Navit J. has made it a habit to seek out mentorships as a way to grow her career.
“There were things that I knew I wanted to accomplish, but I didn’t know how to get there,” she explains. “So, I was really proactive in finding mentors that were exhibiting the behaviors that I wanted to emulate or that were in positions that I would like to be in. I made sure I understood their journeys.”
And it’s been a winning tactic for Navit, who joined Schwab in 2018 as a Director within the Compliance organization. In fact, she credits mentorship for leading her through two other roles at Schwab before landing in her current position as Head of Corporate Compliance.
When she first started, Navit’s leader traveled to meet with the new directors on his team. After a short visit, he pulled Navit aside and told her that he wanted to appoint a mentor from his leadership team for her to work with.
“That moment made me realize that Schwab was really interested in my development,” she explains. “Because of that, they built loyalty in me on the first month on the job.”
This early mentorship opportunity helped Navit get a good understanding of leadership expectations, and of Schwab’s businesses and operations, setting her up for success with her new company.
In 2021, when Navit was asked to take part in the pilot for D&I mentorship program —a program aimed at supporting the career growth of employees of color— she of course jumped at the opportunity to gain new insights from a new mentor.
“I was pleasantly surprised that we didn’t spend a lot of time focusing on my challenges as a Black woman,” explains Navit, who is a Jamaican immigrant. “Instead, we really hit the ground talking about leadership and strategy.”
One of the things that helped Navit most was the vulnerability that her mentor showed her. She got to see that he struggled with things that were different than what she struggled with.
“I always felt like I needed to have it all put together,” says Navit. “But he showed me that we all work through challenges. And I felt like I got permission to not have it all figured out and to instead rely on the support of others along the way.”
When Navit was asked back to the program in 2022, this time as a mentor, she wanted to emulate the vulnerability that her mentor had shown her.
“The first thing I decided to do was to bring my authentic self and put my mentee at ease,” she explains of her approach. “I wanted to be relatable and above all, I wanted to show my humanity—which is not perfect and not always well put together. If we are honest with ourselves there is always something we are working through, and for me, the objective of mentorship, was to help my mentee work through whatever their thing was.”
Navit explains that a mentorship relationship is mutually beneficial. As a mentee she benefited from the connections, experience, and networking that her mentors provided. And as a mentor she learned how to be versatile and flexible with the approach that she took with her mentee. She also learned about a new area of business since mentorship programs often prioritize connecting people who may not otherwise overlap in their day-to-day jobs.
At Schwab there are multiple mentorship programs. Navit herself is involved in the D&I mentorship program, the corporate mentorship program, and the Corporate Risk Management mentorship program, as well as having multiple informal mentors —which Navit calls another valuable form of mentorship. She recalls one meeting she had with an informal mentor, the head of her department, a couple years back. “He asked me what I wanted to do,” she says. “And I told him what I wanted to do, and I thought he would be so pleased and so impressed of how thoughtful my response was. But instead, he said, ‘Okay that’s great…. now think bigger.’”
Navit says she’s never forgotten that moment and she calls it the best advice she’s ever gotten.
“When you have a senior leader telling you that you can do something that you are uncertain of, that helps build confidence,” she explains. “I realized that he was thinking bigger for me than I was for myself. It caused me to realize that I was limiting myself.”
Now Navit is committed to paying what she’s learned forward by continuing to serve as a mentor and through her work as president with The Extended Hands Foundation—a non-profit aimed at helping people achieve their career goals and reach their highest potential. Mentorship is, of course, one of the services they provide.
Mentorship FAQs with Navit J.
Q: How do you approach a potential mentor?
I realize that big titles can sometimes be very intimidating, but you just have to be bold enough to make that initial connection. One approach I take is to send an email. Open with something like, “Hi, I heard you speak at this event,” or “I ran across your name, and I’m interested in this thing that you do.” I’ve never had someone say “Nope, I don’t want to meet with you.”
Q: How do you make the most out of the time with a mentor?
Prepare for every meeting. I make sure I have topics I want to discuss. I make sure that if there were any takeaways from the last meeting that I fully researched those and followed up on them in the next meeting — should be a continuous discussion. Personally, I try to know what is going on in my mentor’s world so the conversation isn’t one-sided.
Q: What advice do you have for people becoming mentors for the first time?
Put your mentee at ease and show them your humanity. Get to know your mentee on a personal level as well as understanding their career aspirations. Allow the mentee to drive the conversation. Don’t assume anything; let them take ownership of what they want to get out of the relationship.
Q: Why is mentorship important?
It’s important to have support. It is important to hear different perspectives. Mentorship provides that - whether it’s formal or informal. No matter how far you advance in your career, you always need support and help. Mentorship should not be a one-time thing that you check the box off on. I strongly recommend mentorship be continuous along your journey.