There are many ways for professional women to combat the isolation of being the only one (the only woman, the only person of color, the only LGBTQ) at a workplace. Not only are you isolated because you stand out for reasons that have nothing to do with your excellence at the work, but because you look or sound different. Yes, it is likely that you will be remembered, but likely for all the wrong reasons.
What can you do to find company, a friendly face, and support? The first suggestion we’ve made before. We strongly recommend that you seek out allies who are willing to help you navigate the politics, inequities and cross currents of your workplace. These are people who point out when you’ve made a good suggestion, or check in with you after a tough meeting to let you know that they understand how you might be feeling. Make sure that you let these allies know that you are grateful for their support.
Another form of help can come from a group of like-minded others who share your concerns, or struggle against the same barriers and impediments. If you workin a large company, there may already be such a group in place, if not you can seek out a group in a similar industry or occupation. The comradery and the social nature of such a group can go far to boost your energy and your happiness. They can serve as a sounding board for ideas and risk free environment for bitching and moaning.
A Mentor is Invaluable
The next step up on the ladder of support is to find a mentor. Don’t rush to select a mentor. This is a very conscious and deliberate relationship. One that you request. It’s best is to find a mentor who is employed in your workplace and can observe your efforts and the reactions to you by your team mates first hand. But failing that look for a mentor who works somewhere else but is familiar with your problems.
Never underestimate the value of an mentor who will notice your efforts, review with you your mistakes and successes, offer frank and candid observations on what you’ve done well and what you could improve and how. Your situation is very specific and you want and need specific suggestions. Best of all is to get help from someone who has succeeded where you are struggling, who has successfully integrated into a team, achieved a promotion or a raise. They will have ideas that work, relate to the sting of failure and are intimately familiar with the process and the steps they took to achieve success.
What is a Super-Mentor?
Even more valuable is a super-mentor, someone who will act independently on your behalf. They can by making others aware of your good work, sharing your ideas with influencers (as your ideas, not their’s of course) and work on securing you a promotion or a raise. Not everyone will be fortunate enough to have such a fairy godmother, but if you do… be thankful.
You probably noticed that we haven’t suggested the gender or the ethnicity of your supporters. Most likely they will be women whose race matches your own, but there is no harm at all in getting help from men who understand and support you. The “me too” movement has made many men aware of the inequalities that women face in the workplace and we are very encouraged by the generosity that men are expressing in a desire to help.
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