited Reach. This is where you’ve earned sponsors who are willing to speak up for you and give you a chance.  Let’s dig into each of these to find out how you get there.

Involuntary Reach happens without you even realizing it.  It’s the perceptions people form when observing you, often when you don’t even know someone is watching you.  Don’t forget that you’re always “on”.  Even when you’re not at work, you never know who may see you or who you’ll casually run into.  Be consistent.  Are you the same whether you know someone is watching you or not?

Intentional Reach is where you have the most influence.  This is where you determine who your strategic connections need to be, both inside and outside your current workplace. Then you have to be intentional about making those connections.  This goes beyond just meeting people.  Intentional Reach means that you’re demonstrating your capabilities so there begins to be an understanding of not only who you are, but also what you can do.  What are some ways you can build Intentional Reach? When you’re in meetings, make sure you’re engaged and contribute in a meaningful way to the discussion and decisions being made. Be the one to make the presentation for your team.  And, make sure you’re well prepared.  Volunteer to be on a special project team or lead a committee for the company’s volunteer project.  You’ll get to work with new people and show your value.  Volunteer for a non-profit organization.  They’re always looking for talent to help deliver their mission.  These are just a few examples.  If you take a few minutes to think about it, I’m sure several opportunities will come to mind.

One of your most important strategic connections is building Allies who can partner with you as mentors.

Ally as Mentor

Allies often are great resources as mentors. Work with mentors to understand the types of skills and experiences you’ll need, and to help you grow in those areas.  They also can help you understand how things really work in the office and help you avoid landmines in your career.  A mentor may be within or outside of your employer and can be at any level – senior to you, a peer, or a subordinate.

The third type of Reach is Invited.  Invited Reach is earned. With Invited Reach, others advocate for you.  You have sponsors who are willing to speak up for you and throw your name into the ring. People have to trust in you before they’re willing to recommend you.  And, to be able to trust you, they have to know you and be confident that you will deliver.  That’s why Involuntary and Intentional Reach are so important.  They give you the chance to expand your connections and to earn their trust.

Advocate as Sponsor

If you want to accelerate your progress, sponsors are critical.   You need to practice “Intentional Reach” in order to grow awareness of you and your capabilities among decision makers who could be instrumental as sponsors.  Leaders have discussions about talent.  And, the conversation goes beyond your work.  You can influence whether your name is brought up and what is said about you.

The opportunities to extend your Reach are all around you. Consider the opportunities that could be available to you that you’re not taking advantage of. You’ve got to be actively engaging Involuntary and Intentional Reach in order to earn Invited Reach.  Make sure Reach is a part of your toolkit to fuel your career forward.

Download our free guide Getting the most from your mentor and take your first steps to Fuel Your Career Forward.