Editor's Note: This post is part of a series produced by HuffPost's Girls In STEM Mentorship Program. Join the community as we discuss issues affecting women in science, technology, engineering and math.
The best work/life balance suggestion I've read so far this year was tweeted by Kate Farrar (@KCFarrar), Director of Campus Leadership Programs at the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Kate quoted Julie Kantor (and originally Brandon Busteed of Gallup) who said, simply, "Mentor Duty Should Be the Next Jury Duty."
Well, mentor duty would certainly be a lot more pleasant. But there's no getting around the fact that mentoring sounds like a big commitment when your "to-do" list extends from A to Z.
When Julie Kantor talks about mentoring, she largely has STEM in mind -- and the Million Women Mentors initiative focused on helping young women advance in the hugely important Science, Technology, Engineering and Technology careers that impact workforce development, national security and immigration policy.
That's an effort both noble and necessary -- and in the spirit of many formal mentoring programs that involve both corporations and individuals. On a more informal and ad hoc basis, women also need to keep their ears open and mentor each other in the course of their daily routines about work/life options and opportunities. When I read Lisa Belkin's Huffington Post article about the fact that "Millennial Women Are Closing the Wage Gap With Men (For Now)", for example, I thought about how women in every other demographic need to mentor these young women and encourage them to keep finding some kind of work (not only the traditional corporate job) that fits their lives -- at every age and stage. The wage gap widens and their lifelong financial security can be compromised when they give up work entirely for often a decade or more.
As a one-minute "mini-mentor" to young women, you can share very valuable resources -- books, articles, coaches or organizations like MomCorps and Flexible Resources -- that help women find ways to fit one day or five days of interesting work into their busy family lives. Advise young women thinking about leaving the workforce to talk to a financial advisor you know about the short and long-term loss of income, recommend articles you read in publications like Money magazine and give them the email address for some of your friends who left the workforce and have had a hard time getting back in.
One-minute mentoring for women you know who are trying to return to work might be suggestions that they have coffee with other women in your circles who have in fact made a successful transition from volunteer to paid employee. Point them in the direction of companies like irelaunch and and web sites like mine and www.mylifestylecareer.com -- all supportive of the back-to-work Mom. Give them encouragement by emailing the link to the many success stories on the irelaunch site -- and mentioning that even some big financial firms (in an industry often criticized for being non-family friendly) see the value of re-engaging the talented "returning professional" mom. (The new Credit Suisse "Real Returns" program is one great example to pass along.)
When the topic of reinvention comes up in conversation with your women friends, tell stories about all the other women you know who used to be this and are now that. I've written blog posts about a former marketer who is now a nurse, a former investment banker who now makes high-end jewelry and a former PR executive focused on environmental affairs who created a lifestyle website even Martha Stewart would love. The more anecdotes we pass along, the more we mentor and empower -- giving our friends and family the validation that reinventors exist and thrive.
For women you know who are among the long-term unemployed, in about a minute you can pass along the name of a career coach, headhunter, networking group, industry conference or skill-building seminar that could turn their frustrating search around. My one-minute suggestion is often 85 Broads (of which I am a paying member) -- the very collegial and powerful networking organization that gives women a goldmine of door-opening connections and on trend career advice.
With so many Baby Boomers working well into traditional retirement years, there are endless reinvention resources for you to share. Tell women you know about high-end companies, local career and life coaches and no-cost treasure troves like www.lifereimagined.com. Author Carole Hyatt's "Getting to Next" retreats propel women toward new career passions-and budding entrepreneurs find guidance from organizations like Ladies Who Launch and B.I.G. Television even provides an easy resource: women don't even have to leave home to hear Jane Pauley's reinvention wisdom on NBC's Life Reimagined TODAY.
Though women are often eager to share thoughts and feelings, I've heard so many times that they feel alone when it comes to big work/life transitions. Busy people are focused on their own busy schedules, not the all-encompassing career and life change foremost on a friend or family member's mind. Even the most charitable and well-intentioned among us often shy away from the idea of mentoring when there seem to be fewer and fewer hours in every day. But mentoring does not have to be hand-holding or micro-managing. It only takes a minute to pass along small bits of information or encouragement that help the women in your life achieve big and worthwhile change.
This post was originally published on Kathryn Sollmann's blog, 9 Lives for Women, where she helps women navigate 9 stages of work and life from college through retirement years. Follow her practical advice on "Finding the Work that Fits Your Life".