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Category: Relationships
How to Seek out Mentors

Mentoring can help you get ahead in your career!  Take the example of Heather Shea.  Heather started as an entry-level sales representative at Tom Peters Group.  Two years later she became President with the help of her mentor, Tom Peters.  Having good mentors can help you gain confidence, gain new knowledge and skills, obtain new opportunities, and ultimately achieve your career goals!  According to the late Dr. Linda Phillips-Jones, principal consultant of The Mentoring Group, “finding and making use of the right mentors is the most critical step you’ll ever take in your career”.  This is true whether you’re just starting out in your career or a 30-year veteran.

All it takes to find and benefit from a mentor is initiative and a willingness to learn.  But before you look for a mentor, you need to take a hard look at yourself.  It really starts with an assessment of yourself.  What are your career goals?  What areas do you need to develop?  What knowledge, skills and opportunities do you need to achieve your goal?

Once you have defined your development needs, look for mentors who have skills in those areas.  Gordon Shea, author of Making the Most of Being Mentored, says that you need to “know explicitly what you need or want from the (mentoring) relationship and have well-defined objectives”.

What should you look for in a mentor?  Besides having the skills and experience that you need, this person should have good listening and coaching skills and be a good encourager.  Think about people whom you admire, trust and respect.  Could any of them be a good mentor for you?  A common mistake that people make is trying to find one ideal mentor.  It’s not likely that one mentor can meet all of your needs.  Instead think in terms of multiple mentors.  You may have different mentors for different areas of expertise that you want to develop.  You may find mentors in your company or outside of your workplace, such as professional or volunteer organizations.

In approaching mentors, you don’t want to come right out and ask, “Will you be my mentor?”  It’s a loaded word.  People may not think of themselves as mentors or they may be scared off by the commitment it implies.  Instead, make a specific request.  It helps however if you get to know the person first.  Ask a mutual acquaintance to introduce you, or volunteer to work on a committee with a potential mentor.  Observe him in action.  Tell him you’d like to learn more about what he does well (project planning, leading teams, etc.), and ask if he’s willing to meet for an hour to share his expertise.  “I’ve always been very proactive about making contact with people I could learn from,” says Linda Hoffman, Managing Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers.  “When I meet someone I can learn from, then I build a relationship.  We go have lunch and talk.”

Finally, after a mentor has helped you, don’t forget to say thank you.  It’s very important to show appreciation.  Follow up, thank him, and let him know how his advice has helped you.  This opens the door to ask for help on an ongoing basis.

Approaching potential mentors may feel awkward at first, but you’ll find that the benefits are well worth it!  Be proactive and initiate mentoring relationships.  Working with mentors will help you learn, grow, develop and ultimately achieve your career goals!

For more information on working with mentors, read Connecting with Success: How to Build a Mentoring Network to Fast-Forward Your Career.

 
Building Your Professional Network

The single characteristic shared by all truly successful people is the ability to create and nurture a network of supporters.  We all need support from others in order to achieve our career goals.  This help comes in many forms – seeking career advice from a mentor, being recommended for a sought-after project or job, or obtaining key information to help you solve a problem on the job.

Benefits of Your Network

The benefits of a strong network are several.  You can gain knowledge and skills, and learn more quickly than you would have on your own.  It’s helpful to learn from someone who has “been there and done that”.  A mentor can provide you with coaching, advice and career guidance, which will help you make better decisions.

Having a strong network can help you find a job.  Did you know that 85% of jobs are found through referrals?  That points to the importance of networking.  If you have a strong network when you lose your job, then you’ll be much more likely to find a job more quickly.  Your network acts as a safety net.

Having a strong network can actually help you perform better on your job.  Research by Robert Kelley, author of “Be a Star at Work” found networking to be a key competency of high performers.  Effective networkers know who to go to for the information they need.  Therefore, they’re able to solve their problems much more quickly and be more productive.

Your network can also help you get promoted.  Sally Donahe was the first female Master Sergeant in the National Guard.  She credits Lieutenant Elizabeth Robinson as being instrumental in her promotion, because Robinson had the ear of senior leadership and touted Sally’s accomplishments.

Who Should be in Your Network

Your network can consist of a number of people – your manager, mentors, co-workers, other colleagues in your profession, etc.  The most important person in your network is your immediate supervisor.  You should be receiving coaching, career advice, and feedback from your supervisor.  If not, then be proactive and ask for it.

Mentors can be invaluable to your career.  They too can provide advice, feedback and career guidance.  It’s always good to hear another perspective and have another resource outside of your supervisor.  In fact, I would encourage you to have multiple mentors.  Each mentor may have different strengths.  You may have one mentor with technical expertise and another with outstanding management or people skills.  You also may have another mentor outside of your organization.

Besides your supervisor and mentors, other people to include in your network are those who support you on the job, co-workers/team members, and colleagues who are in your profession or industry.

How to Build Your Network

Once you’ve identified who is important to include in your network, work on building those relationships.  When you meet someone you think you can learn from, suggest getting together for coffee or lunch.  Get to know the other person by asking questions.  Learn about their job, career aspirations, strengths, and needs.  Look for ways that you can provide assistance.  After all, networking is a two-way street.  Where can you find leverage to help each other?  What can you learn from this person?  Be sure to thank him for his time. Then keep in touch on a regular basis.

For a prospective mentor, ask to meet and seek advice or feedback in a particular area; for example, career advice or feedback on your performance.  After your meeting, not only thank him for his time, but also try out his suggestions and follow-up to let him know how helpful they were.  This can open the door to more mentoring in the future.

You’ll want to maintain your relationships over time, especially with those you work most closely.  The people who support you in your job are especially important.  Be sure to show your appreciation with thank you notes, cards, or even small gifts when people go “above and beyond the call of duty” to support you.

By implementing these ideas for building your network, you can learn more, perform better, and advance your career.  Ultimately, your support network will help you to achieve your career goals!

 
A Working Mom’s Support Network

It’s Wednesday at 1:45 in the afternoon.  Alexis receives a call from her son’s school saying he’s sick with a 101 degree fever, and needs to be picked up from school.  Alexis is getting ready to go into an important meeting with a client, and her husband is out of town on business.  Alexis panics – she’s not sure who she can call for help.  How about you?  Do you know who you can call in an urgent situation such as this?  Hopefully, you have a list of names and numbers you can call for back-up help.

For working moms, having a strong support network is essential.  Given that life is unpredictable, you never know when you’ll need assistance — someone to pick up your child from school, or back-up child care, or someone to take care for your sick child.

Who should be in your support network?  Here’s a list:

Boss – A boss can support you by allowing flexibility when needed – to attend parent-teacher conferences or school performances, or to stay home with a sick child.

Co-workers – Co-workers can support you by filling in when you cannot be at work – so you don’t have to come back to twice the work!

Spouse – Your spouse can share household and childcare responsibilities.

Children – Even your children (depending upon their age) can take responsibility and do their part.

Family — Your extended family can support you by providing back-up child care.

Friends – It’s great to have friends who can help in times of need – to trade-off carpooling or caring for children.

Neighbors – A neighbor can help out in a pinch; for example, to pick up your child from school.

Paid Services – These include your child care provider, emergency child care, and household services (including housecleaning, gardening, pest control, window washing, errands, shopping, etc.).

How strong is your network?  What’s missing?  If you find your support network is not as strong as you’d like, then gain the support you need.  Then when you’re faced with an unexpected call, you’ll know who to ask for help.

 
10 Ways to Maintain Important Relationships

Relationships are important to a healthy balance.  We all need other people in our lives.  Spending time with family or friends can help rejuvenate us.  We also need people we can depend upon in times of need – to provide emotional support, comfort, or a helping hand.

 Sometimes we get so busy that we neglect important relationships – with our spouse, children, extended family, or friends.  It’s easy to take our spouse for granted, and then eventually drift apart.  We need to invest time to nurture our marriage.  When we’re busy, we often don’t make time for friends, and our friendships fade over time.  How can we make these important relationships a priority?  Here are ten tips to help you maintain relationships over time.

  1.  Schedule a date night with your spouse.  Go out for coffee, dinner, a movie, etc. or spend a quiet, intimate evening at home and send the kids to a sitter’s house.
  2. Attend a marriage retreat together once a year.
  3. Get away for an overnight stay every few months.  Time away from work, home, and kids will do wonders for your marriage.
  4. Use Skype to connect with family members who live far away.  It’s the next best thing to being there.
  5. Use Facebook or e-mail to catch up with extended family and friends.
  6. Schedule a lunch date with a friend at least once a month.
  7. Schedule a game night or potluck dinner once a month with friends and neighbors.
  8. Call on your cell phone and catch up with a friend.  You can even talk while you’re folding laundry or driving on the freeway.
  9. Keep a record of birthdays of family members and close friends.  Then at the beginning of each month, buy birthday cards for everyone with a birthday that month.
  10. Develop a good support network of people (family, friends, neighbors) with whom you can exchange favors.

 

 Do you have any tips to add to this list?  Please share with other readers what you do to maintain important relationships?