‘She’s not annoyed, she’s just busy,’ and other advice for finding mentors and role models in journalism

May 15, 2015
Category: Newsletters
Lindsey Turrentine, submitted photo

Lindsey Turrentine, submitted photo

Last week, CNET.com’s Editor-in-Chief Lindsey Turrentine wrote “The dead-simple way to help professional women succeed.” In the column, she wrote about her own start in tech journalism and how the landscape has changed. On Monday, Turrentine shared some ideas with Poynter about how women should look at organizations before joining and how to navigate relationships with mentors. Here are five tips from that conversation.

1. ‘If you are looking to surround yourself with role models, choose a place with an assortment of women at lots of levels.’

As research for her piece, Turrentine looked at the mastheads of several tech media orgs and counted the number of women. In the journalism world, she said, that’s a pretty easy way to see where an organization’s at. When looking at an organization, don’t just look for women at the top, look for women at different levels.

“It’s really helpful to see people in different roles at different levels of the company,” Turrentine said.

That offers women a chance to see how other women in the company navigate their lives and careers there.

“Set yourself up to interface with as many examples as possible,” she said.

When Turrentine started at CNET as a young employee, she always had women to look to for the next step in her career. She got to see what success looked like.

“Some of this is just surround yourself with possibilities.”

2. If you don’t see women at different levels in your organization, look for them outside of your workplace.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean leaving your job,” Turrentine said.

Instead, she recommends looking for women you admire on Twitter and through professional organizations.

“Surround yourself with them so that you can continually remind yourself that it’s possible,” she said.

3. When you look for mentors, understand they may be really busy. And don’t take it personally.

Follow someone you’d like to have a mentoring relationship with on Twitter, Turrentine recommended. That’s one place that will easily help you pay attention to what that person is doing.

And reach out to them, she said, but understand that they may not always have time to answer.

“But keep at it, because she’s not annoyed,” Turrentine said, “She’s just busy.”

4. Talk about your life at work, not just your work.

“I feel like a lot of people are afraid to have open conversations about family,” Turrentine said.

But as a leader, she wants to set a reasonable set of expectations about work/life balance. Even as a junior employee, talk openly about your obligations, Turrentine recommended.

“Not talking about family is bad for women and men,” she said, “because men have family obligations too and often feel even more pressure not to discuss them.”

This is pretty much true for everyone, not just parents. Maybe you have obligations to your own health, to aging parents, to siblings. All of those are situations that you shouldn’t shy away from talking about at work, Turrentine said – not as a complaint, but in a frank way.

5. At every level, be that person who’s working toward more diversity.

Talk openly about diversity, Turrentine recommended. When there’s an open position at a peer level, go to your network and get recommendations. Talk those people up. Talk openly with your boss about a more diverse work force. Even at a junior level, you can impact an organization’s diversity, she said.

“Use your network, whatever your works looks like,” she said. “Certainly that’s what men have done for hundreds of years.”