Recruiting Mentors: How To, Part 2


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So you’ve decided that you want a mentor and you have several people in your sights! You’ve approached one who has agreed to meet with you next week, so you’re home free: you’ve found a mentor!

Not so fast! You may have found a mentor, and she might be willing to take the lead, but why get lazy now? Your first meeting is your opportunity to show your (potential) mentor that you are serious about your development and you’ve already put some work into making the relationship a good one for both of you.

The most effective mentoring relationships have these things in common:

1. Goals–better yet, learning pieces

2. Structure & Expectations                                                            

3. Follow-up and Follow-through                                   

4. Skills awareness

Of course you have Goals, but have you written them? Have you thought beyond the broadest, most obvious outcomes? For example, “to become a confident speaker” is a great long-term goal, and many people may be willing to help you. But consider this: why did you select the particular person you approached? What–specifically–about her speaking made her your choice? What pieces of “a confident speaker” made you select this person at this time?

Is it the way she tells a story? Is it how her body language conveys “I know my stuff”? Is it the little humorous bits that keep the message light?  Get specific about what you want to learn, and your mentor will be able to hone in on “how-tos” that make the best use of your time together!

Structure and expectations means that you’ve given thought to the details of your mentoring arrangement so your mentor doesn’t have to! Think about how long it may take you to learn what you’re seeking; consider the kind of commitment you’re asking from your mentor; ask yourself if it’s a reasonable commitment for the mentor’s schedule. And, then consider the kind of meeting options that may make sense. Coffee? Lunch? Phone calls between meetings? Weekly email check-ins?

Follow-up and follow-through means taking the initiative to keep the relationship sound for both of you. Maybe you drop an email after a meeting to put your next steps in writing and to say “thanks”–even though you said it in person. You can send an outlook or meeting scheduling note so that your next meeting/coffee/telephone call gets on your mentor’s schedule. You might send a note the week prior to your scheduled meeting with a list of the agenda items you’d like to discuss–this serves as a scheduling reminder, too. If you see your mentor mentioned in a story on community leaders, you might drop her a note saying Congratulations! or (if it’s in print) clip the story and send to her–yes, via snail mail! All of these thoughtful items tend to the relationship and help avoid misunderstandings. Bottom line: stay in touch!

Skills awareness is a reminder to use and sharpen those skills most helpful in building a strong mentoring  relationship: listening, querying, attending and feedback–giving and receiving. Handle distractions before you meet; turn your cell phone off, or, if you are awaiting a critical call, tell your mentor before you begin. Ask questions that start with “what” or “how” since both provide opportunity for expanding learning. Talk about follow- through you’ve completed and request suggestions for improvement: “How might I approach this next time?” ” How could I do this differently?” Marshall Goldsmith, a leadership guru, calls this feed-forward rather than feed-back. When you use it often, it becomes a comfortable way to explore options without the worry associated with “feedback.”

Being a thoughtful protege–one willing to do her homework and make it easy for a mentor to say ‘yes’–is the best way to have lots of mentors as you go through your career. You can establish relationships that work for you both…where you can learn from each other.

Have a question or wondering about being or recruiting a mentor? Leave it in the comment area: if you’re wondering,  someone else is, too!

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Recruiting Mentors: How to, Part 1


[tweetmeme source=”JanineMoon” only_single=false]At a recent career development workshop for Young Professionals (YPs), I participated in a panel on mentoring. What a great group of knowledgeable and wise people, including Margaret Finley from Chase who moderated. Panelists included:

*Jason Jenkins, Big Brothers Big Sisters
*Eric Troy, Ohio Department of Education
*Marilyn Pritchett, Mentoring Center of Central Ohio
*Lindsay Andrews, SMPS Columbus
*Janine Hancock Jones, Governor’s Staff [same name, same spelling!]

I noted that a number of folks in the audience were looking for mentors yet others were looking for how and where to be a mentor. While some had experience with mentoring programs, most panelists spoke to the tremendous value of informal mentors. Since lifelong learning is a 21st century necessity, informal mentoring is of value to everyone and is an ongoing requirement for Career Owners!

Informal mentors provide lifelong learning opportunities when and where you need them; give you the freedom to approach people from a variety of sources; and [can] help you reduce the blind spots that sabotage and get in the way of progress.

So just in case you’ve wondered but didn’t quite know how to go about it, a few thoughts on finding those informal mentors:

1. Stop waiting to be picked…it’s OK to recruit the mentor you want!

2. Look outside of your (work) organization to professional associations, community groups, civic and alumni associations and other interest groups. Mentors don’t have to spring from work in order to mentor you on career or professional issues.

3. A mentoring relationship can be as short as a single conversation or one that lasts for years…it depends on what the people involved create.

4. Align what you’d like to learn with what you think your mentor can teach you. If you admire someone’s ability to speak in front of a group, then to approach him/her about becoming a more comfortable speaker is probably a good goal and fit. If you’ve watched someone align two opposite sides around an issue, then you have a potential mentor who can help you learn collaboration and conflict techniques.

5. Prepare to approach a mentor: the easier and more comfortable you make your initial conversation, the more likely the individual is to say ‘yes.’ Know what you’d like to learn and why. Know how that learning will improve you as a professional. Be ready to suggest some structure that will help a relationship thrive. For example, you might say:

I admire the way you were able to pull together the diverse perspectives of the people on this committee. I know that it would strengthen my value in my workplace if I had those skills. Would you be willing to meet for a short time and discuss the possibility of mentoring me on the skills needed and how I could develop them?

I would be glad to meet at a time and place convenient for you; I’d be delighted to buy you a cup of coffee or tea! I’ll plan to call you at your office to schedule a time that works for you.

So you’re asking for the opportunity to meet and discuss the possibility of mentoring…you’re not requesting a long-term commitment. You have also made it easy for the individual to say ‘yes’ by offering to align with their schedule and time. This really says you are thoughtful and not trying to impose unduly. You have identified something specific that you would like to learn, so you are sending the message that you can identify your own learning goals, and that you will not be dependent upon the mentor to do that for you!

While most people are flattered to be asked to be a mentor, your thoughtfulness in scheduling time makes it comfortable: you’re really thinking about WIIFT: What’s In It For Them!

How you approach the meeting itself is food for the next blog post. There, too, having done some planning to move through an agenda and take responsibility for your needs–at the same time being thoughtful of your mentor’s time commitment–is much more likely to be appreciated and get you ongoing mentoring.

So get going now–identify at least 3 or 4 people who might be your mentors and approach at least one with a specific request for a skill or information you’d like to learn. With your meeting scheduled, next week’s post on how to have that first meeting will be timely…I’ll tell you exactly how to approach it so that your mentor wants to establish an ongoing, professional relationship with you, and so you are both better for the experience!

Are you enough?


Josie, who had been searching for her next position for over a year was offered a job on Friday, making July 16 a day of celebration! Over 50, the longer her search went on, the more certain she was that she wasn’t enough…young enough, credentialed enough, talented enough, experienced enough, competitive enough, healthy enough, worthy enough…etc. etc.

Note that last enough: “worthy enough.” While you–especially if you’re in the job-hunt, too–may not say this aloud, feeling “worthy enough” is almost sure to be part of your self-talk. Because, if you really were worthy enough (you figure), they would have recognized it and not let you go; or they would have hired you by now.

Backward thinking, hurtful thinking and harmful thinking.

The voice in your head that tells you that you’re “not enough ___” (fill in the blank) is your ego talking. And your ego has been collecting “here’s the right/good/appropriate way to do things” your whole life. It’s there and collecting “how you must be” so that you fit in to your environments, and into society’s expectations. After all, can’t have a school full of children who don’t raise their hands now, can we? On the assembly line, we couldn’t afford to have workers who were creative cogs now, could we? Or people who didn’t work inside their cubicles because, obviously, no work is getting done!

So, the voice in your head collects stuff in an effort to have you fit in and to make sense of things. Now, get this: since your mind has collected these things over years–from others’ comments, statements and actions–your ego is really OPE: Other People’s Expectations. The ego is a reflection of what you believe others want you to be, and all of the experiences you have collected through life as they fit into those expectations. As humans, we like comfort and what we know (we think) is better than what we don’t!

So consider my client who searched for almost a year. Her self-talk about finding a job comes from her job-search experience over the last 20 or so years.

So, Josie, people who are valuable are hired quickly. Well, actually, they don’t lose their jobs in the first place. So, you must not be valuable since it’s taking so long. Your last manager must have said something bad about you. You knew you couldn’t trust her. You shouldn’t have put her name on that employment form. And, you should have submitted your resume faster. You aren’t the spring chicken you used to be–they probably think you’re too old. Your experience gives you away, you know. If you ever get an interview (and you really screwed up that last telephone interview), they’ll ask you about your last two positions that were less than two years each. Even though they were cutting staff, if you were any good you’d still be in those jobs. In fact, remember that article you read only a few weeks ago: hiring managers don’t even want to interview people who are unemployed because they think you have a performance problem. So they are probably right–you do.


So how do you get to being “enough”?

1. Recognize that self-talk is not usually based on fact, or at least the facts of current reality. So the assumptions and beliefs that are driving our thoughts are likely old or outdated.

2. Practice stopping your automatic thinking, the self-talk that is negative. When you catch yourself doing the “not enough” thinking, say to yourself: “I know that’s not true because…” and complete the sentence with as many answers as you can. Even one answer shows you that your initial thinking, the negative self-talk, is only an assumption and not necessarily true.

Since how we think has a direct connection to what we do, it’s worth learning to work around your ego to get to a place where you will be effective–in your job search or any other situation where you want to move forward.

Self-talk keeps us stuck and ego keeps us small. Be intentional about your thinking and step into being enough. I guarantee you’ll like it there.

Hot air is for balloons


It’s pretty easy to say, “Well, of course, I own my career–no one else does.” But saying it doesn’t make it so. Over the next few weeks, I’ll focus on what it really takes (actions, behaviors, words) to be the owner of your career and, by extension, the keeper of your ‘job security.” You’ll be able to assess your relationship with your career, determining what changes if any you choose to make in order to increase your satisfaction and security.

Let’s start with career itself. A career consists of two things: 1. work that is your contribution to the world and that you take pride in doing well; and 2. a “path” for that work that is flexible, multi-directional and constructed to best reflect your values and talents.

Take note: “job” is not mentioned nor is putting in hours. A career isn’t necessarily linear and it’s not something you fall into because a career today is constructed–intentionally. It’s flexible, including the timing, the business, the work itself.

Now let’s consider ownership. Owners care for their possessions in a more intentional way than renters ever would. When you own your home, you consider “location, location, location” before you buy; you make sure the amenities fit your needs; you allocate maintenance and decorating dollars; and (most often) you work with a professional who can maximize the house you get for your money. You make an investment intending to gain value over the years.

We own homes yet rent careers, moving from job to job and stringing them together to make a lifetime of activity. The location is often whoever is hiring; the maintenance is only when a weakness crops up; and the professional is considered only when all else fails.

Here’s a quick check to see if you really own your career:

    Your work matters to you, and you take pride in it.
    You use your talents and walk your values every day.
    You have a rotating one-year learning plan that you follow.
    You are paying for the learning yourself.
    Your career “path” is sketched out for 3 years, yet flexible if markets or your options change.
    You know the value you provide and you make it known.
    You know–always–the way to increase your value.
    You have a career coach who is a sounding board and supporter.
    You have at least 3 mentors from whom you learn.

If you really want to own your career, then pick one or two of the items above and put them in place. You’ll be able to do that more readily if you work with a coach who can guide you to developing a map that works for you. But the map only works when you do. Taking on the responsibility and being accountable for the follow-through is what really makes you a career owner.

Anything else is just hot air.

Meet Kari. And how she became a Career Owner.


[tweetmeme source=”JanineMoon” only_single=false]Kari’s email began like so many others: she was discouraged and frustrated. She had been “a rising star” for many of her almost 20 years with the organization, but new leaders and a different culture dimmed that image. So what did she want from a coach? Kari wanted to know how to navigate the politics so she could “survive and thrive” in her highly volatile environment. She was looking for the answer to once again be that rising star.

When we met, Kari spit out years of pent-up frustration and confusion about her workplace. This manager liked her, this one didn’t, this VP said her work was excellent, that director thought she wasn’t keeping up. She was interviewing for positions in other areas but was always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

Kari wanted to know what was wrong with her, what it would take to get her back on her game. She was looking for the right answers. I said, “Did you come here to be fixed?” and she said “yes.”

So we started there.

I asked her, “What would it take for you to step into who you are authentically, to use your skills and wisdom to discover you again?” With a few moments of thought, a small smile appeared and Kari said “You mean trust myself?” She got it.

Kari’s belief that there is a “right” answer that would fix her, that would make her “fit” into a changing and challenging work environment is the same thing some of you are thinking I’ll bet. If only you could find the right way, the right program, the right degree, the right mentor, the right answer then work would settle down and you would be OK. You’d be the confident, respected and stress-less person valued by managers and team members alike.

You can spend a lifetime looking for that and have no confidence or respect from your fellow workers, or you can take a look at what you bring, and define the “right” thing based on that. Who you already are, the experiences you already have make up the wisdom you bring to your work–if you listen to yourself, if you trust your own counsel.

With that little smile, Kari began the process of learning to trust herself again. Her weekly practices are helping with that. She is practicing these behaviors:

1. staying present; not spending energy worrying about the past or fretting about the future;

2. trusting her instincts; she pays attention to what her gut tells her;

3. examining beliefs that may hold her back, that may no longer serve her; she intentionally chooses to shift beliefs that don’t support her;

4. paying attention to the supportive feedback she receives and giving it at least as much credence as the negative;

5. stopping the voice inside that comes from the emotional brain, the one that likes comfort and sameness and safety and is mired in fear. Kari stops it with “That’s not true because…” to give the logical brain time to think.

Kari no longer expects external approval to drive her best work because she recognizes that she is responsible for her direction and her ability to be a strong contributor.

How about you? Have you learned to trust yourself?

Meet Bill. And how he became a Career Owner.


Bill is always at the Panera before me; he gets there early, has a coffee and is ready to begin as soon as I arrive. He has his list of items for discussion and we move through it with practiced familiarity.

Bill and I have been coaching together for over a year. At this point, we meet about once a month so Bill can review his work and career activities and accomplishments and realign with his career direction for 2010. When we started, he was frustrated with his employer and uncertain if he was cut out for management: everything about managing seemed lots more challenging than just doing the work himself.

Now, Bill is comfortable in his leadership and knows what he wants to accomplish with his career direction; as his coach, I’m a check-in point along the way. As a Career Owner, Bill’s direction became clear when he focused on his values and began to use them consciously. In his words:

I realized that for most of my career I was doing what I thought I needed to do to get ahead and those things were not the things that I wanted to do. This caused a lot of frustrations between who I was at work and who I was at home, to the point where people would say I have a split (dual) personality. Like a downward spiral, the harder I tried (to do the work things) the farther I deviated from who I really am. Of course it’s not all ‘work’, there’s some personal stuff in there too.

By going through the process of answering a bunch of questions (most of which I though were meaningless at the time) I was able to pick out common themes among my experiences that led me to understand what is truly important to me.

Now that I have a clear understanding of what my core values are and why, I can apply them to any decision or situation that comes down the pipe. I can process everything according to my core values and then I will know the right thing to for me to do. Sometimes the answer is not an easy one and can lead to life changing decisions, but I at least know that I’m being true to myself regardless of the consequences.

Using his values, Bill will find his next position with an organization that mirrors those values and that provides challenges to grow him as a leader. He is deliberately meeting with other C-level leaders in his industry in order to learn from them and to grow those professional connections.

How do your values drive your career?

Getting your Career Sea Legs


Getting your sea legs on any boat entails practice, patience and belief—that you will eventually be able to move with the boat and not get tossed overboard. While ‘sea legs’ refers to being on a moving vessel in the water, it transfers to getting used to any new situation.

(c) 2008 sea legs an boat feet by matty!

Sea legs are not tough to get when you’re riding on a boat down a lazy river that’s being piloted by an experienced captain. Both the river and the expertise of the pilot make the journey a calm one. And this is how careers used to be.

In the relative calm of the 20th’s century’s Industrial economy, when competitors were domestic and business growth was defined by long term goals, career paths were defined by politics, experience level and dues paid. Someone else in the organization—usually a manager in conjunction with the leaders—defined where and when you took another career step: it was a planned, defined journey that was easy to ride.

20th Century Careers

That’s how careers were.

Having a career path and getting continual learning upgrades in today’s world entails riding river rapids, rather than cruising on a river boat. Today’s Service and Information economy has little certainty and even less calm.

21st Century Careers

Businesses competitors criss-cross the globe, and the traditional ways of being competitive no longer work. The only way to win in today’s competitive market is for organizations to get all brains on deck: to have employees constantly focused on innovative ideas that delight customers and keep them coming back. The chaotic environment of constant innovation and change creates whitewater rapids in place of the customary calm sea, and riding rapids requires a whole new skill set and mindset, at least for those workers who want to come through the trip intact.

The skill set and mindset of riding rapids

People who raft rivers seem to be so much more adventurous than many of us: thrill seekers who enjoy testing their strength, endurance, reflex time and ability to think on their feet (so to speak). While rafters may in fact test all of these things, the biggest difference is that they welcome the responsibility of taking an active part in the journey. They learn and take the right equipment, skills and mindset. With these things, folks who ride rapids get their sea legs through practice and experience and the wisdom of a great guide.

They are along for much more than the ride. They are along to learn, to participate and to actively take part in the adventure: to get their sea legs and be on the team that guides the raft to its successful end. Dead weight has no place in a whitewater raft, and the same is true for today’s organizations.

The skill set and mindset of whitewater careers

Career success in today’s organizations requires the same things: learning, active partnering in the mission and direction, teamwork, and a mindset that is open to possibilities v. set on a single path.
When your path is the whitewater route, then you must have the knowledge, skills, and mindset to navigate it successfully. Without these, your career route will be disappointing, scary and wet!

1. Learning is the basis of today’s career skills. You must know yourself and your organization inside out: your missions, your strengths and your needs. You must learn how to respond to unexpected turns, to dance as the music changes, and to develop resilience to the stress of the uncertain. You must learn to look several steps ahead and to define possibilities and workable responses to them. What you don’t use today is useful for another time.

2. Active partnering makes you an indispensable member of the team and shows your commitment to the work of the organization, its customers and your team members. Razor-thin margins require that all investments get maximum return, and workers are a business investment. If you’re not partnering, you’re riding on the work of someone else’s paddle, and you’ll soon be dumped from the raft. Active partnering takes initiative, energy, commitment to the cause and skill at strengthening relationships…the currency of today’s economy.

3. Teamwork requires competency in function and content as well as for inspiring and challenging others. Some days you may be a strong paddler but on others you may need to take over as guide…your communication and process skills must be sharpened and ready to do both as the river shifts.

4. A mindset open to possibilities requires you to recognize that the control you have is only as strong as the opportunities you’re open to meet. Business reality requires that your work views are more kaleidoscopic than picture window. Staying stuck in how things have been or what’s in your job description makes you deadwood, unable to shift or solve or allow for any of the challenges and changes that stir-up chaos in today’s workplaces. An open mindset ensures that you can respond to crags, river turns and unexpected boulders and not just the gentle sway of a lazy river.

Getting your career sea legs is a challenge that you may or may not be ready for, but today’s organizations won’t see your value without them. They don’t have the time or resources to pull you out of the river. They have commitments to those workers who are willing to take responsibility for paddling their own canoes and not being a risk to other travelers.

So, how are your career sea legs?