The Epic Mentor Guide: Insider Advice for Girls Eyeing the Workforce from 180 Boss Women Who Know, by Illana Raia, (March 2022, Forefront Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781637630495
Imagine being a high school or college student and having access to a think tank of successful women. What would you want them to tell you? Illana Raia, founder of the mentorship platform Être, has taken note of questions that young women have asked and gotten answers, all collected here. Whether it’s asking about successful traits or resilience when someone refuses to get your name right; how engineering can get you a job at LEGO, or being the first attorney at Etsy, tweens and teens will find answers here. The women are a diverse group, chosen from all areas: sports, technology, medicine, finance, entertainment, and more. Celebrities like Tyra Banks and Hoda Kotb are in here, as are brand executives from Nike, Spotify, and Disney. The questions run from getting noticed by college admissions and what makes a standout LinkedIn profile to diversity and inclusion, how to break into an industry, and when to be patient versus when to push forward. The design is eye-catching, with bright orange pages breaking up the white spaces; answers are thoughtful and run from sound-bite briefs to longer, thought-out responses. Most respondents include social media information, for readers to follow. A good choice for career collections and guidance collections.
Check out this interview with author Illana Raia, courtesy of BooksForward!
- Who were your mentors?
I’ve been so fortunate to have tremendous mentors throughout my career! My grandmother graduated from law school in 1936, and watching her in court when I was young made me sure I wanted law school. Professors I had at Smith College and The University of Chicago Law School lit the way forward, and my first mentor when I practiced mergers & acquisitions was the youngest partner my law firm had ever made. But the women I have met since founding Être, leaders in their fields and founders in every sense of the word, have mentored me in ways I can never repay.
- What inspired you to start Être, and how did this book come about?
When I was practicing law and my daughter was in middle school, I realized she did not know what I did every day. More than that, she did not know what my group of ridiculously accomplished friends did every day! I started Être (which, in French, means to be), to bring young girls face to face with inspiring role models. This book came about after we started being invited into companies to meet female leaders. I was blown away by the questions the girls were asking! Moreover, the women we met answered every question with such candor, wit and wisdom that all I could think was Every girl should be doing this. So I kept a list of questions asked at company visits, and then added a survey and an email Q&A, asking girls across the globe what they wanted to know about the work world. What happened next was astounding. As fast as the questions came in I started reaching out to women in the relevant companies or industries – and their answers did not disappoint! Over the course of the next year, a virtual conversation ensued between girls eyeing the workforce and the women already there.
- What types of questions did you get from today’s girls?
The questions we received were substantive and specific in nature: How can I become an animator at Pixar? Can TikTok be used for networking? How did you land an interview with SpaceX? Do cover letters even matter? Am I allowed to ask about inclusion in an interview? What’s one thing no one knows about working at Google? I think the authenticity of the questions was a huge reason these women answered; they remembered what it felt like on their first day at work, and told us repeatedly I wish I’d had this when I was starting out!
- What are some of your favorite pieces of advice in the book?
I love how TheSkimm founders, Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg talked about avoiding the trap of expectations, and hearing about what astronauts like Anna Fisher (the first mom in space), Cady Coleman and Jennifer Scott Williams want today’s girls in STEM to remember. I loved reading that celebrity make-up artist Steph Aiello was encouraged by Tyra Banks to pursue her dream despite a physical disability, in part because Tyra Banks is also in the book (talking about why we should over-prepare for meetings)! The idea that even the mentors have mentors thrilled me. I was moved by what icons like Lilly Ledbetter said about salary negotiations, what Sudi Green said about getting a sketch on SNL and what Dawn Porter said about leaving the law to make movies with Oprah. Every time I flip the book open, I find a new favorite!
- How does “The Epic Mentor Guide” build a pipeline for girls into the workforce?
The book is building a pipeline by following the same model I used to build Être – we go where the girls ask to go, so they can find answers to their questions. The companies in this book represent brands the girls already love, platforms they use constantly, and organizations where they see themselves working someday. Add to that the fact that every woman in the book offered her preferred social media handle so girls can follow her in real time and in real life. When an exec at LinkedIn said connect with me, or a pop musician wrote DM me or a federal judge gave girls her email, I knew that we were creating more than a static collection of mentor advice. This is a pipeline that will grow with today’s girls.