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Interview with Karin - founder of @mentorme_berlin

· NGO,Education,women empowerment

Not only have women caught up with men in terms of education, there are statistics showing that women in some countries even surpass men in educational achievement. Women are strong, focused and are great team contributors.

Despite these amazing attainments, gender Inequality in the workplace persists. Sometimes it starts as early as in the interview process for an opening. Our todays #heroine_of_the_week Karin Heinzl from @mentorme_berlin and her great team encourage young female professionals (students and graduates) to go beyond stereotypes and mentors them to succesful carreers. Read Karins honest and inspiring interview below.

If you wish to become part of the project: MentorMe Berlin will start the mentee-application phase for their third program year, starting in November 2017, before summer. To receive updates, please follow MentorMe on Facebook.

To all men and women who want to become mentors, please fill out online form.

Let us support this beautiful initiative!

@ichselbstaendig: Karin, your inspiration for MentorMe was your work in an NGO in India. This is very exciting and an unexpected turn in your career, can you tell us a little bit more about how MentorMe was born?

Karin: I worked in German politics. When my political party got voted out of the Bundestag when losing a federal election in Fall 2013, I lost my job. But, when a door closes another one opens: I got a chance to go to India and work for a NGO in Mumbai. So, I packed my luggage, flew to Mumbai and stayed and lived in a rural village with the locals for the first half of 2014. This experience was incredible. It reached and pushed my own boundaries. When coming back, I was certain: I want to do something that has a positive impact on other people’s lives. Long story short and a couple of months later, I decided to start a social venture: MentorMe, a job-related program for female students and graduates. MentorMe completely changed my life: it gave me freedom and incredible responsibility. But I love it. I really and full-heartedly love it.

@ichselbstaendig: Do you believe there is still a gap between opportunities for women and men in our modern business world?

 

Karin: Yes and it starts with the job entry. Young women tend to be more critical about themselves than men, when deciding whether they should apply for a job. It continues with middle management. Men are more often then women part of a male “rope team”, where they have seniors or mentors in higher positions, who help them climb up the career ladder. This is also the time when women, after giving birth, have problems to find back into their jobs because many companies do not offer a family friendly environment. Last but not least, it is also reflective with higher management. In Germany, company boards are still underrepresented by women. They make up only 22% of the members of supervisory boards. So, you see the imbalances from the bottom all the way up to the top.

 

@ichselbstaendig: How do you and MentorMe help young girls to find a suitable career path?

 

Karin: With MentorMe we offer young women a holistic program, that includes 3 services: 1) individual mentoring with experienced mentors who guide them in finding their way 2) online and offline training on skills for the job entry (such as rhetoric and presentation) and 3) an abundance of networking events such as company visits, job interviewing sessions, evenings with experts from various branches and many more. This combination, paired with intensive personal assistance as well as job offerings, is our way of bringing our mentees into the working world.

 

@ichselbstaendig: As a founder of a NGO how do you deal with financial needs of your organization? Apart from donations, do you have paid services that both mentors and mentees can participate in?

 

Karin: The financial side is important and worrying at the same time because without a throughout financial strategy no NGO can sustain over a long period of time. Naturally, we think a lot about how we can build a financial foundation for MentorMe while not overcharging those we want to support, our mentees. Right now, our mentees pay a small yearly fee. What we have already in place but want to increase is our number of paid partnerships with companies and organizations. We offer them to make their employees to mentors of mentees who want to work in their job fields. With this kind of cooperation, companies can engage in CSR, build a positive employer branding and diversity strategy as well as engage in innovative recruiting that benefits mentees and mentors alike.

 

@ichselbstaendig: What was your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur so far? Where did you find the knowledge and power to deal with it?

Karin: The biggest challenges are in fact not the obvious ones such as team building, financial shortcomings or strategic decisions. As an entrepreneur, I think it’s rather challenging to overcome times of personal exhaustion and to regain power and motivation from within. Personally, I’m absolutely convinced by the mission and the vision of MentorMe. This and running at least four times a week give me the inner peace I need to sustain through hard times. Besides that inner strength, my team and I get much positive feedback form our mentees and our mentors. It simply makes me happy when mentees find their way into a job either through our direct or indirect support – and, I love to hear that mentors connect with each other. This is the beauty of our program: We really help each other.

@ichselbstaendig: What are your plans for 2017? Do you plan to bring MentorMe to a new level and create such wonderful programs in other geos as well?

Karin: We have many plans: most importantly, we want to further digitalize our services – mentoring, training and networking – so that more students and graduates all over Germany get mentorship and support. Then, we want to physically expand MentorMe to Frankfurt in order to engage in some more partnerships with companies in that region. Also very high on our agenda: We want to reach more students and graduates with migration background and women of color to increase our own diversity.

@ichselbstaendig: We can imagine that the amount of mentees is enormous, how do you find suitable mentors?

Karin: Interestingly, the mentors find us! When we started, we had to pro-actively ask people to becoming mentors but now many men and women come to us because they see what they can get back: appreciation, self-reflection, leadership skills, access to a big network of other mentors from various industries and fields and, very important, fun and joy when seeing another person grow.

@ichselbstaendig: What is your message to women who still did not dare to create their own business/project?

Karin: Just try it now. Don’t be afraid because you cannot lose. In fact, you can only win when you do what you love and love what you do. Even if it won’t be successful, I guarantee that you have learned so much and met so many great people in the intercourse of creating something that you feel passionate about. Go out and speak to people. Find people who are willing to support you and believe in you. Be ready to work hard, non-stop and be tired. Be prepared to make mistakes – they come anyways – but also to learn fast from them. And, have fun!

@ichselbstaendig: Karin, you are an inspirational woman in so many ways, but is there a woman that inspires you?

Karin: I don’t have a specific woman in mind. I have the highest respect for every woman who dares to do things she is afraid of or which makes her feel uncomfortable. And, I love women who support each other and follow their heart even if logical reasoning tells them not to.

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