“Women tend to struggle with their brand and visibility within an organisation”
Women are not natural at networking. They need to learn to seek help from their support system and have a mentor early on in their careers and a coach later. In this podcast with Mrigashira, Meera Raghunandan and Preeti Prayag, Co-founders, Mentoring Matters, discuss why women must have a long-term view of their career. Listen to the podcast here. (https://www.digitales.co.in/industry-insights/mrigashira-podcast/radha-radhakrishnan-in-conversation-with-preeti-prayag-and-meera-raghunandan-co-founders-mentoring-matters-on-the-significance-of-monitoring-and-coaching-for-women-professionals/)
Women do not focus on mentoring and networking as naturally as men do. What is your take on that?
Meera Raghunandan: Some of the reasons, women are very focused on operational work – day-to-day, job-by-job. So, very few women take the step to look at their career as strategic or have a long-term view of their career. Hence, networking and mentoring seem extra for women, and they do not focus much as compared to men who take a long-term view of their career. Because women are juggling multiple things both at home and at work, they tend to have a day-to-day operational view rather than a very long-term view. The benefits of mentoring or coaching are not immediate. It takes some amount of time and effort. You must have patience, and that is very critical.
Preeti Prayag: Women tend to view interventions like mentoring or coaching as something they do in addition to their regular job. So, it kind of goes on the backburner. It just can become a habit as you go about your day-to-day activities. The benefits of mentoring or coaching have not been researched and put out there. With more organizations investing in this, women begin to understand the benefits and try to put a little more time and effort behind this.
When should one opt for mentoring and when coaching?
Priti Prayag: We spend much time explaining to organisations what to expect from mentoring and what to expect from coaching. Mentoring is skill development, skill-building. You can get yourself a mentor as early there as possible. There is no such time as a good time or ideal time. Mentors are experts in their respective subject, and you can learn from them at any stage… earlier, the better, even from the first day of your professional career. It could be an informal buddy thing, some senior to you, or someone you know is a subject matter expert.
On the other hand, coaching is ideal for people with a bit more work and life experience. Coaching encourages you to introspect, makes you reflect on your strengths and understand what works best for you, blind spots. It is best to limit coaching engagements to one or two at best in your career. It would help if you got a coach when you are ready to self-reflect, introspect.
Meera Raghunandan: Subject matter experts usually happen to be seniors in your organisation, or your domain, or the industry that you are working in. However, coaches are focused on helping you challenge whatever limiting beliefs that you carry within yourself. Moreover, that will help you in whichever career path you choose. So you can, for instance, bank on a coach for your self-development and behavioural changes. Mentors are subject matter experts.
What are some of the areas for which women typically seeking coaching?
Preeti Prayag: Women tend to struggle with their brand and visibility within an organisation. They need to know how to do strategic networking and build their support group within their company. We have also seen perception issues in assertive communications. Women either come across as very aggressive or very submissive. Striking the right note in a room, which men mostly dominate, and having your voice heard is essential.
Meera Raghunandan: I would add that these can be fixed very easily with coaching interventions, let us say, mid-level and leadership level. We usually encourage organisations and women to look at coaching when they are about eight to 10 years within an organisation or a career span.
You mentioned focusing on personal branding. What holds women from focusing on it?
Meera Raghunandan: There are a lot of self-limiting beliefs I think that women carry on… how to network, whether it is acceptable to network, is it okay to get out of your comfort zone and, would it seem like you are asking favours, and so on. It is essential to create the right support group to help you navigate your career and take it to the next level. Every woman has her challenges and strengths that she can play with. So, working with a coach to identify your strength, fix your improvement areas is necessary.
Preeti Prayag: Look at your career in the long term. Like a Marathon. There will be ups and downs; you have got to identify and play to your strengths. And if you are struggling with that by yourself, then a coach is the best person to help you identify and help you set it right.
What are some of the challenges you both faced in your professional career?
Preeti Prayag: When we started our career to now, organisations are a lot more supportive in developing their employees. I wish I had a strong mentor early on in my career or a coach when I took on a more significant role. Incidentally, that is one of the first things we did. When Meera and I started this venture, we got ourselves a coach for the time-bound period. It has been of immense help. Whether it is a business development challenge or understanding some financial or business growth decisions, we must seek help. We know that it is not our forte. My advice for women is, it is impossible to do everything and know everything on your own. Ask for help. There are tons of experts out there and seek their help.
Similarly, on the personal front too, when you need help, seek it from parents, in-laws, siblings, family, or friends. We should all learn to take help and give help. That makes a robust ecosystem.
Meera Raghunandan: It is essential to recognise your strengths and choose a career path that plays to your strengths. The other thing is, have a friend at work who is constantly there to support each other. They are an excellent sounding board. It is good to know that there is someone who cares for you at work. I think that keeps a lot of us going.