"professional guidance"

Fri 13 December 2019
Increasing your likelihood of implementing a successful mentorship program at your university becomes much greater when you understand the desires of your students (mentees) and alumni (mentors). By fully understanding the wants and needs of both parties, you can create a mentorship program that works for everyone (and not just for the sake of saying you have a mentorship program).


Students:

  1. To learn from somebody they can see themselves in

This ties into the work in the Journal of Vocational Behaviors in which we learn that students need to be able to see themselves and relate to their mentors to fully gain the most out of that mentor. If a mentor cannot relate to the same or similar struggles that the student is facing, the student will not identify the successes of the mentor as something the student can achieve. This includes race, gender, age, GPA and any other obstacle (real or perceived) the student is facing. For example, if you are a parent, significant other, or close friend and make a suggestion to your child, partner, or friend (respectively), that suggestion will likely not be internalized by the person you are speaking to because they know you more intimately and perceive the subtle differences between you and them as not relatable. Vice versa, a total stranger could make that same suggestion you gave to your child, partner, or friend and your child, partner, or friend could implement it instantly. Why? Because what they did know about that stranger they believed related to them. For a student to engage in mentorship, they must be able to see themselves in their mentor.

2. To not be told what to do

Students are seeking to learn voluntarily, not forcibly. If a student feels forced or coerced to be a mentee, they are likely to reject or do the minimum to achieve satisfaction from the party forcing them to be a mentee. Students have similar responses to required vs. elective courses.

3. To gain career opportunities

Students need to know that the work they are doing in school and with meeting mentors is leading toward something. It is important for them to believe that the relationship is worth something, and not just simply another person they know. The biggest fear in this case, however, is that the student can solely value the job, and sometimes not form a true relationship. Students need to know that job opportunities can come from mentorship, but rarely come if their sole purpose for getting mentored is getting a job. Fortunately for the students, this ties in nicely with how the mentor often perceives the relationship, and what they want.


Mentors:

  1. To pay it forward

If you think this sounds wishy-washy or doesn’t make sense to you then you are probably not suited to be a mentor. Fortunately, there are many people that love the idea of giving time to a student and helping them grow as a person. Dale Carnegie once said,


“Talk to someone about themselves and they will talk to you for hours.”


Being a mentor provides alumni with the opportunity to be philanthropic without spending money, and helping students with a topic they are an expert in.

2. To stay “in the know” with events and activities at their alma mater

Keeping your alumni involved with your school goes beyond the competitiveness of your athletic programs. Sure alumni receive newsletters about what is going on around campus from the perspective of the administration, but alumni want to know what students think because they were students. Being a mentor allows alumni to stay involved with what is going on around campus and updated on the students’ thoughts about it.

3. To provide opportunities

There is nothing more satisfying to a mentor than knowing that he/she paved the way for a student to succeed. This goes beyond helping a student get a job. This includes providing recommendations, key insights, and job shadows. If the perspective of the mentor saves a student time, money, or energy then that mentor has done a great job. There is no greater feeling than believing you made a positive impact on somebody else’s life. For a mentor, having a student that is eager to learn (and not desperate for a job) goes a long way towards encouraging a mentor to provide opportunities to students.


With these insights into the desires of mentors and mentees, you can begin building a strategy for ensuring positive and beneficial connections.

Wed 17 June 2020
One of the most exciting things that I did in the Navy was to get our ship “underway”.   That’s when we “cast off all lines” and push (or get pulled) away from the pier.   Whether we were headed across the globe or just out for a day or two of exercises, it marked the beginning of a journey, of an adventure.  Last week we got “underway” with our new HR Mentoring adventure when Garrett introduced us to our mentors, our “shipmates”. 

I was very pleased to meet my mentor, Mike Johnson, and learn about his background and his current role. We were both a little surprised by the results of our Work Orientation, and not totally sure of the methodology that paired us up (yes, he does provide a written explanation).  However, the more we’ve shared with each other, the more excited about where our relationship may take us.

It took us very little time to warm up and open up.  After the first official meeting we already started to peel back the onion and share a few things about our plans and dreams for the future.  It was sort of freeing to share some of my thoughts that I had not shared with anyone before.   Having Mike listen and then respond without negativity or judgement was really encouraging.  It already made me more excited to see where our path would lead us.

I’ve also been impressed with the materials that Garrett has put together.   The website is clean and easy to navigate.  He has well organized materials and provided a nice meeting guide to help us get started. 

We were asked what was something that we learned from our mentor this month and I think the thing I learned from Mike this week is that when you have a sense of your purpose, or your calling, it is very exciting and energizing.  Hearing him tell his story and talk about his “why”, it’s clear that he is in his sweet spot.   I can’t wait to see what next month brings.




Mon 5 October 2020
My company has been helping executives learn about their own strengths and weaknesses and there was one number that really stood out to me when I was checking out the data. Seven out of every ten executives in an Executive Mentor Program gave worse ratings to their own leadership ability than the ratings given by their colleagues on leadership as part of their 360-degree assessments.

This statistic fascinates me because it forces me to start questioning what these executives are seeing in themselves that their colleagues apparently miss.   

Is it an act of humility to acknowledge that there is room to grow even though one’s colleagues are satisfied with their leadership?

Is it a perceived lack of ability compared to other leaders they aspire to emulate (something which apparently is missed by their colleagues)?

Or is it a lack of self-confidence, and that more executives feel like they are “faking it” until the one day that they are actually “making it” (while their colleagues don’t know any better)?

To properly answer this, leadership should be defined. By leadership, the study focused on two areas: general perceptions of leadership (e.g. I feel this person is a good leader) and one’s ability to provide clear expectations for those that work with them.

As a society, we seemingly look to the most prominent business leaders as if they have it all together, brimming with confidence, and are unshakable.

We condition ourselves to believe that to be a leader, we must be ever confident and we must have all the answers. For some people, this is an attractive endeavor because our vision of ourselves is the person at the top making the decisions and having the answers – that almost by being at the top of an org chart that we will inherently have the answers (or an alternative solution) because we have control. For others, however, leadership is not an attractive endeavor because of the perceived responsibilities and eyeballs looking to you for what the next step should be; be open to criticism and all the while constantly nervous about whether or not you are choosing the correct path.

While we aren’t sure exactly why 70% of executives underestimate their leadership ability compared to their colleagues’ ratings, we do know that this mismatch in perception exists.

Therefore, there is good news and bad news implied by these findings. The bad news: for those people who are attracted to leadership because they believe that once they are a leader they will have the answers and the confidence; that seems to be an unlikely, though not unheard-of, outcome. Instead, this seems to show that leadership is a never-ending pursuit of improvement. This becomes exacerbated when team members and the people they work with don’t understand their expectations of themselves and the metrics they would like to achieve to be considered a success.

The good news: for those people that avoid leadership because of the perceived responsibility of knowing every next step, being criticized, and nervous about whether or not they are choosing the correct path; most leaders feel this way and the feeling doesn’t stop! Instead, it seems like they just get better at dealing with those feelings.

The reason this is good news is because it shouldn’t hold you back from pursuing opportunities to improve your leadership abilities. This feeling of nervousness when leading a group of people is normal (the data shows it!) and it probably won’t be going away anytime soon. If you lean into the opportunities that present themselves (or seek them out), you can ensure that you are constantly growing and learning.

Speaking of leaning in, Sheryl Sandberg’s story of joining Google embodies the lessons learned from somebody jumping into leadership despite the uncertainty.

Sheryl accepted a role at Google during Google’s infancy. Her prior work experience was in government and she had minimal experience working in technology or startups.

It had taken her almost a year of living in San Francisco to get her first job offer. But persistence paid off and eventually she was receiving multiple offers, one of which was with Google. The other offers were very similar with what she had done in the past and paid her more, but the opportunity for leadership and growth with those other companies wasn’t nearly as high as with Google.

She was torn about what to do. As she was about to reject the Google offer, she met with Eric Schmidt the then CEO of Google who was still part of the interview process (which also gives you an idea of how early this was with Google). She laid out all the offers she had on her spreadsheet and the pros and cons of each offer. The only substantial positive for Google compared to the other offers was the opportunity for growth and leadership.

So why did she choose Google?

It was Eric’s response that convinced her. Eric put his hand over her spreadsheet and said “Don’t be stupid. If somebody offers you a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask ‘which seat?’ you just get on.”

She accepted this new challenge of working in a different industry than she was accustomed to, learned to thrive in it, and transitioned that experience into what she is doing now: the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.

If you are currently a leader, this executive data should hopefully be the inspiration to pursue new experiences and expand your horizons with the hope that it improves your leadership abilities. You don’t need to follow what you think is a “tried and true” method to leadership because there is no “tried and true” method to leadership. Leadership is constantly evolving and 70% of executives feel they are worse leaders compared to their colleagues’ perception of them. 

This is not a guarantee that trying new activities will have some magical power that directly improves your leadership. You might not even realize your strengths and growth as a leader until much later. But, doing nothing new and avoiding challenges is a sure-fire way to stagnate. 

Building Mentor Connections Through Work Orientation

Kickstarting Mentorships For Fulfilling Careers