Archive for February, 2015

5 Traits of a great mentor

Posted on: February 11th, 2015 by News presented by How to Mentor No Comments

A Huffington Post article defines mentoring as a “partnership where a ‘mentee’ is assigned to a more experienced ‘mentor’, who passes on valuable aspects of their own accumulated experience and wisdom for the benefit of the mentee’s personal and professional development.” However, as the same article explains, mentoring has evolved and often both individuals play the roles of mentor and mentee. For instance, now “mentors gain an understanding of the world view of another generation and equally, mentees can help senior colleagues to see new perspectives and shifts in societal behavior, for instance, the growing importance of social networks.”

So if you’re on a quest to find the right mentor, you need to sit up and pay attention. This shake-up in the roles and expectations associated with mentoring affects what you should look for in a mentor. Not only do you need to consider if someone will be a good mentor in the traditional sense, you also need to contemplate if the person will be a good “student.” To help you sift through your options, here are five traits that set a great mentor apart.

A mentoring relationship is based on communication, and the most important aspect of communication is listening. You want a mentor who understands the difference between hearing and listening – someone who strives to understand what you’re trying to say. This is crucial when you’re trying to describe a situation in order to get their input, as well as when you’re trying to explain a new concept, such as social media.

Young At Heart
There are some people who have always been old at heart, while there are others who will always be young at heart. When you’re looking for a mentor, find someone who is the latter. Certainly, if you’re helping your mentor understand the differences in work culture or between the generations, it will make your job easier. But, it will also help mentors relate to you and give better advice if they remember what it was like to be young.

It takes a courageous person to open up and be honest at the level required for a truly successful mentorship. But even beyond that, you need to find a mentor who has had some major career failures and yet still had the courage to keep trying. The more mistakes someone has bounced back from, the more experience they’ll have to share and the more helpful they’ll be as a mentor. Plus, this will be the kind of mentor who isn’t afraid to ask questions and learn new things from you.

If you want to get the most out of a mentoring relationship – with both of you giving and taking – you want a mentor who is teachable. While a know-it-all advisor might be helpful for a while, you’ll soon get tired of the attitude and start wishing for someone more open minded. This is something you really want to pinpoint because it ultimately goes back to expectations. Does your mentor just want to give you advice and tell you what to do? Or does your mentor want a reciprocal relationship so he or she can learn new things from you too?

Inquisitive people are generally successful people, which is exactly what you want in a mentor. You need someone who is curious about your life and wants to know how to help. A naturally curious person will encourage your own curiosity and push you to never stop learning. That need-to-know drive will also ensure the mentorship is a two-way relationship, with your mentor learning from you as well.

Mentoring is no longer the one-way street it once was. An article from Forbes echoes the same sentiment and explains that, “Effective mentorship relationships enrich both people.” So make sure you keep that in mind as you seek out a mentor. A great mentor will also make a great mentee.



The Misery of Mentoring Millennials in the workplace

Posted on: February 4th, 2015 by The Chronicle presented by How To Mentor Toolkit No Comments

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 2.28.29 PM“For a new generation of workers, the idea of seeking out a single career confidant is as old-fashioned as a three-martini lunch…”

By Marina Khidekel

When Christina Wallace, then 25, started a job at a management consulting firm in 2009, she was assigned two mentors: one, a career counselor; the other, an office-culture guru. “It all felt very awkward and forced,” she says.

In the years since, Wallace has taken a different approach. “I’ve curated a personal board of advisers who range from peers to professionals spanning generations and industries,” she says. “I lean on different mentors for different things and often provide them with just as much mentorship as I take.” Her assigned career guide’s role was to gather feedback from Wallace’s bosses and funnel it back to her. “It was like a game of telephone, only the game was with my career.” Her new advisers connected her with “multiple interesting people” and “cool companies”—and helped her land her current gig before it was posted as a job listing.

For a new generation of workers, the idea of seeking out a single career confidant is as old-fashioned as a three-martini lunch. Sure, seasoned professionals still offer valuable wisdom to those on the way up, says Monica Higgins, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, but “one senior person can no longer be the only place you turn for career support.” According to Jeanne Meister, co-author of The 2020 Workplace, younger workers seem less respectful of more experienced colleagues and don’t feel compelled to follow in the same path as their superiors. “Millennials can be bold and hungry when it comes to getting what they want,” Meister says. “And today’s new mentorship models are more like Twitter conversations than the long-term relationships of days past. They’re short-term and quite informal. And they end before it becomes a chore for either party—like moving on from a just-OK date.” This hard-core pursuit of guidance can be annoying in established corporate hierarchies. “While this approach may have worked on supercharged college campuses or on the lacrosse field or tennis court,” says Meister, “it may backfire when Millennial employees have to work on an age-diverse team where their aggressive career goals may be intimidating to others.”

Mandatory mentorship programs remain common at large corporations, including accounting firm Deloitte and publisher Time Inc., as well as major investment banks such as Goldman Sachs (GS). Many large firms, though, have begun experimenting with alternative, more creative forms of mentoring. One approach is “peer mentoring,” a gathering of like-minded individuals who can offer guidance for one another, much like Facebook (FB) Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s “lean in circles.” Another is “reverse mentoring,” in which older workers attempt to stay current in a rapidly changing industry by relying on younger colleagues, an approach popularized by former General Electric (GE) Chairman Jack Welch. It’s now typical at major advertising agencies such as Ogilvy Mather. And there’s “speed mentoring,” where aspiring mentees face off individually with prospective mentors, speed-dating-style, for short bursts of advice and a cache of business cards.

Academic institutions such as the University of Texas at El Paso and organizations such as New York Women in Communications proudly hold these events. “Rather than meeting a potential spouse,” reads the New York Women’s website, “you will be meeting experienced professionals who are important connections and valuable sources of information to help you make the most of your career search.”

Younger workers are in pursuit of a sponsor, the preferred academic term for a mentor who goes beyond advising to actively promoting an underling. “Millennials look for those critical few to help them reach their goals in as short an amount of time as possible,” Meister says. Several studies have found that sponsorship can be effective for securing better compensation, faster promotions, and job satisfaction. The Sponsor Effect, a study of several thousand white-collar workers published in the Harvard Business Review, found that such sponsorship emboldened employees to further pursue pay increases.

Finding a mentor can seem beside the point for those determined to forge their own paths and those comfortable promoting themselves. In Meister’s online survey of more than 1,000 workers, Multiple Generations @ Work, she asked respondents if they think their personal drive is intimidating to colleagues. Among Millennials (born 1977 to 1997), 66 percent said yes, vs. 49 percent of Gen Xers (born 1965 to 1976) and 40 percent of baby boomers (born 1946 to 1964). “The younger, tech-savvy generation sees themselves as better equipped for the ‘new world’ work environment than their experienced senior colleagues, who still do things the old way,” says Susan Adams, a professor of management at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., and senior director of the school’s Center for Women and Business. “Younger employees expect to jump in and contribute all they have immediately,” she says. “Organizational hierarchies and waiting in line don’t make sense to them when they’re ready now.” A 2012 Bentley study of 1,000 college-educated Millennials found that only 2 percent of respondents claimed that a mentor at work gave them the most career encouragement (33 percent said spouse/partner, 25 percent said mom, and 16 percent said dad). And one-quarter gave credit to a manager for encouraging them to assume a leadership role at work.

“I did work with an older mentor who helped me get my jump in the business,” says Tom Daly, a 30-year-old photographer in Charlottesville, Va. “He generally pointed me in the right direction. But the problem was, I surpassed him in some skills, and some of his clients started asking me to work with them instead of him.” Former investment banker Sam Graziano, 34, now co-founder and chief executive officer of Fundation, an online lending platform for small businesses, agrees. “When you have a mentor who has committed him- or herself to a long-term career for one company or in one line of business,” he says, “it’s hard for them to identify with someone like me who chooses to pursue a different path.”

Millennial attitudes toward mentorship have left potential mentors feeling deeply jilted, says Bentley University’s Adams. “One issue I’ve had with some of my mentees—all of whom are Gen Y—is the understanding that interacting with a professional from another generation requires them to change their behavior,” says Catherine Carlozzi, a speech and business writer in Cedar Grove, N.J. “I had to teach one mentee that it isn’t acceptable to call in the late evening with a routine question. I’ve had to explain to others that texting on your smartphone in a situation that involves your seniors suggests you think you have more important things to do,” she says. She’s adapted by using Facebook messaging, texting, and Skype (MSFT). “Sometimes it can be days and days before a mentee will answer an e-mail. That annoys me.”

Carlozzi says Millennials need to understand that they, too, bear responsibility for maintaining a fruitful mentor-mentee relationship. “One of my assigned mentees and I mutually agreed to table the relationship because she never seemed to have time for our scheduled meetings,” she says. “Although she’d seen the benefit of having a mentor, she simply couldn’t make time for it in her life.”