Hunkered down at home, we all made the necessary adjustments to navigating our “new normal” in 2020 – kitchen tables doubled as desks for working and learning from home, most in person meetings and events turned virtual, family members and pets made appearances on video calls and some of us even took up a new hobby. 

Had it not been for technology, however – and a strong Wi-Fi connection – it would have been much more difficult (impossible, even) to keep our home and family lives running on all cylinders during a global pandemic.

While technology-enabled video calls and virtual events have been a great alternative to in person interactions, the lack of casual coffee meet ups or a friendly “hello” from a colleague on the way to the lunchroom has, unfortunately, led to feelings of isolation for many.

One group that has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic is working women.

In fact, 5.4 million women lost their jobs since last February and 2.1 million left the paid labor force entirely according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s why now, more than ever, we must lift women up and provide mentorship, advocacy and support in whatever capacity we can to help them navigate challenges they may be facing in the now.

Tips to Help You Stay Connected

While it may be tempting to clear the calendar of all nonessential obligations, which may include those recurring mentor/mentee sessions, it’s important to keep in perspective just how important these catch ups may be in the long run, especially in today’s virtual world.

Some of my colleagues and I recently spent some time reflecting on how, as professional women in leadership positions, we can support and energize our mentees during these challenging times.

Staying connected tops the list. We came up with four guidelines for staying connected during these “socially distant” times:

  1. Be consistent. As with mentoring during nonpandemic times, consistent communication is critical. Keep a schedule to ensure you spend an appropriate amount of time discussing the matters relevant to not only your mentees’ professional development but also her state of mind. Talking through frustrations and fears, as well as hopes and goals for the future, is so important right now, as we all need something to look forward to.
  2. Tap into all forms of technology. Pick up the phone, send a text or an email, schedule a virtual meeting, reach out through social media — with so many devices and channels for communicating, there are no excuses for not staying connected.
  3. Get creative. Video chats, whether group or one-to-one, have become second nature over the past year, but what about scheduling some more unusual types of meetings — virtual lunch-and-learn sessions, for example? You can also take a virtual class or join a virtual book club with your mentee, listen to career-development podcasts or webinars and then compare notes, or go old school and take a socially distanced hike together. You could even consider adding a fun activity to sessions to get the creative juices flowing like “Rose, Thorn and Bud” to help you both reflect on personal wins (rose), challenges (thorn) and new or exciting opportunities ahead (bud).
  4. Make sure your mentee knows you are accessible. Encourage her to reach out when she feels like a virtual cup of coffee or lunch, or even a quick hello. Knowing you are just an email or a phone call away can be reassuring and help strengthen your bond.

Why We Mentor

Members of our ServiceLink team share some personal thoughts about mentoring as a reminder of why it is such a worthwhile, meaningful endeavor.

Each of us has been influenced by one or more mentors or role models during our careers.

  • Caitlin Green, senior vice president, head of marketing and corporate communications: “Mentorship has led to “breakthrough” roles, visibility and connections for me. I’ve experienced the benefit of access through senior women leaders and, due to the interconnected nature of business and life, I’ve found that key long-term mentor relationships have led me to community leadership opportunities and professional connections.”

We recognize the unique advantages of female mentorship and sponsorship.

  • Manjula Swaminathan, associate vice president, IT product management: “Because women have distinct obstacles, obligations and aspirations, we bring a unique perspective to supporting and building equity within teams.
  • Erin Ickes, senior vice president and corporate counsel: “Mentorship is important for anyone’s career development, but it is critical for underrepresented groups, because it helps them gain visibility and elevate their profiles within the company, which leads to stronger representation.”

We are grateful for the experience of being a mentor.

  • Kristy Folino, managing director, valuations: “Being a mentor to several individuals has given me exposure to fresh perspectives and approaches. It helps me develop my personal leadership and coaching styles, allowing me to reflect on my own goals and become a better leader.”
  • Eva Tapia, senior vice president, operations, ServiceLink Auction: “It is an absolute privilege to be chosen as a mentor; knowing you have personally been chosen by someone who is looking for growth and guidance is personally rewarding. It is humbling to reflect on and share your own career journey. My mentees appreciate that I share not only my successes but also my failures, and that I explain how I have worked through recent challenges.

We agree on this one fact.

  • Natascha DeVries, vice president, account management, ServiceLink Flood: Mentorship is vital to supporting the next generation of women leaders. As a mother of a teenage girl, I know how important it is to set a positive example and show my daughter that the sky is the limit.
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