Be Mentored by a Female CEO

Women today have a tremendous thirst for career advancement. But if you want to land your dream job, you have to start thinking like a CEO. It’s about developing business strategy, trimming operational expenses, and maximizing returns. The question is: How do you get there? And who’s going to help you? I mentor quite a few talented young women in my organization. But the higher up the chain you go, the fewer leaders there are who can mentor you.

My career ambition is to become a CEO. But how many incumbent CEOs can dedicate time for fluffy one-on-one mentorship sessions? Zero. However, I found a way to learn from a CEO. And you can do it too. Are you ready to take your game to the next level?

1. Choose Your Virtual Mentor
First, choose your CEO mentor. Aim high. I start with the leading ladies in business — the 51 women who are the top CEOs of publicly traded companies. It’s a short but powerful list (only 5 percent of Fortune 1000 companies have female CEOs) and it includes top-drawer names like Meg Whitman of Hewlett-Packard, Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup Company, and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo. From this list you can select a mentor who inspires you. Let’s say you would like nothing more than to be mentored by retail rock star Laura Alber, CEO of Williams-Sonoma. It’s absolutely possible because you can turn traditional mentorship on its head. What I mean is that this type of virtual mentorship doesn’t feed you insights that directly benefit your unique developmental challenges. You’ll have to work a little harder than that to learn from the best.

2. Check Out the Company’s Investor Website
Once you have your mentor, check out her company’s investor relations website. It’s easy to find with a simple Google search. An investor relations site, like the Williams-Sonoma site, will quickly tell you the company’s story, history, where it came from, and more importantly, where it’s going. Unlike a lot of financial services sites, investor relations sites are written for humans in plain English. And you get a fantastic information source to learn how CEOs help cultivate business strategy, trim operational expenses, and maximize returns. You can also find investor presentations on these sites. Reading investor presentations is another clever way to learn about how your mentor articulates her strategy and how she presents to the Street. (Wall Street, that is.)

Case in point: I found a little gem in Laura Alber’s “Tomorrow’s Retailer” presentation from 2013. She shared her formula for sustainable growth that leads to the firm’s greater enterprise value and return to stockholders. This is basically the strategy that has led the Williams-Sonoma stock to increase by over 75 percent over the course of the past two years. As I’m also responsible for a growth strategy, her insights gave me valuable ideas to help me further my own career goals. It’s high-level career coaching without trying to muscle an appointment onto a busy woman’s calendar.

3. Attend the Quarterly Earnings Calls
Speaking of calendars, you can stay in the constant flow of information by attending your mentor’s quarterly earnings calls. I love earnings calls because it’s the best way to learn how a leader is executing her strategy. You can find dates and times for all these events on the same investor relations page.

And here’s the beautiful thing. At the same time you’re deepening your business acumen, you’ll also be learning more about the stock market. That’s right. Many of these same analytical business skills you cultivate on your leadership path can help you pick the right stocks for your portfolio. When you learn to recognize these connections, you’ll see how what you know about the market can help further your career and vice versa.

You can learn more about thinking like a CEO and investment strategies from my webinar, “Shatter the Glass Ceiling.”

Nicole Sherrod is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.

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