As a young woman, two stories continually played in my head. It was only when I realised they were false and worked out how to overcome them, that my career really took off. Here’s what I was telling myself:

Carole Gillespie writes for Female First

Carole Gillespie writes for Female First

1. If I work hard and concentrate on doing a good job, this will get me recognised and rewarded, and opportunities will come my way.

No it won’t. The reality is that if you keep your head down, you can’t be seen. If you can’t be seen you can’t be found and those opportunities to do something different and exciting will not come your way, because the people who can offer them will not know you exist.

2. Even though people tell me I’m doing a good job, I know I’m faking it and making it up as I go along. One day I am going to get ‘found out’.

No you won’t. Whilst others, particularly men, might appear confident, they are no more capable than we are. We just worry more and fail to recognise the value and impact of what we are achieving. What feels to you like being an ‘impostor’, is simply learning and experimenting in order to grow. Accept the praise and take the credit.

Back in the 1970’s, when there were very few women in senior business roles, hence very few role models or potential mentors, I had to find my own way through these restricting beliefs. Somehow I managed to change the stories in my head, work out how change my behaviour, and hence change how others perceived me. I became more confident, visible and ‘lucky’. Opportunities seemed to find me.

Now I help others – younger versions of myself – to make their own luck and get on their own fast track. For those I can’t support directly, I’ve written a book Flying Start: How to Make Your Own Luck at Work which shares my secrets on building a support network and making rapid progress.

As a mentor and coach I’ve learnt is that you cannot tell someone that their beliefs are wrong – they have to discover that for themselves. Nor can you help them to change their behaviour without giving them the motivation and tools to do so.

People tell me that talking to someone who only has your best interests at heart can be daunting as there is nowhere to hide. With no competition for ‘air time’, and the total focus on the one person, it is the opportunity to be totally honest, listened to, and challenged but not judged. Even though it is a safe environment, it can still scary to come face to face with the unsaid things that are holding you back.

Whether you are a mentor or being mentored (or both), here are my five top tips to make it a worthwhile relationship:

1. Work on real life situations so the discussion and results can have an immediate impact.

2. Ask good questions that make the other person really think and stay quiet while they think about and then give the answer. No help allowed.

3. Write down what you discover about yourself and be brutally honest. It’s your life, so don’t fudge the issues.

4. Own your actions and do what you say you will. The session are pointless if they don’t result in change.

5. Practise new behaviours by trying them out in a safe environment before you apply in a make or break situation.

Not enough women have mentors. If I were starting out on my career today, I would try to find someone who represented the type of person I wanted to become. I would then approach them for their advice and guidance. Most people love to be asked for their views. It’s flattering. You will be surprised how often people say “yes”. Just be clear as you have your initial conversation what you want their advice on and take it from there. Use the first session to see if the chemistry works.

If you are a woman who has already made it, or who is well on the way, share the luck you’ve had with those just learning about themselves and the art of the possible as a woman. Say “yes” if asked and offer to be a mentor to those who will get the most benefit from your time and experience. You will be surprised how much both of your learn about yourselves and each other.

Flying Start: How To Make Your Own Luck At Work by Carole Gillespie (published by Clink Street, November 29, 2018, RRP £8.99 paperback, £3.99 ebook) is available to buy online from retailers including Amazon and can be ordered from all good bookstores.


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