Compass Group’s Women’s Leadership Network (WLN) has always felt mentoring was a worthwhile endeavor for its employees. This year, the WLN Northeast Chapter put a twist on the traditional mentoring program by hosting a speed networking event in New York City where each person who attended wrote down three people who they would either like to mentor or be mentored by. Paula Schaire, director of marketing and design for Flik International and WLN Metro East Chapter co-chair, spoke to FSD about why they created the new event and what she hopes employees get out of the program.
How did you get involved with the WLN mentoring program?
When we started the Metro East Chapter in 2007 we thought it would be beneficial to align our goals with Compass Group’s mentoring initiatives, but we also recognized how mentoring plays such an important role in helping us develop and retain women at all levels. The steering committee for the Metro East Chapter agreed that mentoring would be our core initiative, with the purpose of giving our chapter members an opportunity to build great mentor/protégé relationships. It’s these partnerships that lead to personal growth, advancement opportunities and cross-sector awareness.
What is involved with the event?
It took some finesse to organize the speed networking event. Our Steering Committee is devised of several sub committees, one of which is the meetings and logistics committee. They needed to ensure that as our members moved from table to table, they had adequate time and were given the opportunity to sit across from a senior-level executive from a different sector. In the end, the event went off without a hitch, and we received some great comments from the membership afterwards. After the event we asked everyone to write down the names of three people they would like to be paired with in order of preference. There were many people who attended the event who were already in mentoring relationships, so they did not ask to be paired up. However, we did have many successful matches that came out of the event. It became clear that speed networking had to become an annual event.
How did the idea for the new format for the event come about?
Based on surveys we had done with our membership, we found that networking was very important. Speed networking presented us with the perfect opportunity to give our membership what they were asking for and at the same time kept us focused on our initiative of building mentoring partnerships by offering a “pairing service,” very similar to speed dating.
What next steps do you recommend for the mentors and protégés after pairing up?
Like any relationship, it requires a commitment from both parties to devote time and effort into developing the partnership. The mentor should let the protégé know that whatever he or she wants to share with the mentor will remain confidential; this will also help develop trust, which is critical to any mentor/protégé relationship. The first three logical steps would be to define and clarify what both parties would like to get out of the relationship; set at least one achievable goal, which can be mutually agreed upon; and schedule a monthly meeting where you can both spend time together. Time is essential and consistency helps build the trust.
However, for some, it’s the less formal mentor/protégé relationship that grows naturally, where advice and guidance come easy and the confidence that develops from it, allows us to go outside of our comfort zone.
What have been your personal experiences with mentoring, either having a mentor or being one yourself?
I have been fortunate in my career to be influenced by so many great mentors. They were less formal mentoring relationships, which were not bound by a formal agreement or document. They were the type of mentoring relationships that developed over time and allowed me to explore hidden talents I did not know existed. During my last 12 years at Flik International, my mentors became friends, advisors and confidants. Nevertheless, I have discovered that there is a fine line between the mentor and protégé role. In my mentoring role, I have grown by leaps and bounds personally and professionally. It has allowed me to see my protégé’s career and my own through a new set of eyes.