Category Archives: Work Life

I need a mentor. Now what?

4th August 2013

mentorIt rings as if it were some nonchalant item on a twenty-something’s harping to-do list: find a mentor. But as with everything “grown up,” this is another must-have that doesn’t arrive in a neatly packaged chapter in the “how to grow up without messing it all up” manual.

In my head, I almost even picture this mystery person as if she were Professor McGonagall (guilty Harry Potter reference). Or as if this is someone you ask out on a date or sorts and at the end of the night, pop a along the lines of question of “will you help answer all of life’s mysteries for some elusive career advancement?” Shockingly, that’s not real life.

I’ve been incredibly grateful to have several wonderful people I happily call mentors cross my path over the past few years, and I hope someday I’ll be able to give the same advice and guidance in return.

So what should I look for in a mentor?

It probably starts with the people you work with. One of my biggest cheerleaders was a colleague who always had a open door. During my first few years at Engauge, I spent hours in her office each week, trading ideas, asking questions and having her explain how she reached client-related conclusions. Did she hand over the keys to success in a pretty blue box? No. Did she push me to be more confident and trusting of my own work? Yes. Did she make me smarter in the process? Absolutely.

Find your cheerleaders. Someone who will cheer you on and build up your expertise, not through questioning alone, but as a partnership.

Don’t be afraid to step outside of your industry. A mentor isn’t always someone who understands your lingo or speaks in the same client acronyms. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to participate in a women-only leadership program and it was phenomenal. Read more on that here. The most valuable pieces of the program however were the PEER mentorship opportunities. You can be a lawyer, working in manufacturing, or advertising, but you most likely have many of the same questions, the same doubts and the same what-ifs when it comes to managing a career.

Find people who don’t simply get your work, but who also get you. Sometimes a “the same thing happened to me” conversation can be the best support manual there is.

The real secret magic fairy dust? It starts with friendship. In reality, a mentorship shouldn’t be a formal program of sorts for the next few decades, it should be a mutual relationship and it probably starts with a cup of coffee (or in my case, hot chocolate). Finding someone you are comfortable with both personally and professionally, though rare, is insurmountable. When it comes time to ask for advice, you want someone on your side who not only gets your resume, but also gets you for who you are, not the job description you have in hand.

Find someone who you can trust to value more than just your job. Finding someone that remarkable might even feel like winning the lottery.

In the end, there isn’t some magic formula. There isn’t a mentor dating service. There are only the people you surround yourself with, the relationships you develop, and like everything else, we have to seek to build those relationships one day at a time.

PS that leadership program? They are enrolling for the fall class currently, check it out.

8 Do’s and Don’ts for Interns

5th June 2013

All work and lots of fun. Entern class of 2012 hosting the weekly beer cart.

All work and lots of fun. Entern class of 2012 hosting the weekly Engauge beer cart.

This week was an exciting one here at Engauge (and it seems to be a trend). We had 15 bright-eyed and bushy-tailed interns (or enterns) start. FIFTEEN.

This time of year always takes me back to my own intern days (of which were not too terribly long ago) and as this is the first year I’ll have an intern to co-manage myself, it has me thinking much more seriously about do’s, don’ts, plans and projects for her arrival.

All of the planning has lead me to creating many lists, including experiences I loved and other tid-bits I wish someone would have shared with me on day one.

Here are a few of my biggest takeaways:


Do show up on time. In an agency setting some people arrive at 8:00, some people at 10:00 and that’s OK. Don’t get in at 10:00, unless you have explicit direction to do so.

Don’t expect to be busy everyday. There will be downtime. Don’t get frustrated or put it to waste. Find ways to grow independently. Ask colleagues what newsletters they subscribe to or sites they frequent. Save those for your downtime. Spend some time perusing SlideShare, we’re all still learning to master the escape of death by powerpoint.

Do make friends, but branch out from the intern group. It’s important to form relationships with both your peers and your superiors. Make sure to find a balance that works for you.

Don’t turn down happy hour, lunch or coffee. Not only because there is food involved, but also because these settings frequently hold potential for conversations that the office doesn’t always make time for. Learn more about others’ backgrounds and find out what they are passionate about.

Do ask for introductions (when appropriate). You are an intern and one of the biggest perks is that you likely aren’t signed on to an exclusive relationship with your job. Take advantage of that! Ask to meet people from other companies, agencies, etc. When I thought about moving from corporate to agency post-college, a boss of mine did me a fantastic favor to help set up informational interviews with agencies across town. Without that experience, I would have never known where I wanted to end up – or have nearly as many fantastic connections, with whom I still keep in touch today.

Do introduce yourself to someone who’s job you’ll never have. No, I’ll never be a web developer or a user experience architect, but spending time with those people early on in my current role helped to round out my skills and better understand and speak to their disciplines.

Do dress well. Yes, it’s summer and it’s hot. No a mini skirt isn’t appropriate. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.

Don’t be negative. Yes, there will be some long days. Yes, people will drive you crazy. Yes, it may take longer to land the full-time job than expected. Be patient and be positive, each and every person you will work with has been in your shoes. And they survived.

What have I missed? Anything else former interns (or current ones) would add to this list?

1,095 Days In

10th May 2013

Yesterday I watched (via Twitter) as a new class of Grady students was welcomed into the Grady Grad family.  It has been three years since I said adieu to Athens and graduated from the University of Georgia and while I’ve loved every second of my last three years in the “real world,” I would go back in a heart beat.

UGA Graduation

The last three years have taken me on a journey to learn to balance, given me more opportunities to step up to the plate at work than I could have ever imagined and have quickly proven that as I may have thought on that day three years ago, life does not end after graduation. While three years isn’t quite a life changing milestone, major life event or whatnot, I’m simply going to stick to the pattern I’ve made out of the last few years (you can read more on that here and here), and share what’s changed in the last 1,095 days.

Here are a few tid-bits I’ve picked up in my ageless 24-year old wisdom:

 1. Own technology, don’t let it own you.

How crazy is it to think that just three years ago most of us didn’t even own a smartphone? I myself didn’t make that leap until summer after I graduated college. It’s difficult to even imagine that during my four years in school I not only didn’t have a tiny little computer in my pocket, but I also didn’t even take one in my backpack. I left my laptop at home and took notebooks full of scratch. To think, I would go a WHOLE DAY without checking email, Facebook or Twitter and that was completely normal? Don’t even get me started on what it would be like in college pre-computer days though, that might just blow my mind.

The class of 2017 (yes, that’s a thing now) doesn’t know a world without smartphones. So here’s my challenge to you: control it. Yes, be sure to Instagram the leaves as they change on North Campus come October, but be sure to sit down under an actual Oak tree and enjoy them as well.

 2. Own a blazer

And other nice things. I’m the queen of bargain hunting when it comes to clothes. It wasn’t until my 24th birthday that I spent more than $50 on a single piece of clothing (and I still cringed). But if there is one thing my mother (and work) has taught me, it is that you can’t have too many great staple items in your closet. This might seem trivial, but the old adage of “dress the part” does ring true.

Working at a relatively laid back agency, there is no official “dress code,” but don’t let that fool you. I can assure you, your boss isn’t wearing mini skirts better fit for a night downtown. My rule: if you would have been called out for wearing it in high school, or wouldn’t be seen wearing it in church, it goes back in the closet.

 3. Put effort into defining your own path

Yes, you are in your twenties. No you will not have the next five years figured out, but if you don’t at least start to think about them, don’t count on someone else to do it for you. I’m a big believer in doing what makes you happy, but it’s also important to realize there may be some bumps in getting there. Simple hand written to-do lists are my thing (everyone has their own method), keep the day-to-day tasks listed, but also to make sure at least a portion of that is going to something larger than a deliverable.

Have you explored new ways to display that powerpoint slide you’ve created six times (slideshare is my BFF)? Have you taken a look at what your client’s competitors are up to this week? Have you asked someone who doesn’t work on your business day-to-day to take a look at your work lately? Seek opportunities to grow and improve, don’t expect them to land on your desk with a pretty ribbon wrapped around them.

1,095 days in, the real world isn’t nearly as daunting as it seemed just a short time ago. I’ve now had the opportunity to see friends start jobs, leave jobs, get married, start having little ones and the most exciting part of all? We’re not alone. It’s a big world out there, but an incredibly exhilarating one. Embrace each and every moment, it only gets better from here.