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Advancing Women in Clean Energy

July 24, 2014 - 12:53pm

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Editor's Note: This post is part of a new series by Ambassadors in the Clean Energy Education & Empowerment (C3E) network, and is cross-posted from C3Enet.org

Today, leading up to our third Clean Energy Education & Empowerment (C3E) Symposium on Sept.16 and 17 at MIT, I am happy to announce a new series of blog posts by C3E ambassadors. As part of the Clean Energy Ministerial, C3E and its ambassadors have made it their mission to advance the leadership of women in clean energy around the world. In this series, we will leverage the experience and wisdom of some of the amazing C3E ambassadors who will share advice or suggestions that may be helpful for women seeking to advance their careers in clean energy. In the request for blog posts for this series, ambassadors were asked to consider the question, “If you could go back and offer career or leadership guidance, what advice would you give your younger self?” 

In reflecting upon the question, it occurred to me that, if asked, just about every accomplished person I know will point to someone who intentionally mentored her in a way that helped encourage, guide and develop her along her personal journey to success. Consequently, one important piece of advice I would give my younger self would be to be open to and seek out “mentee opportunities.” Throughout the course of my professional career, mentee opportunities have transpired through a variety of relationships and situations. Although some have been more formally expressed than others, generally, there have been no specific criteria required to qualify such relationships or situations as mentee opportunities.

My mentors (or coaches) have been younger and older, male and female, similar to me, and in some instances, very different from me. From the reverse perspective, I have served as the mentor to high potential leaders who had educational or life experiences similar to mine and to multi-talented leaders who had very diverse backgrounds and experiences than me. 

Productive mentoring topics can be as varied as the types of mentoring relationships and frequently involve the development of soft skills, current performance objectives or longer-term career goals. In many cases, whether serving as the mentor or benefitting as the mentee, I have found that more formal mentoring structures that focus on specific objectives and include regular updates concerning progress toward agreed upon goals to be most effective. This approach is often very successful when the mentee has identified a specific area of performance or a key relationship in which he or she wants to make improvements — and both the mentee and mentor are committed to achieving success in that area.

Other times, I have participated in more informal mentoring relationships that developed naturally, focused on general development opportunities that resulted in equally beneficial improvements. One piece of information I would be sure to pass on to my younger self is the realization that successful mentoring relationships can be of any duration. Many of my mentoring relationships lasted over a period of several months, while some evolved and expanded over many years. On the flip side, many important mentee opportunities have involved one-time occurrences. For example, I can remember several instances — that at the time seemed to be random hallway conversations — when a former CEO of my company passed on very helpful guidance and even specific direction toward my development.

Despite the situational variations, I have come to understand that the most effective mentoring/coaching relationships are always open and honest and involve direct communication. The best mentors or coaches teach, encourage, challenge and believe in your abilities (sometimes more than you believe in yourself). When the roles have been reversed and I have been the mentor, I have recognized that the best mentees appreciate feedback, are willing to learn, implement change where applicable, and report results of implementation back to allow the mentor to offer additional suggestions if needed. 

And just in case my younger self is not completely sold on the importance of seeking out mentee opportunities, I would be sure to share that some studies indicate that women who seek out mentoring relationships achieve higher salaries, more promotions and greater job satisfaction, as well as have less work stress. 

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the posts over the next several weeks. I look forward to seeing any comments you may have during the blog series. In case you are unable to make it to the C3E symposium, the event will be broadcast live online, and you will be able to view panels featuring many of the ambassadors and other extraordinary women who are making incredible impacts in clean energy around the world.

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