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  1. Blog
  2. Partners in Diversity
  3. July 31, 2023

3 Important Ways to Use Mentorship to Propel Your Career

Five women on the impact of building relationships within their company

Woman taking notes during a mentorship meeting
Photo courtesy of Unseen Studio

This article is part of InHerSight's Partners in Diversity series. Discover companies partnering with InHerSight to better support women in the workplace.

Picture this: walking into your workplace every day with your head held high, a newfound confidence radiating from within, and a strong network of supporters who genuinely care about your success. Sound too good to be true? Well, it's not. All of this is possible through the magic of mentorship.

A good mentorship program can be the catalyst that ignites your self-belief and propels your career goals. In fact, according to Forbes, “Employees who participate in mentorship programs report higher levels of job satisfaction. Mentorships can help employees feel more confident in their roles, giving them a stronger sense of purpose within the organization.”

That makes companies with mentorship programs built in gems in the sand—exciting to discover and totally worth the effort of all that sifting.

Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT) is one such company. The organization behind the Steel City’s bus, light rail, incline, and paratransit service offers not one, but two mentoring programs: a Succession Planning Program that connects advancement-minded mentees to mentors on their route to success in leadership, and the Pathways Mentoring Program is available to employees, but usually connects less tenured employees with a mentor to help them develop their own path at PRT. Both the Succession Planning Program and the Pathways Mentoring Program are 12-month programs, where employees, who are either selected for the program or can apply, learn how to make the most out of their mentorship and can goal-set and direct their relationship in the way that suits them best.

How do these one-on-one support systems help employees achieve their goals? We asked five women—mentors and mentees—to share the ways their mentorships have advanced their careers. Based on those conversations, these are three ways you can expect a mentorship to propel your career. Is it just us, or does each one sound really, really great?

3 important ways to use mentorship to propel your career

1. You build your confidence

You might wonder what you’d discuss with a mentor, and the answer is often simpler than you’d think: you. Odessa Meredith, digital communications specialist at PRT, says she applied to the company’s Pathways program hoping to receive career support and networking opportunities, but that her mentor, Assistant Director of Procurement Jerimaine Ward, approached those wants through a personal development lens, working to grow her faith in her skills and herself to help her achieve her career goals.

“One area that my mentor and I are continuing to work on—and that has really been my greatest takeaway so far—is improving confidence,” Meredith says. “Being still fairly new, I walked around the office with my head down, rarely greeted anyone in passing, and never stopped to converse with anyone because I was conditioned to doing so in a prior work environment. In addition, I never trusted myself and always second-guessed myself in my decisions involving my career.”

Ward noticed Meredith’s body language one day in passing and, during one of their meetings, brought it up, tying it to her goals. “She explained that leadership and networking require me to hold my head up, be social, and appear welcoming,” Meredith says. “She also mentioned that life in the workplace and my networking could positively benefit from me having conversations and meeting people.”

Ward says that when working in a fast-paced environment like theirs, it can be easy to forget to focus on how we present ourselves to the world, how we interact with others and how we carry ourselves. “My approach to mentorship is creating an informal, comfortable, safe, trusted space for mentees to share their thoughts, ideas, and experiences,” Ward says. “I view mentorships as a trusted friendship in which a mentee is relying on you to be honest, empathic, and most of all supportive of their life choices.”

The advice has helped tremendously. Because of their discussions, Meredith says she now finds herself networking and speaking up more when she has ideas and questions. “Walking into your workplace every day knowing that someone has your back and cares about your success is seriously motivating,” Meredith says. “Whenever I need to be heard, my mentor is there.”

Pittsburgh Regional Transit

One of InHerSight’s Best Companies to Work For, Pittsburgh Regional Transit continues to shine the light on opportunities for women in the male-dominated transit industry. While their top metrics include The People You Work With and Wellness Initiatives, it’s their score for Learning Opportunities—their highest rated metric—that makes PRT remarkable. Here, you can learn on the job and grow your career alongside people who want you to thrive. Discover your next career steps at PRT now. 

Learn more ›

2. You learn the ins and outs of your industry

Becoming an expert in your field isn’t just about skill-building. It’s also about having a keen understanding of your industry, how different departments interact, textbook rules to follow or break, and who to go to for support. You can learn that through a mentorship.

“Knowledge is power,” says Holly Grabowski, employee relations representative. “Having a mentor allows a person to have a greater understanding of how the industry functions and how each role is needed for the company to be successful. It gives a person a greater understanding of their role and how it supports the overall success of the company.” 

Grabowski’s mentor at PRT is Charles Reeves, the deputy chief operating officer of transportation. She requested Reeves be her mentor because of his longevity at the agency (20-plus years!), the number of positions he’s held, and his deep understanding of the culture and how PRT developed itself into what it is today. They meet monthly to discuss how the various departments contribute to the organization. 

“My biggest takeaways have been how each department relies on and compliments the other—transportation, maintenance, scheduling, development, claims, etc. and what it takes to execute plans in order to achieve goals,” Grabowski says. “The impact it’s made for me is a greater understanding of the bigger picture of PRT.” 

Melissa Becker, assistant manager of bus and rail operations, like Grabowski, is a mentee in the Succession Planning Program. She says her mentor helped her set goals to network within the company. “My mentor taught me how to better navigate my way through the organization,” Becker says. “She also taught me to step outside of my comfort zone and challenged me to do things that would enhance my career.”

And while that growth has pushed Becker in new directions career-wise, it’s the strong relationships she has with her peers now that will help her find her footing as she pursues new opportunities. “One of the goals of my mentorship was to do something on my own, by myself,” Becker says. “The objective was for me to get comfortable in public places around unfamiliar people so I could feel more comfortable networking with new peers within PRT as well as other transit agencies. I have learned a great deal about myself, and it inspires me to be a mentor for others.”

3. You grow while giving back 

Becker hinted at this revolutionary thought, but let’s dig in a little further. Mentorships don’t just help the mentees. They help the mentors grow, too, and that symbiotic relationship equals advancement for all.

“Being a mentor has allowed me to offer support when needed,” says mentor LaTanya Brown, director of service and delivery. “I have given my mentee goals and discovered new goals for myself as well. I’m continuously thinking of new ideas to help my mentee move forward with her career as well as my own. We are learning from each other.”

Brown says the Pathways Mentoring Program has placed people in her life who have guided her to make positive decisions in her career. “The networking opportunities that come with this program have been helpful with my communication and interpersonal skills that I need when working at PRT,” she adds.

Denise Ott, director of capital programs, feels similarly. She was asked to be a mentor, and she decided to do it because she thought it would help her connect with someone she otherwise wouldn’t have interacted with much. “Being a mentor is a new experience for me,” Ott says. “Like most new experiences, that brings its own value. It has forced me to spend some time thinking about my career and the choices I have made and continue to make and their impacts.”

It’s also helped Ott to feel more included in her organization, a feeling that Ward, as a fellow mentor, both feels herself and hopes to foster in her own relationships. “I decided to be a mentor to promote an atmosphere of greater inclusivity and equity in the workplace,” Ward says. “It’s extremely important for employees to understand and learn about various people’s backgrounds, career paths, and life experience from different perspectives.”

Her learning experiences as a mentor have been entered on that very thought. “I’ve learned to be open to my mentees’ experiences that I’ve never experienced before,” Ward says. “It’s important to remember that everyone has different experiences, and sometimes the mentee may have insights on their experiences being managed, or insight into the latest trends or practices. This allows growth and understanding of becoming a more effective leader in life.”

Still, even with such career-defining insight, it’s the relationship-building within a mentorship that remains deeply gratifying for all people involved—and especially mentors. “One of the most rewarding aspects of being a mentor is offering suggestions and then finding out they help my mentee,” Ward says. “It is all worth it when they tell you how they implemented your ideas and how thankful they are for the guidance. It connects the dots, and you realize how sharing your past experiences impacts their success and makes PRT a great place to work.”

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