"Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction." ~ John C. Crosby
I get it, I’m super busy too.
When a woman writes me on LinkedIn for an informational interview, I immediately feel the tension between wanting to help her and not having any time to do it. So, I’ve come up with a solution and I hope it works for you.
1. Always write her back.
Even if you have to politely say "no" to her request, don’t leave a sister hanging. Set an example and be kind by writing a response, even if it's a polite "no" three weeks later.
2. Put the ball back in her court.
If you don’t have much time to give, I invite you to put the ball back in her court. I find that many young female professionals want help, but they don’t know what they need, so make her do some work.
3. Invite her to ask specific questions.
Ask her to email you with specific questions and when she does, give her some coaching or advice over email. This requires her to really want it and you’ll know that she’s put thought into what she needs from you -- which makes it easier to help.
If she writes and says, “I want to pick your brain about your career and how you got to where you are today.”
Respond with this:
“I totally appreciate that you reached out and I’m flattered that you are interested in my career journey. In the interest of time, please review my LinkedIn profile and company bio for information about my career. If you study my work and have more specific questions, I’d be happy to answer them via email as a start.”
Again, this makes her work for it and teaches her how to make more solid requests in the future. You’re modeling good behavior for her.
3. Give her the resources she needs to create some forward movement towards her goals.
Every woman who comes to you probably needs help with one of these three things:
Resources include things like organizations you might know about that she doesn’t, professional associations that might be good for her to network with, volunteer opportunities on committees or boards that allow her to get experience and grow her connections, educational opportunities you think she might need to get where she wants to go (and how to get those certifications and degrees), and/or job opportunities. Sometimes, I little tip in the right direction goes a long way so don’t be afraid to send her links to resources you think might be helpful given her goals. Here is a list of questions she should be asking you.
Introductions to Connections
You’ve spent years building your network and have a right to protect your connections, BUT it’s important that you strategically connect people as a way to grow your network, spread goodwill and be of service to others. If your new acquaintance is asking for an introduction to someone, you might want to vet her first and read this post, too.
Tell her you’d be happy to introduce her once you learn more about her needs. Invite her to explain why the connection could be helpful, what she hopes to get from it and how she might respect the connection once it’s made. You can’t go around connecting everyone, so pick and choose wisely how you do it by vetting the requests you get first.
Help With Mindset & Social Skills
The thing most women need help with is mindset and unless you’re a coach, that’s probably not within your wheelhouse. Refer her out to folks like myself who can help her adopt a better mindset for success. I offer power coaching for women who need this kind of help.
How do you help women when you don't have much time?