Tag Archives: mentor

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.

Leadership’s Dirty Little Secret

15th May 2013

There’s a dirty little secret I’m learning about leadership: you’re likely already a leader, whether you like it or not.

Whether you are leading to inspire, leading to drive action, or leading to drive people crazy, well, that’s the part you control.

Chick-fil-A’s annual leadership conference, Leadercast is hands down one of my favorite annual events. As I wasn’t able to attend this year, I found myself eagerly following along via Twitter. The Tweets alone shared a powerful message: Simply Lead. Simply Lead was the theme for this year’s event, and the funny thing is, each time I read the tagline, I found myself reading it as “Lead Simply,” a small tweak, but one that I couldn’t help but stop to think about a little further.

I tweeted my little conundrum and received this in reply from a colleague.

Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 9.28.05 AM

I think he hit the nail on the head and lead to even more thoughts rolling around in my head.

 Simply Lead.

A recent conversation with another colleague of mine lead to a conversation around leadership, roles and the growth for the future. As we discussed paths, she shared with me sentiments that I’m not sure I’d ever really, truly accepted: you are leading right now. There will always be someone watching, a conversation somewhere taking place and an opportunity unfolding, it is how you define yourself in those small moments that build leadership skills. In a nutshell, if you want to hold the keys to becoming a leader in your organization: simply lead.

 Lead Simply. 

To simply lead is only part of the equation. If taking the reigns and helping to calm the chaos is the starting line, defining the route to the finish must be the next 26.2 miles. Leadership is, for a lack of a better word, leading me to two things: humility and patience. Humility is the action required to take a step back and serve those around us.  If we expect to better ourselves, we must first tend to the needs of others. As for patience, success and triumph aren’t a matter of winning the lottery, they are the result of dedication, hard work and the flexibility to alter as we go. If we expect to lead simply, we cannot expect the journey to follow the straight line of a guidebook or some pre-determined path up the corporate ladder. Becoming a leader is a team effort in order for each of us to become successful. In other words, it’s going to take a village.

It’s quite funny how a day long leadership conference can be boiled down into two words and leave such a stunning impact. I think those guys are on to something.

*Disclaimer: While Chick-fil-A is a client of mine, all thoughts and opinions in this post are my own. However, I am just as flattered and enamored by those chicken guys outside of the office each and every day.

Lessons from 4th Graders

17th April 2013

loveThere was a point and time when I thought I’d like to be a teacher. To say I love being around little ones in an understatement, however, after two years of teaching first grade Sunday school in college with my roommate (and teacher extraordinaire), we started the third year and I asked if we should set goals and objectives for the class. It was then I realized teaching wasn’t quite my calling. I opted to continue down my path towards marketing. However, whenever an opportunity arises to spend time at the kids table, I’m happy to jump on it.

Engauge volunteers with a group called Everybody Wins here in Atlanta. The premise is simple, read to an elementary school student once per week over lunch. Today, I started my third year in the program with a new mentee.

As we picked out books, a friend of hers came by and said “See, I told you it would happen!” we picked out a book, sat down and another friend came by to give her a hug and tell her how excited she was that she finally had a mentor. I asked her why they were so excited and she shared that she had been waiting to be able to join Everybody Wins for several months and that they were so happy that her waiting paid off.

Just hearing that made my day and my hour more than worth it.

Can you imagine if we all went through our days sharing the spirit and support those fourth graders shared with each other? What if we spent our time building each other up instead of complaining or trying to one up one another?

I think those 10-year-olds are on to something.

PS: If you have an hour on your hands each week, check out Everybody Wins. They have schools across the city and are always in need of new readers.