Go ahead, steal this model. (Seriously.)
Journalism isn’t the only industry where there’s a need for mentorship, and women aren’t the only people looking for mentors. Similar mentorship projects could (and should!) be created for underrepresented groups in other industries, communities, and workplaces.
I view this as an open-source project — you’re welcome to copy what you like and modify what you want. I’ve written a step-by-step process for how this site was originally created, including time and cost required, along with other helpful tips.
All I ask is that if you create your own mentor project based on this model, please let me know! I love seeing your successes and sharing them with our audience.
Here’s to improving the industries we love, making mentorship less elite, and giving everyone a fairer shot at career advancement.
READY TO START?
Here are Katie's tips:
We've leveled-up as we've grown, but our original website was built on Squarespace using the Avenue template.
- Update the favicon. (See the speech bubble in this website tab?) It’s a small touch, but helps your site stand out. In Squarespace: Design > Logo & Title > Browser Icon.
- Do a little customization, whether it’s changing up the color scheme, or making a custom footer. If you’re trying to get people excited about a coaching initiative — especially at work — a little style can help your substance.
- Add a social sharing image, so your site is optimized for Facebook, Twitter and all of the other places people will share it. In Squarespace: Design > Logo & Title > Social Sharing Logo.
Booking sessions through a service like Calendly helps streamline things. Each mentor is responsible for setting up her own Calendly and figuring out her own availability. Most mentors only offer up one or two half-hour coaching slots a week.
All of the mentors who are part of Digital Women Leaders are alumnae of either Poynter’s Leadership Academy for Women in Media or ONA’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator. They all made it through a competitive process to be accepted into those programs, and have received intense, hands-on leadership training. All of the coaches are eager to give back to the community and are committed to this project.
As with most passion projects, having a main champion/point person/evangelizer is key to success. That person will be responsible for fielding questions, giving tips to new mentors, and maintaining enthusiasm about the initiative.
Be sure to ask mentors for help in spreading the word about your initiative. And don’t forget to thank mentors for blocking off their valuable time for mentoring, and listen when they have suggestions for how the process could be improved.
We’ve had some early problems with no-shows during calls, which is annoying and disrespectful to mentors. And while demand for coaching sessions is a good problem to have, it can be frustrating for women looking to book a session. Initially, I didn't have a good system in place yet to track how many women have been coached.
I strongly suggest creating a form for feedback/testimonials at your project’s launch, when interest is highest, and giving guidance on the best etiquette for mentor calls.
Because mentorship can be hard for women to find at the start of their careers, it made sense to keep this model free and available to as many people as possible. All of the mentors volunteer their time for coaching, and I'm running the site pro-bono. I added an option to donate to help cover costs like website fees.
That said, it's nice to earn money for your work. I get it! Donations can help support mentoring efforts, or you could create a freemium business model, where initial coaching sessions are free, but follow-ups cost a small fee. It's all up to you, but don't lose sight of the main goal: Helping as many people as possible.