"mentor"

Fri 10 January 2020
When an employee mentions to his manager that he has received an offer from another company, how does the manager, and the company for that matter, typically respond? Often, they will respond with a counteroffer to keep that employee on the team.
Why?
Because the expense of having to pick up the pieces of where that employee left off is substantially higher than the expense of paying them more.
But…
What if we lived in a world where money wasn’t the only factor for choosing whether to stay in a job or accept a new role?
What if we discovered that there is another factor that plays a HUGE role in whether or not people stay or go? 
Most business roundtables and experts will say “you must invest in your culture!” What does that even mean? Does it mean providing lunches and ping pong tables at the office? Maybe.
Company culture is the combined makeup of how each individual employee feels about their work, whom they are doing that work with, and how attached their identity is to the work they are doing at that company. Company culture is the way that each employee feels when he/she comes to work.
You can’t force employees to feel a certain way, but you can create environments and opportunities where ideally, your people are creating deeper bonds with each other. When deeper bonds are built between people, a chemical in our brain called oxytocin fires. Oxytocin is why we feel good being around other people we like. 
When oxytocin is consistently firing when we are around our co-workers, our desire to not lose that feeling is high. Essentially, we, as humans, can form a chemical dependency to a group of people we enjoy being around in which money cannot easily persuade us to leave.
If people are using words like “we” and “us” vs. “you”, “they”, and “I”, that is a good start. But are there is 1 strong way to boost company culture.
Carve time for employees to have intentional one-on-one conversations with each other (can be about work or not about work).
Why can this activity be so powerful and impactful to the company? 
This activity creates an environment for deep relationships. When deep relationships are formed between people, oxytocin builds between those people. When people have oxytocin with their colleagues, they desire to be around those people that make them feel good.
Does it have to be one-on-one or can it be in a group?
It is best to be done one-on-one because people are less likely to be vulnerable when more people are around. Vulnerability is the key to building trust and trust is required for oxytocin to build. To make an example, think about holiday parties (or any other corporate gathering) – are people comfortable having deep, intentional conversations or are the conversations about the weather, sports, work, or any other surface-level topic? Typically, it is the latter. When people are one-on-one, they feel more comfortable opening up to each other.
Is it possible to provide a structure that leads to deep relationships?
Yes. 2 things are critical to this. First, people that are meeting with each should have aligned Work Orientation. Work Orientation is how you view your work and is a spectrum between “job”, “career”, and “calling”. When people share Work Orientation, their likelihood of getting along in these relationships is much higher because their value systems are aligned.
Second, these conversations should be focused on discussing the past, not the future. When we discuss the future, we are more inclined to embellish our goals and less likely to share our past vulnerabilities for fear that our past mistakes will not be consistent with our future goals. When we discuss the past, we can focus on the missteps we have taken and how we have learned from them. 
To build trust, you must be vulnerable first, not the other way around.
How can I measure if deep relationships are being built?
You can assess your employees’ engagement levels. If engagement rises, you will know that employees’ level of connectedness to the company culture is growing. 
How often should people be meeting?
It can be once per month for an hour each meeting. This intentional time away from work and focused on another person can create bonds that last a lifetime.
Should people switch up whom they are meeting with?
Yes. Variety in these relationships helps further intertwine employees so then they are consistently building deep relationships with multiple people. As long as the relationships formally last for at least 6 months, that should be plenty of time for people to get into rapport and continue that relationship.
In conclusion, creating environments in which colleagues are building deep relationships with each other can increase oxytocin firing in their brains when they come to work and subsequently increase the alignment of their identity with the company’s culture.
If you are interested in learning more about research on mentor relationships for companies, check out ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Fri 17 January 2020
Building a company culture that is engaging for people to join and work with is not a simple task. Ping pong tables, meditation rooms, free lunches, open work spaces, and open budgets for professional development are nice and have varying degrees of effectiveness, but for this post, the focus is on corporate mentor programs.

Corporate mentor programs are created to connect people on teams together for deeper relationships. When implemented properly, the results can lead to greater employee engagement, productivity, retention, and sense of pride in working for your company.

When not implemented properly, this can lead to people feeling like the mentor relationships are forced, the mentor relationships are taking time away from their typical work, and/or the mentor relationships are giving too much power the more senior participant.

There are 3 types of corporate mentor programs that have great intentions but unfortunately, more often than not, end up with results that are consistent with improperly implemented mentor programs.

Open Door Policy Mentorship

Open Door Policy Mentorship starts with companies that enact an open door policy to encourage employees to meet with each other. The goal is that when an employee would like guidance from another employee, she can feel comfortable going into the office of that other employee and ask for advice.

The reality is that most people don’t take advantage of this Open Door Policy Mentorship. Does this mean that the team isn’t interested in mentoring relationships? Possibly, but probably not (Current research indicates that employees are interested in mentoring relationships. If you are interested in finding out for yourself, you should ask your employees in a survey if they are interested).

So why don’t employees take advantage of this? Because most people don’t feel comfortable opening the door. Whether that be not knowing exactly what to talk about, fearing that what you have to ask isn’t relevant to what that person is working on right now or that you might be interrupting her day, or not feeling like the person would have a good answer for you even if you asked the question.

Ultimately, this type of mentor program becomes lip service for HR to say to prospective candidates to try and lure them to their company through the guise of a culture that cares about your development.

Mentorship from the Executive Team via an employee application process

This type of mentorship starts with the goal of spreading the culture of the company when it was small and only the Executive Team to the employees as the team has grown.

There are 3 issues with this type of mentorship. 

First, the Executive Team doesn’t have the time to mentor every employee. This leads to:

Second, not everyone gets to participate. Trimming down the list of who gets selected to participate in this mentor program is typically accomplished through some form of application process. This leads to:

Third, the Executive Team member participant getting way too much control over the relationship. Mentorship should be mutual, where both participants come with insights to share and receive. When one participant has too much dominance over the relationship, they will typically come to mentor meetings unprepared expecting the other person to drive the agenda of the entire meeting. This leads to one-sided relationships where one person feels like they are only giving and not receiving anything (and can justify showing up unprepared because of their status in the company) and the other person doesn’t know what to ask because they don’t feel like they are contributing anything.

Informal Mentorship

Informal Mentorship is similar to Open Door Policy Mentorship but this is even less structured. At least in Open Door Policy Mentorship, there is a formal policy in place. Informal Mentorship is a term typically used by people in HR that have observed that some people in the office have more than the typical “How was your weekend?” or “How’s your day going?” conversations and assume that both people are having deep, connected conversations in which both people are learning and growing from the relationship.

None of the results from Informal Mentorship can be confirmed because there is no structure to establishing who is in these relationships and how these relationships have effected anyone’s engagement level in the company. 

In conclusion, mentorship can be an extremely effective tool for engaging employees, growing company culture, and increasing productivity if done properly. But, if done improperly, it can lead to the opposite result. 

If you are interested in learning more about research on mentor relationships for companies, check out ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Wed 29 January 2020
If intimate relationships have Love Languages, should we also have Love Languages in our management style?

To rephrase that question, are there certain management incentives that motivate some employees that don’t motivate other employees?

If so, then we shouldn’t have the same management incentives for every employee, right?

For example, if I know a direct report is really motivated by professional advancement, extending her vacation days wouldn’t be optimally motivating to her because her goal is professional advancement. A better incentive might be to provide her with the opportunity to gain a new credential or learn a new skill.

Here are 3 keys you can leverage to encourage your team properly.

Understand your Direct Reports’ work motivations

Understanding your direct reports’ work motivations is critical. If you take time to identify what their goals are, you can work on brainstorming and identifying incentives that would motivate them. If you are struggling to identify your direct reports’ work motivations, you can try using Ambition In Motion’s Work Orientation Assessment – https://ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Be willing to alter and change your management style based on the individual

Having a one-size-fits-all management philosophy does not work. What it will do is surround you with other people that are just like you. This lack of diversity will create blind spots and turn away potentially great collaborators to your team. If you are willing to alter your management style, you can allow your direct reports to thrive and grow in the way that motivates them.

Encourage an open and honest dialogue to gain feedback on the style you have implemented

Radical candor is critical to knowing if what you are doing is working. If your direct reports fear you or your response to their honesty…they won’t be honest with you. If you can’t have honest feedback, you will have no idea if what you are doing is working and you will likely revert to old, bad habits.

Growing the engagement and the productivity of your team is not easy, but it is possible. If you are willing to understand what motivates your team, act on it, and accept feedback, you will be well on your way to achieving great outcomes.

If you are interested in learning more about research on mentor relationships for companies, check out https://ambition-in-motion.com/companies.

Fri 28 February 2020
One common piece of advice I hear is that “you should work towards finding a calling”. The advice makes sense. I mean of you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualization is at the top and it is easy to assume that finding a calling is consistent with achieving self-actualization.

But what if it’s not? What if we have it wrong?

I work in the space of implementing employee mentor programs for companies and I have studied extensively the correlation between aligned Work Orientation and the likelihood of successful mentor relationships. I have also studied correlations between different Work Orientations and levels of engagement at work.

Work Orientation is how one view’s their work. Some people view their work as a job (motivated by work/life balance), some people view their work as a career (motivated by professional growth), and some people view their work as a calling (motivated by personal/professional mission alignment).

My team and I learned that Work Orientation is fluid, meaning that it can change throughout one’s life. We also learned that when people don’t share a similar Work Orientation and are matched together for a mentoring relationship, that the likelihood that relationship lasts for 6 months and is considered both productive and quality diminishes significantly. 

But is there a correlation between one type of Work Orientation and being more engaged at work?

Our current research indicates no.

Our current research does break workplace engagement into 4 separate categories: emotional attachment to the work, energy received from doing the work, social connection with those whom doing the work with, and level of fulfillment from the work itself.

Our current research indicates that there is no one Work Orientation that is more engaged at work than another, but that some Work Orientations are more engaged in certain types of engagement than others.

People that are job oriented gain more workplace engagement from social connection with those whom they are doing the work than people that are career or calling oriented.

People that are career oriented gain more workplace engagement from the energy received doing the work than people that are job or calling oriented.

People that are calling oriented gain more workplace engagement from the level of fulfillment from the work itself than people that are career or job oriented.

The point is that maybe not everybody needs a calling. Everybody runs in their own lane and lives their own life and can achieve happiness and self-actualization in their own way. Assuming that everyone needs a calling may put people in uncomfortable situations and make them feel a way that they aren’t. And just because somebody doesn’t view their work as a calling right now doesn’t mean that they never will.

To adequately share the data and the other side of this point, our research also indicates that people that are career and calling oriented are more receptive to participating in employee mentor programs. Since employee mentorship - done successfully - leads to increased workplace engagement, greater collaboration across teams, and improved productivity, you could also make a counterargument.

Wed 4 March 2020
It is a collaboration between mentor and mentee who works together to identify goals that are specific to the individual’s role and aligned to corporate objectives.  The mentor should be supportive and listen to the ideas of the mentee.  This is critical as it guarantees that mentee will know “what is expected of me”, which is another key drive of engagement and performance.  It also frames the conversation in a meaningful way.  Are the goals on track or not?  Why? What can the individual do to improve?  What can others do to support?  If the performance or behavior under question does not change, the mentor needs to remind the mentee of the goal and hole him/her accountable.  Mentor set priorities and had ability to work toward stated as success could be defined as a progressive realization of a predetermined goal.  Mentor amplified limited power by empowering mentee to take on shared challenges, seeking to surround with the most talented people representing a wide range of skills that could be helpful in achieving the goals.  Mentor in collaboration with mentee helps to set goals, to move forward these goals, and to advice on what course of action mentee should take.  Furthermore, mentor coaches mentee to build the processes necessary to collaborate on a strategy on how to best implement the project.

Mentoring is a long-term commitment with a broader range; include guidance toward professional education and career choices.

Fri 27 December 2019
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Often used to help people pick themselves up when their lives seem to have fallen into a rut, this quote can be helpful for giving your life some guidance BEFORE hitting the hard parts.


Consider this: according to the bureau of labor statistics, the average person changes jobs 10.8 times between ages 18 and 42. This means you are more likely than not going to work in a career that has no relevance to what you studied in college at some point. This outcome frequently results in people believing their time spent in college was wasted and that what they gained from college may not have been worth thousands of dollars. But when you consider the pros and cons of going to college, remember that life is about the journey. Did attending college add or detract from your life’s journey? 


While not necessarily a clear answer, like most things it will largely depend on your perspective. If you graduated from college with the expectation that getting a degree would guarantee you a job in a field related to that degree and that you would simply ride that job until retirement (with the level of promotions and acknowledgment you believe you deserve over that period of time), it is easy to understand why you may be unhappy with your current situation. Likewise, if you came into college with a clear understanding that the average person will have 11 or 12 jobs in their life, many of which may be completely removed from your college degree, your expectations likely met reality and you are probably more satisfied with your current situation. But while the benefits of your studies may or may not be clearly visible upon finishing school, there is one step that can be taken to ensure that your college experience does not go to waste, no matter how you look at it.


Having a mentor (or multiple mentors) in college is more correlated to career achievement, engagement, and well-being than any other way a college student could spend their time.


The Gallup Purdue Index of 2016 details the value of career services, inclusive experiences and mentorship for college graduates. It is easy to assume that a career service office would value outcomes like career achievement, engagement, and well-being, but it is clear that they are falling short of that mark with only 17% of students in this research responding that they found their career services office to be very helpful.


This research also found that if you spent your time in college developing mentor relationships, not only are you more likely to be employed but more importantly you are more likely to be engaged in your work and think more highly about your college experience.


What is most interesting about this information is that across the board, students who had mentors in college are significantly more likely to thrive and achieve career success than students who did not.


Finding where you belong after college is not an easy task. Everyone at some point or another has struggled with finding where they truly feel at home. By keeping your mind open and surrounding yourself with individuals who can help you get where you want to be, you’ll find your destination soon enough. Having a positive perspective and keeping the right people by your side will ensure that you not only find your home but that the journey to get there will be unforgettable.

Wed 18 March 2020
“People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt


The best way to gain insight into what one’s future career aspirations hope to be is to have a true conversation with someone already established within that field of interest.  Mentees receive a huge benefit from partnering alongside a well-seasoned professional to pick their brains.  Asking a ton of questions around the “why’s” or “how’s” can really open a person’s eyes to where they want to go in life.  

Unfortunately, sometimes this task can be challenging because of the lack of direction there is readily available to young people or individuals looking to shift careers.  Although we would like to see everyone as having sound advice, this is not always the case.  Asking questions of dearly loved or trusted people in our life may seem like the correct step in making good choices around career moves; however, sometimes their advice may not be sufficient.  Though not intentional, friends and family may believe they are offering their real-world experience correctly, but they lack clear direction in the delivery of said experience.

This is why mentees seeking out career-driven individuals can greatly benefit from their streamline, world experience.  Here they are matched up with someone who can give clear direction on what they feel the right steps for that individual should be.  Oftentimes, for people who are well established, they reflect on their past and review areas in their professional journey where they wish they had shifted gears.  Although they do not cry over their spilt milk, experienced professionals sometimes long for that moment when they could have benefited greatly from someone telling them which direction they should have turned or which path they might have chosen against.  Though they are well-established, the experienced individual may look back and say “I have made it, but if only this or that would have happened sooner…” 

Once presented with someone new and fresh to the game, they may feel that this is their chance to shed light on the potential career path ahead.  People like to know their opinions are valued, and to be given the chance to submit their ideas to someone who truly cares about their experience, will enhance what is being communicated.  This will amplify the relationship between the mentor and the mentee and will ensure levels of success from both ends. 
Fri 20 December 2019
Jon, a tall, strong, lumbering man was recently hired to cut down trees for a wood-burning energy company. On Jon’s first day, he cut down 8 trees (a pretty impressive amount). On his second day, he cut down 6 trees (still pretty good). On his third day, he cut down 5, on his fourth day 4, and by the end of the week he could only cut down 2 trees.


Jon went to his boss, Steve, and said: “I apologize but I must be getting weaker.”  


Steve replied, “When is the last time you sharpened your ax?”


Jon responded, “I haven’t had time to sharpen my ax because I have been so busy cutting down trees.”


You may be thinking to yourself, “obviously Jon needs to just sharpen his ax and he’ll be able to cut down as many trees as he did on day 1.”


But is it really that obvious? When is the last time you sharpened your ax? The ax is a metaphor for time management in this story. It is really easy to judge and know the “right answer” for how everyone else should manage their time, yet, many of us wonder why we are never able to complete our own to-do lists.


Stories are engaging and become more real to us the more they relate to our lives. So while not everyone reading this blog may be a tree cutter, you can definitely relate to the trials and tribulations of getting everything done on your to-do lists.


You might be thinking to yourself “well I already take the time to create a to-do list so I am good.”


Merely creating a to-do list is not enough to properly manage your time. If it were then getting everything on your to-do list complete wouldn’t be an issue and you wouldn’t have read this far. We know that when a to-do list is too long, it can cause us to drown and feel like we are under a never-ending pool of things to complete. We create solace with never completing our to-do list and justify never completing the list.


But what if, instead of just creating a to-do list, you instead create a story around every task on your to-do list? Just like the story about Jon the tree cutter engaged you enough to read this far, having a story around every task on your to-do list helps you stay engaged on the tasks you need to get done.


Not only do stories help you stay engaged, but they help you prioritize your tasks as well. If you create a narrative for your day or your week or your month (or even year!), you can create a path to success.


Sure, you may want that promotion (award, ribbon, raise, acknowledgment from peers and supervisors, family progress, or anything else you define success as) at the end of the year and sure, you may have thought of some milestones (i.e. tasks on your to-do list) that will help you achieve those outcomes, but what is your narrative for how all those tasks will get done? What sacrifices are you willing to take to make your story happen?


When you create a story for yourself, you create a picture for what you can realistically achieve. Since you are the only person who knows what you are truly capable of, you know that your story will be feasible since YOU wrote it!


So stop reading this article, go to your to-do list, and begin writing a story about each task. You will realize that your to-do lists turn into already-done lists quicker than you ever imagined.


And if you were curious, Jon ended up sharpening his ax by sharpening his mind and realizing that burning wood is a very unsustainable way of producing energy. Jon created a story for himself and enacted windmills all over his community and is powering his town sustainably.
Fri 22 November 2019
The educational landscape is changing. Universities are adding more courses and degree fields to help prepare students for the perpetually changing professional world.


Purdue and Gallup recently collaborated on a report titled Great Jobs, Great Lives and found that “Graduates who felt “supported” during college (that professors cared, professors made them excited about learning, and had a mentor) are nearly three times as likely to be thriving than those who didn’t feel supported.” 


Having professors that care and professors that made students excited about learning are things that can be monitored by universities internally. Having a mentor, on the other hand, is something that occurs outside of the classroom.


What is mentorship?


Mentorship is the relationship between a pupil and a professional in which the mentee gains knowledge, while the mentor gains the opportunity to pay it forward and give back some of his/her knowledge to someone who will appreciate it.


 Why is it important? 


Mentorship is vitally important to the development of college students because it provides them with a basis for building a realistic expectation for their professional careers.


Mentorship is important to mentors because it provides them with an opportunity to teach, detail their experiences, and talk about themselves. Dale Carnegie said it best “Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.”


How can it be implemented in universities?


Mentorship absolutely can be implemented in the college setting. In order to properly implement a mentor system in a university, there are some key pieces of information that need to be kept in mind:

  1. Alumni love the idea of being mentors. When interviewed, a university alumni association informed me that they were able to get over 9,000 alumni to be mentors.
  2. Assuming that all students are prepared to say they want a mentor is a misconception. In the same alumni association with over 9,000 alumni mentors, they were only able to facilitate 100 mentor/mentee connections over a 5 year period.
  3. Just matching a student with any mentor that has the same or similar career as the path the student aspires does not guarantee a successful relationship. There is much more to a successful mentor relationship beyond just matching students’ career ambitions with mentors’ experience.
  4. Students cannot think of mentorship as a job interview. If they do then the relationship cannot thrive because students are not their true, authentic selves when they believe there is an incentive.

 While working with a university’s business school we had them take our 360 degree assessment in which students ranked themselves and their peers on soft skill characteristics like listening skills, communication skills, leadership skills, etc. When the students were told that the report was for feedback purposes only, they ranked their peers much lower on the skills. Yet, when the students were told that their report of their peers (and their peers’ reports of them) would affect their grades, students ranked their peers much higher on the skills.


 Keeping this information in mind when establishing a mentor program at your university is vitally important to achieving your program’s goals.


Therefore, mentorship can be successfully implemented in the university setting if:

  1. The mentors are kept engaged.
  2. The students involve themselves with getting mentors and understand how to build those relationships.
  3. A system is in place to fully understand both the mentors and the students and connect them according to the latest research from experts on the subject.
  4. Students are provided with resources to teach them that a mentorship is not a job interview and that they should be themselves when meeting with their mentors.

Mentorship is beginning to permeate through the university setting as it has been successfully implemented in many companies through internal mentorship (i.e. senior leaders connecting with junior associates). Mentorship in college will not only help individual students learn from mentors but more importantly, help lead society towards careers they are passionate about.


 Will your university be able to implement mentorship successfully?

Fri 1 November 2019
Mark Twain once said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” This sentiment that Mr. Twain held remains true to this day, but can be very difficult to uphold.


For college students thinking about life after graduation, it is very easy to fall into the trap of settling for the safety net of the first job offer they receive after school. This is not to say that the first job offer that a student receives through their career development process is not of their highest ambitions. However, with the conditioning that a typical college student faces from his parents, friends, professors, and the media, it is easy to understand how students can find themselves afraid to pursue their true dreams.
 

  1. The conditioning is bullshit


Conditioning in this sense is the feeling that one must take an action because an external stimulus is influencing that behavior. Some examples of this include pursuing a career only because it relates to your major, not pursuing a career because you didn’t have a high GPA, not considering a company because it doesn’t come to your university to recruit, or not pursuing a company because you don’t feel like you are good enough or have the appropriate credentials.


I was running an Ambition In Motion workshop where we recommend companies to students that align with their strengths, interests, and work environment desires. When one of the students was informing the group of his recommended companies he said:


“All of my recommended companies are amazing but I don’t think they are realistic for me.”


I followed up to him by asking, “Why not?”


He then proceeded to list off all of the conditioning he has received throughout his collegiate years. He didn’t have a high enough GPA. The company didn’t recruit at Indiana University. He didn’t have any connections to anyone at the company.


In response I told him, “Dream big! You are just as human as every other college student that is about to graduate. You don’t have to lower your aspirations because of what other people around you have told you. Your dreams are just as valid as anyone else’s. Through Ambition In Motion, you will learn how to build relationships with professionals at your recommended companies. Who knows what will occur from there, but if you don’t put yourself out there, you will relegate yourself to settling for whatever job offer comes to you.”
 

2. Your dreams and goals are valid

 
When it comes to deciding your career, don’t be afraid to think big! Almost every college student has a similar amount of career experience, give or take an internship or two. That is to say, not that much.


Sure, some universities have more companies recruiting at their career fairs and career development offices. This doesn’t guarantee students at those universities jobs at those companies. It also doesn’t mean students outside of those universities are precluded from those jobs. It just means that students, regardless of their universities, are on an even playing field when it comes to pursuing their dream jobs. Everyone is capable of getting their dream job if they put themselves out there and build relationships with people at their desired companies.


3. Careers are not predetermined

 
If your career was predetermined by your degree, university, GPA, or other conditioning factors, why would we even apply to jobs? To put it another way (and to keep with the season of March Madness), if the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament had a predetermined winner, why would we fill out brackets?


Mr. Twain’s belief about not surrounding yourself with people that belittle your dreams and goals is very important advice that every college student should keep in mind. College students should surround themselves with people that support their goals and ambitions.


Limiting beliefs are only limiting if you believe them. Dream big and pursue the career and life that you would be jealous of.

Fri 25 October 2019
The martial artist, actor, filmmaker, and philosopher, Bruce Lee, was one of the most prominent figures in the world throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. Lee was not only extremely successful at each of these endeavors, but also pursued each endeavor in his own special way. Lee was best known for his martial arts, and rumor has it that he had to slow down his moves so that the camera could catch all of his movements while filming his movies. Lee once said “Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”


 Lee’s sentiment about being yourself is something everyone should keep in mind. Straining yourself to be somebody you are not creates immense amounts of unneeded stress. This is especially true for college students pursuing their careers.


  1. You are not a machine that needs to fit the specs of what you think an employer wants.


Feeling like you have to fit in this box of what you think an employer wants based on the feedback you have received from your university, peers, parents, and society is completely understandable. There is a lot of pressure to get a career that satisfies the expectations of your parents, family friends, peers, and society…and then yourself.


For college students pursuing their careers, thinking that you can be yourself and get a job can be a difficult notion to grasp, as getting a job can be quite difficult. It is easy to assume that catering your personality to what you think an employer wants would make you more hirable.


But if you are able to land a job because you have catered your personality to what you think the employer wants, how long can you maintain that personality? How will being this different affect your relationship with your coworkers?


2. Putting on an alternate personality for your career will not last nor be satisfying.


Portraying a persona of somebody that you are not is difficult to maintain, and will not be sustainable in the long run. More importantly, it is not enjoyable. What most college students do not understand is that an employer would rather hire somebody that can enjoy their work and thrive than somebody that is straining themselves to try and fit the mold that they think the employer wants. This is because employers know that happy employees tend to be more engaged and stay longer than those who are unhappy.


How awesome would it be if a company would hire your for who you are? This does not have to be a situation reserved for the extremely lucky. If you are yourself in the interview process, you can feel free to be yourself when you work. Similar to dating, if you put on this façade during the first few dates that you will do all of these marvelous things as a relationship partner that you won’t actually do or want to do, it will lead to dissatisfaction for both you and your partner. On top of that, your partner may not even want all of these marvelous promises that you have made and not continue the relationship.


Wouldn’t it be unfortunate to not get a job offer from a company because the personality you portrayed was not what they were looking for but instead the company was seeking someone more similar to your natural personality?


How important is it to be yourself during the interview process and in your career? Extremely important!


When you feel free to be yourself, express yourself, and have faith in yourself in your career, you can begin to develop a level of comfortability on the job that breeds confidence. Comfortability and confidence are major aspects to building proficiency and happiness in your career.


Ultimately, choose a career that you can be yourself in. Nobody can be you better than you can.

Fri 11 October 2019
In 1914, electricians were noticing a rift in the career advancement of themselves vs. their peers. Some electricians were given easier jobs and greater job prospects because they were friends with managers, owners, and/or other people in power. These electricians were not given these opportunities because of their electrical prowess, but rather because of their relationship with those that mattered.  In May of 1914, The Electrical Worker published that electricians were adopting the phrase “it’s not what you know that counts so much, as who you know!”


This rift the electricians were feeling begged the questions: How do we get to know the right people? Who are the right people? Will people give me any time if they know nothing about me? Are my only connections my family connections?


These questions are just as relevant today as they were in 1914. Tony Robbins has said that “70% of every experience a person will have will come from his/her network”. I don’t know if this information is factually proven, but it seems to make sense and back up the claim that “it’s not what you know that counts so much, as who you know!”


For a professional entering a new industry, a recent college graduate entering the working world, or anyone that is seeking to have more relationships, building a network can be difficult. If you are a person who is seeking to meet new people, it is easy to ask yourself “what do I have to offer?” Without any knowledge, connections, and resources, it is easy to write yourself off as somebody that has nothing to offer.


What you may not realize is that you have a ton to offer in terms of your time and willingness to listen.


PEOPLE LOVE TO TALK ABOUT THEMSELVES!


By seeking to understand another person’s story, you are showing them respect and empathy towards the decisions that person has made in his/her life. Essentially, by listening to another person talk about themselves, you make them feel valued because you care about what they are saying and it is deeply personal to them. No amount of money, connections, or knowledge can make a person feel as great as having someone take the time to listen to them.


Another thing you may not realize is that no matter how famous, wealthy, or powerful a person is, you are not annoying until you receive a response. Thus, be persistent as “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” This could mean sending multiple emails, phone calls, showing up at their place of work, or even writing a handwritten letter.


The people you should be reaching out to are the people in positions that you aspire to be. Jim Rohn once said that “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” If you aspire to be in a leadership position at a company, you should be spending time with people who are currently leaders at the company.


After you know the right people, who those people are, and have taken the time to listen to them, you can then easily transition to being understood. The key to being understood is to clearly and concisely convey what you are interested in doing. You can typically count on the 5 to 1 rule. What this means is that you have to give somebody roughly 5 times as much active listening as they will actively listen to you. So if you have taken 15 minutes to listen to somebody’s story and talk about himself, he will give you roughly 3 minutes of actively listening to what you have to say. Therefore, be concise and clear about what you are interested in.


However, there is a trick to the 5 to 1 rule that can give you more active listening time. If you ask questions to the person you are connecting with on the topic of what you are interested in, you are showing that person respect. By asking questions, you are conveying that you care about what they have to say and value their response. At the same time, you are actively engaging them to think about a response to your question as opposed to just listening to you.


Ultimately, by asking the right questions and conveying your interests clearly and concisely, you are making it possible for that person to recommend other people to you. This is how a network grows.


Whether you are a professional entering a new industry, a recent college graduate entering the working world, or anyone that is seeking to have more relationships, these are some tips to getting your foot in the door. Strictly relying on your friends and family’s relationships for connections is a lot of eggs to put in one basket. Also, since it takes significantly more effort to build relationships on your own vs. via friends/family, you will likely value relationships you built on your own more than those you received from friends/family.  


“It’s not what you know that counts so much, as who you know!” is very true today. However, there are many ways to get to know the right people. Utilizing family connections can be extremely valuable, but the ability to build relationships on your own is paramount to expanding your network.

Wed 25 March 2020
Let’s first define what is a mentor. “Mentors focus on providing you sage advice and wisdom gathered through experience and knowledge when you ask for their insight.  Mentors can be considered a library of human knowledge in the particular areas of life they have gained expertise.  Mentors normally focus on providing knowledge, understanding and direction, but have been known to help in your improvement as a person when you allow yourself to become the subject.”

Everyone should have a mentor whether it is professional or personal reasons.  A mentor is someone you can trust and build rapport with because this person will be there for you through the good and bad times.  Encouraging and inspiring along the way, is why a mentor is often confused with a coach.  A coach is different from a mentor in a sense that coaches are not supposed to offer advice as to what a person should be doing.  Coaching concentrates on the person implementing the best strategies to achieve their desired goals.  

The majority of mentor’s volunteer their time and are unpaid when asked to render guidance.  Some benefits to having a mentor is listed below:

  1. Support and encouragement 
  2. Inspiration and guidance
  3. Improve social skills
  4. Career and professional advice
  5. Spiritual advice

My mentor is someone who I met a few years ago after signing up for the mentor/mentee program at our church.  My mentor is someone who has helped me to grow in my business and to expand my career. By having a mentor who is also a business owner like myself, she provides reliable advice to me when making challenging decisions.  I value her opinion and look forward to our daily conversations.  My mentor is someone that I can trust and share my concerns about anything, and I know the advice given to me will be in my best interest. My mentor has encouraged me to do things that I normally would not have had the courage to do if it wasn’t for her believing in me. The experiences and knowledge that she shares with me helps to shape me into a better business leader, mother, and wife. I have learned so much from her over the past 2 years. 

If interested in having a mentor, make sure you are honest with yourself as well as your mentor. The relationship only works if honesty and transparency is at the core.  It is difficult for someone to provide guidance and advice to anyone if the relationship is built on dishonesty.  Also, make a list of what you are looking for in a mentor so when an opportunity to work with a mentor arises, you will know what qualities to seek.  The benefits are unlimited when working with a mentor who understands you both professionally and personally.  Having a mentor to confide in and receiving valuable advice from them is priceless. The opportunity to have a mentor in my life was one of the best decisions I could have made. 
Mon 30 March 2020
Horizontal mentorship is a mentoring relationship between employees across or within departments free from the influence of the workplace hierarchy.

Horizontal mentorship is the premier way to implement an employee mentor program.

This article serves to show the benefits of horizontal mentorship and the issues with traditional vertical mentorship.

In theory, the idea of vertical mentorship makes sense. A more experienced/knowledgeable person providing wisdom to a less experienced/knowledgeable person.

But, what vertical mentorship alone doesn’t account for is the personal drivers of each person in the relationship and its impact on the longevity and quality of that relationship over time.

Vertical mentorship opens the door for ego and ego is the biggest deterrent to successful mentoring relationships.

To show this point, let’s discuss the story of Shawn. Shawn is the CFO of a major company. He loves the idea of mentorship and believes that he has a lot of wisdom to share with somebody else. But, because Shawn is an executive, he doesn’t necessarily see the relationship being mutual. He’s fine with only providing his wisdom without any expectation of anything in return.

On the surface, this seems altruistic of Shawn…but in reality, Shawn is a nightmare for the other person he is in a mentoring relationship with.

The issue is that Shawn sees himself as an altruistic provider of information. What Shawn doesn’t realize is that his lack of willingness to listen and learn from the other person he is in a mentoring relationship with cripples the relationship. The person Shawn is in a relationship with cannot feel fully connected to Shawn because all Shawn does is spout advice. Shawn doesn’t come prepared with questions to meetings because Shawn perceives himself as a “reactive mentor” meaning that he can excuse himself from preparing for mentor meetings because his reactions to the other person’s questions should be enough to make the relationship valuable.

The result, the relationship fades away because the other person is frustrated with Shawn not being open to learning something from him while Shawn has no idea why the relationship ended and perceives the other person as being ungrateful for not taking full advantage of his wisdom.

The point is that vertical mentorship exaggerates workplace hierarchies and dehumanizes the mentoring relationship.

As opposed to the mentoring relationship being mutual where two people can give to and take from the relationship, it creates an awkward relationship where one person feels belittled and the other person feels disrespected. Vertical mentorship feels more like a transaction and less like a mutually beneficial relationship.

Horizontal mentorship leverages the inherent drives and values people have at work (Work Orientation) and matches them based on those drives.  

No matter the matches’ age, years of experience, or area of expertise, when people are matched together in horizontal mentorship, they are on a level playing field.

This means that both participants come prepared to each mentor meeting with questions for each other and stories to share. 

This means that both participants are willing to be open-minded enough to learn from somebody else regardless of their age or experience, willing to ask questions, and willing to share past mistakes.

Horizontal mentorship removes the transactional nature of vertical mentorship.

Horizontal mentorship breaks through communication barriers and creates empathy between employees at work. 

For building an employee mentor program, horizontal mentorship is the way to go. 

Even if the goal is for a junior employee to learn a skill from a senior employee, if the perception is vertical mentorship, the senior employee is going to perceive the relationship as a hassle while the junior employee is going to feel belittled. If the perception is that this type of mentor relationship is horizontal, it empowers the junior employee and gives the senior employee motivation to engage in the relationship because he now stands to gain something from the relationship.

Fri 1 November 2019
Initial publishing in Forbes.

One of the most important ingredients to career success today is building powerful support relationships with helpful mentors and sponsors. These are individuals with whom you develop mutually-beneficial relationships that can open critical doors for you, offer helpful guidance, and share strategies that will catapult you forward in your life and career.


But just how do we find these mentors and sponsors? I’m asked this question virtually every week by young professionals and seasoned ones as well. I’ve found that there are productive ways to build mentoring relationships, and unsuccessful approaches that fail to generate the results you hope for.


To explore more about this topic, I connected recently with Garrett Mintz who knows a great deal about the life-changing power of mentors. Mintz is the founder of Ambition In Motion which focuses on kickstarting mentorships that help build fulfilling careers. Mintz’s vision is a world where the vast majority of people are excited to go to work and feel that their expectations meet reality when they are at work. His focus is on helping companies build intentional mentor programs within their organizations. Mintz and I recently co-delivered a one-hour training program on How To Network In An Authentic, Genuine Way To Find Great Mentors


Mintz shares below about his own life transformation from teen drug dealer to business founder, and how to build successful mentorship relationships:


Kathy Caprino:
What is Ambition In Motion and why did you found this organization?

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Garrett Mintz:
At Ambition In Motion, we believe that there are two key stakeholders in achieving a mission of fulfilling work for professionals: employers and employees. If we can help employers gain a better understanding of their people and culture and provide them with simple steps on how to manage their people in a way that works with that culture, we can help them increase engagement and retention.


And if we can help employees increase their professional drives and goals throughout their lives, we can put them in the best position to be engaged and fulfilled at work.


Caprino:
How did you get involved in this work? What was your path to this?


Mintz:
I got involved with Ambition In Motion because I recognized that there was a huge problem with the way people view their work that prevents them from experiencing success. When I was a sophomore at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, I kept noticing so many of my older friends were in prestigious-sounding jobs and were paid really well, but they hated their work. They kept referring to work as “going back to the grind” or that they were “dreading Monday” and I thought to myself, is all of this “success” a façade? Is it impossible for people to be excited about their work?


In addition, I got involved in this direction because I’ve lived personally and witnessed how having mentors in our lives can transform us.


As a bit of backstory, from age 15-19, I engaged in dealing drugs. At the end of my freshman year, I was arrested in an undercover operation by the Indiana University Police Department. I received 5 felony distribution charges and was expelled from school. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.


Before that experience, I believed that success would come through my attending college, getting good grades, and landing a great job, and somewhere along those lines I would “find myself”. Well, nobody that I had ever known (whom I considered successful) was a drug dealer, so I either had to accept being a failure or redefine my definition of success.


I chose the latter and have never looked back. After getting in trouble, I enrolled in a program called At The Crossroads which exposed me to the power of mentorship, both personally and professionally. I then landed my first internship after sitting next to a man on an airplane who wanted to take a chance on me and hire me (even after hearing about my past) because of the strong impression I made on him.


After completing At The Crossroads, I got extremely lucky. My felonies were dropped to a misdemeanor conviction, I was re-enrolled at Indiana University, and I was accepted to the Kelley School of Business.


I had lost everything but found a way to get back on track, and on the way back I learned that it is all about the journey, not the destination.


My first step on this path to launching Ambition in Motion was facilitating mentorship between students and alumni so then I could help students gain the confidence to challenge their preconceived notions about how they viewed work. I focused on helping them identify, through educating themselves, a new path in which their expectations for fulfilling work could meet reality.


Caprino:
What have you learned from facilitating all of the mentorships that you have? 


Mintz:
First, and probably most surprising, is that there is very little correlation between successful mentorship and career interest alone.


Just to be clear, successful mentorship in my view is where the student and mentor find the relationship productive and successful. The mentorships I connect young people with involve at least three conversations over a three-month period and the individuals often stay in touch after the formal program is over. The student or young professional achieves his/her goal by the end of the period, and overall they find the relationship engaging and mutually beneficial.


So many mentor programs are setup where there is a big list of professionals from which the student is required to choose a mentor. Most students choose people who are in jobs they desire or certainly fields they aspire to enter. The challenge with this approach is that even if your dream job is to be a financial analyst at JP Morgan Chase, and you connect with a financial analyst at JP Morgan Chase to be your mentor, this isn’t a guarantee for successful mentorship.


What I’ve learned is that when you can find a mentor who is aligned with your desired work orientation, the likelihood of a successful mentorship relationship is greater, even when the fields of the mentor and mentee are very different because you both have shared motivations as it pertains to work. 


From our team’s research, work orientation is about how you view work and what you wish to get from it. The three dimensions of work orientation that we’ve uncovered are:


Viewing work as a job:
High focus on how your work can afford you the life you want to live outside of work


Viewing work as a career:
High focus on professional growth


Viewing work as a calling:
High focus on personal/professional mission alignment


Few people are firmly in just one dimension of this spectrum and few people have the same work orientation throughout their lives (because your work orientation can change based on the task you are working on and your stage in life).


We hypothesize that a big reason for less than satisfying results in a mentorship relationship is that mentors are going to mentor based onwhat they would have wanted to know when they were a student. If work orientation is not in alignment between mentor and mentee, it doesn’t really matter if the mentor works at a student’s dream company. The relationship likely isn’t going to work out or deliver successful outcomes for the mentee.


Caprino:
How can we find great mentors, and then become great mentees?


Mintz:
The first step to finding a great mentor is being open to the idea of having a mentor. Getting a mentor doesn’t mean that you are weak or that you are incapable. In fact, it says the opposite. It shows that you have more to learn and that you are open to learning.


Unfortunately, vulnerability gets a bad reputation (I believe the direct translation of vulnerability in sign language means “weak in the knees”), but I would argue that vulnerability is the component that is most likely to attract mentors. People want to see those who have or are facing tough times succeed. It helps others relate and it also goes counter-culture to the notion that “everything has to be going fantastically well when speaking with others.”


This is part of the reason why I share my story of my drug dealing past with people. It makes it easier for others to relate to me. When an individual can see someone who’s dealt with very hard times and found a way to overcome those challenges, that is when the drive for mentorship thrives.


We become great mentees when we nourish these relationships by having regular conversations and continuously sharing our vulnerable spots and our commitment to growing.


Caprino:
Can this information apply beyond mentorship?


Mintz:
Absolutely! In fact, after we started noticing the trend of successful mentorship being tied to aligning work orientation, we thought to ourselves “could this lead to increased retention and engagement at work?” and this is what we are working on now.


If we can help employers gain a better understanding of their people and culture through helping employees identify their desired work orientation, then provide employees with simple steps to manage their people in a way that aligns with their orientation, we can help them increase engagement and retention. And by helping employees gain a deeper understanding of their own professional drives and goals throughout their lives, we can help put them in the best position to be engaged and fulfilled at work.


Caprino:
How have you seen company culture fit in with doing work we love and will thrive in?


Mintz:
Company culture is not ping pong tables and meditation rooms. Company culture is how you experience the work you are doing and the people you are doing it with. When it comes to work orientation, there is not one right or wrong orientation. Some people I have spoken with mention that they only want people on their team who view their work as a “calling.” But I would argue that having a diverse workforce is essential to a thriving company culture.


For example, people who view their work as a calling are typically most resistant to corporate change and people who view their work as a job are most receptive to corporate change. If you understand what motivates your people, you can manage them in ways that make them feel valued.


On the flip side, as employees, if we can feel like our company cares about the things we care about, we are much more likely to be engaged. If you don’t like the way your coworkers, managers and leaders view work, that is probably a sign that it’s time to look for a different employer.


In short, whether it’s in landing great mentors who can support your growth, or pursuing great jobs at organizations you would be excited to join, understand what matters to you most and what you value in terms of fulfilling work, and keep those values a top priority in all you do.


For more information, visit ambition-in-motion.com.

Building Mentor Connections Through Work Orientation

Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers