Career Woman

The importance of finding a career mentor

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Now more than ever, it’s crucial for women to support each other. Together we can create change, bring about equality and help women flourish in all aspects of their lives – not just in their careers.

As human beings, we’re inspired by other people’s stories of adversity, accomplishment, fear and failure. It is through these stories that we connect, learn and grow. That’s why it’s so important to have role models and career mentors in our lives.

There are so many qualities used to determine great role models and mentors. Ideally, you’ll have several role models in your life, providing inspiration and guidance for each of the different areas you are passionate about including your career. I am always inspired by women supporting women, and it is what I have always tried to do – not only as a CEO, but also in my everyday life.

I also strongly believe the next generation of young women must have strong role models and mentors to look up to: women who are supportive, nurturing, changemakers, and women who show us that it is possible to break through glass ceilings in our careers and everyday lives. Having positive, fierce, intelligent, kind women making change in the world sends a message of empowerment, paving the way for the next generation to believe their opportunities are limitless in both our careers and life.

A role model and career mentor can come from anywhere: it may be someone you work with, perhaps someone who is retired and has a wealth of knowledge or someone who has forged forward in her own career. She might be a teacher, a community leader, a coach, or maybe even your mum.  She could be world-famous, or someone who lives in your neighbourhood. She is a woman who you admire, someone you want to emulate and someone you believe makes a difference – whether that’s in the little things she does in her everyday life or on a larger public scale.

Growing up as a young girl in the ‘80s, my role models included Princess Diana, for her strength and kindness; Brooke Shields, for her grace and beauty; and Madonna, because she was bold and fearless. At the time, I didn’t describe them as role models; in fact, I probably didn’t even know what role models were. I just knew I admired these women and was inspired by their actions, what they stood for and how they behaved.

Later in life I had career mentors, one of which were close to home: my parents. All my life, they have both been a constant source of inspiration, advice and guidance. They showed me that hard work is the key to success, that it is important to live according to your values and that anything was possible.

Throughout my entire career, I have tried to be a positive role model and career mentor for those around me – particularly women. When I left the Sussan Group in early 2020 I decided the next step in my career was to continue on this path of inspiring and empowering women, being a great role model and career mentor so that women can build real confidence, have a voice live with purpose and become the leaders in their own lives and their careers. Today I do this through many different platforms: through my ‘Mentor Me Women’ program, my coaching business, podcasts, articles, speaking events and my book, I think it’s essential for the next generation of female leaders to have positive role models and career mentors because I’ve seen and experienced the impact it can have.

I once worked with a young up-and-coming leader called Cristiana. I recognised her passion and energy early on and she quickly rose through the ranks. Cristiana thanked me recently for the role I played as her career mentor early in her career. ‘You were the leader I looked up to and an amazing role model, not only for myself but for everyone around you,’ she told me. ‘You were the kind of leader I wanted to be. You challenged me, empowered me and taught me the importance of believing in myself and staying true to my values.’

I’m so humbled by comments like these. They really do give me the drive and purpose to keep doing what I’m doing, which is to encourage women everywhere to lead in their own lives – to have a voice, build their confidence, break through glass ceiling and work actively towards workplace and gender equality. Most importantly, these women will inspire the next generation of women to believe in themselves.

It is human nature to be inspired by other people’s success and achievements. When we see other women achieve things or obtain positions that we aspire to, it makes it easier for us to imagine ourselves in those roles. It means we are more likely to put ourselves forward. This is also one of the big reasons why we need more women in leadership roles and why I want to inspire and empower more women to see that the sky really is the limit.

Ultimately great female role models and career mentors act as a guide to help us understand who we would like to become in the future.

About Colleen Callander

Colleen Callander, author of Leader By Design (Major Street Publishing $29.95) and former CEO, is a renowned business and leadership coach, keynote speaker, board member and ambassador. She is also the founder of Mentor Me, a platform through which Colleen mentors women from all different walks of life. Find out more at www.colleencallander.com.au

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