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  • 0 Finding passion in your work

    When it comes to finding fulfillment in our work, we might need to actively seek it. It isn’t always practical to turn our most naturally revered passions into a source of income. That’s not to disparage the magical mix of dreams, grit, and perseverance that pushes us to reach for the stars and conquer our goals. It’s just that, often, where we are is exactly where we need to be. When a promotion or heading in a new direction isn’t the right course at the moment, how can we find inspiration in the very thing we’re already doing? When we turn on the office lights and switch on our computers, how do we access passion instead of just grind?   Notice what tunes you into your work Take an inventory of your current strengths and interests. When is your attention most rapt or when does time fly fastest for you? Maybe you enjoy planning meeting agendas and project timelines or collaborating with other teammates to fix problems and strategize workarounds. Isolate that thing because it’s likely what gives you the deepest sense of purpose. Think about how that thing enhances to your colleagues’ work, division’s responsibilities, and organization’s mission. Consider why that component of your work is valuable to others and brings you contentment. Does it lean into your natural abilities or contribute to the organizational goals of which you are the proudest? Does it relate to your original career vision?     Look for opportunities to elevate the things you do well Let your supervisor (or other influencers) know that you feel an affinity for this specific part of your job. Express gratitude and let them know of your interest for more opportunities get involved in this capacity. Think of it like a position on a baseball team. If you love centerfield, but the coach is always rotating positions, let them know you feel a fire for center. Enthusiasm is crucial as talent. Read trade publications and pass them on to your manager. Ask to sit in on related meetings or even lend a hand on another project so that colleagues associate you with competence and expertise in this space.   Find a mentor There are likely other parts of your job that don’t come as easily to you as that thing. Keep working to your fullest potential in areas where you feel most confident and look for help where you don’t. Mentors are everywhere. Once, a friend told me that a full email inbox was her pet peeve. “I just can’t stand when I have to scroll to see all my messages,” she said. For me, it was the opposite. I was having an awful time keeping up with email and knew that my clogged inbox was distracting me from my other work. “Are you kidding?!” I gasped. “I’d love to have a tidy inbox! Can you tell me how you do it?” She showed me a system of responding to and archiving messages that I still use today. Keep a healthy perspective An important ingredient to success is balancing the things we have to do with the things we like doing best. There will always be expectations, demands, and even dull routines that no one can get out from underneath. Don’t put yourself down or let hyper awareness of your weaknesses keep you from amplifying your strengths, but it’s okay to let people know when you’re in uncomfortable terrain if you do it graciously:   “You always catch all the details! I would have missed that on my own. I’m so glad we’re working on this together.”   But also make sure to let others know when you’re in your sweet spot:                 “I can’t wait to start working on this. This is my favorite stage of a project.”

  • 0 Mentoring Across Differences

    When people seek to relate or connect with one another, they often strive to find common ground—something they share that provides a sense of recognition and affirmation. They seek the familiar, the comfortable. But focusing on similarities alone can have a downside, especially in mentoring relationships where the focus isn’t on the familiar and comfortable but on stretching and growth.    That is one reason that The Training Connection matching process—which is consistently named by program participants as a key program strength—seeks to connect partners who, while they share some commonalities, also have significant differences. Whether it is a differing DISC style or career field, or perhaps differences in demographic, educational level, or values, the mentoring process benefits from connecting partners who are not mirror images of each other.   Regardless of how similar or different mentoring pairs are, each partner brings to the program and their mentoring relationships different life experiences that shape the way they see the world, the other people in it, and themselves. Making the most of those differences comes down to a few key principles that can help mentors and mentorees bridge their gaps and leverage their differences to develop even more effective, productive mentoring relationships.   Recognize your own assumptions. Every single one of us has been shaped by our life experiences—gender, culture background, generation, education, geography, and any number of other influences. And every single one of us has developed assumptions along the way. Assumptions are thoughts that we believe are true without any supporting evidence. In fact, because they present themselves as self-evident truths, you may not even realize that you are making assumptions! Though assumptions are common and often harmless, recognizing and overcoming them is an important step in being able to engage fully and effectively with someone who has distinctly different experiences and, therefore, assumptions. Think critically about your viewpoints—does this belief make sense? Do you have any proof that it is true? Are there other, different ways to look at the situation? How might your past experiences shape the way you see things? While you may not always be able to do away with your assumptions, simply recognizing that you—and everyone around you—have them can help make you more receptive to others’ points of view.    Ask questions. Empathy is not always human nature, but curiosity is! And while it may or may not come naturally, considering what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes is a skill we can develop simply by tapping into our human inquisitiveness. Be curious about what your mentoring partner brings with them into the relationship—ask questions about their background, personal and professional experiences, and perspectives.  No two people see life through the same lens, and no one person has the “correct” perspective. Mentoring recognizes that each person will have a fundamentally different viewpoint and experience and leverages those unique vantages to help expand horizons and introduce new ways of thinking—or at least an awareness of such. Taking the time to ask your partner questions can help you understand what informs their worldview and how they perceive their day-to-day life.   Address and appreciate your differences. One perk of the formal mentoring program is that it encourages participants to not only reflect on their perspectives but also to share them. Mentoring activities provide a unique opportunity and setting in which to discuss sensitive and difficult topics that are part of everyday life but are rarely discussed. Take advantage of the safe, candid environment to openly acknowledge and discuss differences with your partner and examine how they might help you learn from each other. Mentoring partnerships should actively seek to identify how differences influence perspective, motivations, worldview, and learn how to recognize those differences in terms of diversity and inclusion rather than separation and division. Learning to connect with someone different from ourselves helps us develop a higher tolerance for unfamiliar perspectives that we don’t understand or agree with. It helps us learn to consider without judgment, and to connect without needing confirmation. This kind of growth can only take place in a trusting relationship were each partner feels free to be their authentic self and speak openly.     

  • 0 Polishing Your Writing Style

    One of the most important outputs of your capacity for critical thinking and planning is your written communication such as team emails, project reports and various project updates. This month, we’ve organized a study of the nuances of effective communication through writing.   Write with strength and without defensiveness Directness without defensiveness is a powerful way to convey intelligence and authenticity. Recently, my children missed a couple days of school for a weekend family trip. My son fell behind in two assignments and, as a result, his math grade sunk. One morning at breakfast he hastily composed a desperate email, begging the teacher for a second chance. Looking over his shoulder, I read: Dear Mrs. Murray, I looked on the gradebook and I think that I might have two incomplete assignments because I went on a trip last weekend with my family. I stopped him. “Too wordy! It’s too much work to understand what you need.” So, he rewrote: I have two incomplete assignments because I went on a family trip last weekend. Better, as far as wordiness. But something about his tone was off-putting, almost as if he was saying, my teacher created this problem, because of an obligation that couldn’t be helped. He polished the message further. I need to complete two missing assignments. I’m sorry I was away with my family on a trip. Can I finish them in class or bring them to you on Wednesday? His final message was effective for three reasons: He got to the point. 2. He took responsibility. 3. He offered solutions. Mrs. Murry wrote back immediately, gave him time to wrap up the work, and restored his A. Be interesting, vary your sentences Another path to effective writing is to adding variety to sentence structure. You might, for example, adjust the length of each sentence, alternating between simple and involved phrasing. Which of the following examples is the most engaging, example A or B?          Example A: Our team meeting is today. The project is starting soon. We need to provide the budget. Our manager wants to see it. The project starts next month. Example B: Our team is meeting today about our upcoming project. Our manager would like to see the budget beforehand so I’m hoping you can help us gather the numbers for her. She would appreciate it. The first example drones on like a slow, monotone drum beat without much warmth or intrigue. The second is far more vivid, connecting multiple ideas in a single sentence and drawing conclusions. Here are a few more tricks for adding variety to your writing: Alternate your sentence starters, mixing things up between pronouns (She, They, We…) and adverbs (Surprisingly, Usually, Sometimes….). Choose one sentence- because it’s important not to overuse this technique- to include hyphens and an interrupting statement (see the example in this very sentence?) Consider transitional phrasing to connect what might have been two separate sentences (We plan to meet today, even though we haven’t finished the project yet.) Provide concrete examples Providing examples lends credibility to your writing and demonstrates your competence in observation and critical thinking. It is especially important to give your reader adequate context when presenting a problem. Consider the difference between the following narratives: Example A: The project is meeting expectations on several different metrics. Let’s plan a team huddle to talk about the next steps. Example B: The project is meeting expectations on the following metrics:                                     1. We are still on target to meet our completion goal.                                     2. The budget is on target.                                     3. We have planned and received approval for the next phase.             Are you available next Wednesday at 10 for a team huddle? The first example not only lacks any insight to the project status, but the receiver would also have no idea what to expect or how to plan for the “team huddle.” Conversely, a manager reading the second example would feel looped into the project parameters and could easily roll this information up to their own supervisors or team leads. Organize the words to be visually appealing It is difficult for most readers to follow several paragraphs of densely packed text with no visual break. Use bullets, boldface, italics, and tabs to emphasize important points and list like pieces of information. You can see that, even in this newsletter, simple spacing and formatting adjustments make it easier for you to digest the main ideas.   Give it a minute You might feel like you don’t have the time, but the truth is you can almost always wait a few minutes before sending your email. Ten minutes is a great rule but honestly, you can catch a lot of errors and omissions if you take another glance after three minutes.

  • 0 Redirecting a Mentoring Relationship

    As with any relationship, from time to time, mentoring partnerships can snag, stagnate, or outright stall. Changes in schedule, workload, or circumstances can make it difficult to connect. Or partners may find that they underestimated what would be required as a mentor or a mentee and feel overwhelmed. Other times, pairs find that their personalities or communication styles just don’t seem to mesh.   Whatever the reason, most partnerships can course-correct if both parties are willing to work together. Below are some simple steps that can help a struggling partnership get back on track.   Look in the mirror. Before you give up on your partner or call them out for what you think they could do better, pause to reflect on how you have shown up in the relationship. Are you proactive and engaged? Are you open and candid, and do you clearly communicate your needs and expectations? Just as important, are those expectations realistic? Unrealistic expectations on either side of a partnership can be detrimental. For mentors, unrealistic expectations can lead to overloading the mentee with suggestions and information, pushing them to take on more than they can realistically manage, or pressuring them to make decisions the mentor thinks are best. Likewise, a mentee who expects the mentor to steer the mentoring experience or provide more support than is reasonable can also hinder the relationship. And perhaps the most unrealistic expectation of all for either partner is assuming that the other half of their mentoring pair would (or should) sense they are unhappy and understand why.   Acknowledge the issues openly. For most pairs, the mentoring experience can easily and effectively be “fixed” simply by addressing the issue. If there is something your partner is or isn’t doing that is frustrating you, the most important thing you can do is talk to them about it. They may have no idea that something is amiss, or if they do, they may not be able to pinpoint the problem. Either way, if you don’t clearly communicate what you would like to change, your partner will not have the opportunity to correct it and you will likely continue to feel frustrated or, worse, resentful. While the thought of having such a conversation with your partner might seem intimidating, take a step back and look at it as a chance to practice engaging in a difficult conversation. If nothing else, carefully plan out what you would like to say, including specific examples of what you would like to change and ideas for a way forward. Schedule a time to speak (not e-mail) with your partner when you will have adequate time, energy, and attention to fully discuss the matter.     Go back to the Mentoring Agreement. A great place to start in recalibrating the way you and your partner work together is the Mentoring Agreement, which documents the goals and expectations that you set at the beginning of your partnership. Identify areas you can adjust or revise if the initial plan is not meeting your needs. Revisit the mentee’s stated goals, needs, and aspirations. Identify what progress has been made, and list out clear, actionable steps that each party can take to push further toward those goals. For example, if the mentee hoped to increase their network, the mentor might share a list of potential situational mentors the mentee could reach out to, invite the mentee to attend a business meeting, or share details for networking events in the area that the mentee might find useful. Meanwhile, the mentee could ask the mentor to help them plan and/or practice what they would say in an interview meeting, facilitate an introduction with a potential situational mentor, or read and discuss a book on networking as part of their mentoring activities. Outlining steps that each partner can take and ensuring that these steps are specific, clear, and achievable could plot the roadmap for partnership success.   Revisit the DISC assessment. While you are revisiting documents, set aside time to refresh on the DISC assessment results you each received at the beginning of the program. Even if you get along great, brushing up on each other’s DISC styles can be a helpful reminder of how your partner functions at their best and in times of stress and how best and most effectively to communicate with them.   Check in and reevaluate. Once you’ve had that initial difficult conversation to identify the issues you would like to address, be intentional about checking in with your partner to gauge whether the adjustments you’ve made have been effective for both parties and make additional tweaks as necessary.   Reach out to the Mentoring Program Coordinator. Sometimes, partners may need some outside assistance to get back on track, and in rare instances, it may be clear to both parties that their partnership will not work out for reasons such as a lack of commitment from one of the partners, serious personality conflicts, or a breach of trust or confidentiality. In such instances, one or both partners should reach out to the Mentoring Program Coordinator to either seek their assistance in helping the pair reconnect or, if there is no hope that the match can work, determine the best course of action for both partners.

  • 0 Demonstrating Your Readiness

    When we are looking to stretch ourselves with more job responsibility, or even a job promotion, sometimes the most difficult step is sending our readiness out into the universe. We can map career goals and seek out opportunities but demonstrating your capability for a bigger role is paramount. In this month’s newsletter we are going to define steps and strategies to show them you’re ready for more.   Own projects from start to finish One of the best ways to demonstrate your competence is by developing expert level knowledge of your projects from their scope (objectives, budget, timeline, key stakeholders) to the real-time metrics of their success (progress, setbacks, remaining deliverables, potential issues). Know enough to speak confidently in a team meeting or to share a snapshot with a colleague or key stakeholder. Keep an updated list of your top three priorities to ensure a dynamic approach to managing the work even when deadlines seem a long way off in the distance. Part of taking genuine ownership, of course, is knowing when to let someone know when things aren’t going well. Whether it’s a crisis or a slow slide backwards, take a minute to organize your thoughts. Why isn’t the project going to plan? What 2-3 potential improvements to the managing tasks that might put the train back on the track? How long would it take to make the changes? It’s important to take responsibility if you could have handled something better but aim for productive solutions in place of over-apologizing.   Report back regularly to key stakeholders Even when things are going well, be proactive about reporting back to your managers and team leaders. Keep it to a high-level overview but here are some formats that might work: “Last week, this week, next week” in an email- offer some context for where we’ve been, explain any new information from the past few days, and list upcoming tasks. Drop in and say it casually- Some supervisors respond best with a quick visit at the beginning or end of the day- whenever they have more time to focus. Establish your own Friday wrap up template- Every Friday, on your way out the door, send a few notes in an email about a specific project or issue. Notice where you need support Of course, we can’t be perfect at every single thing but notice where you consistently fall short of expectations. Forgetting to update the monthly report every now and again is normal. However, if you are always overwhelmed by the status updates, unable to start without reminders, and consistently populating the spreadsheet with errors, you might need a little mentoring in task management. Are you having trouble focusing? Do you need to find an app that can help you stay organized? Don’t be afraid to talk to colleagues about their process. Also think about asking your manager for advice and suggestions to make sure they know how serious you are about being efficient in your work.   Be a confident decision-maker When you spend too much time considering what could go wrong, it’s hard to make a move. To avoid decision-paralysis, it can help to set a specific amount of “thinking through it” time, similar to a deadline. Write a list of potential outcomes and consider seeking help from an outside party. Remain objective and try to avoid emotion and, especially, don’t let the fear of judgement from others hold you back. Forbes Magazine reminds, “it’s progress not perfection.” In other words, it’s better to take an action that might be imperfect then do nothing at all.   Demonstrate your commitment to those around you In addition to pitching in and maintaining a strong work ethic, the way we talk about our work can speak volumes about our commitment to our organization and colleagues. A confident leader is careful to avoid taking too much credit or, conversely, sounding defensive. Consider the messaging that results from the following phrases: But also… learn to accept praise While humility is an attribute of strong leadership, don’t turn away praise when it comes your way. If someone tells you that you’re doing a good job, make sure they know how appreciative you are that they took the time to tell you. Accepting compliments can be awkward but positive feedback is as critical to your success as critical words. You might say, “I’ve been really lucky to have been placed on this team” but don’t squirm or change the subject. You earned it!

  • 0 Becoming a more effective mentoree

    What does it take to be an effective mentoree? Yes, you read that right. This article is about the work of being mentored. Being mentored sounds passive, but effective mentorees aren’t waiting to be transformed. They are actively engaged and working in their mentoring experience. Mentorees will often hear that they should “drive the mentoring relationship.” Taking initiative, being prepared, acting on suggestions, and following up are obvious ways to take the wheel. However, there are more subtle behaviors that can make a mentoree more effective in their mentoring work. Below are some ways to take your mentoree role to the next level. Know your “why.” Many mentorees come to the mentoring relationships with a list of short- and long-term goals to work toward but may have spent less time evaluating their underlying motives. Improving your communications skills is a specific, achievable goal, but understanding what you hope to gain from doing so creates a different level of intention and opportunity for growth. Do you want to become a better communicator because you hope to become more persuasive, expand your influence, form connections, or strengthen relationships? If you are still unsure what you would like to accomplish in the mentoring program, take a moment to envision where (or who) you would like to be in three to five years. Ask yourself what it is about that future version of yourself that appeals to you—are you more successful, more confident, more influential? Understanding what is driving you will help you figure out what to focus on and how to steer your mentoring experience. Communicate your needs. Once you pinpoint your underlying drivers, the next step is to communicate them clearly to your mentor. Be specific about what you want to achieve and how you would like your mentor to help. If all you know is that you want to be more successful or feel more accomplished, don’t be afraid to ask your mentor to help you figure out what that means and where to start. Establishing what you hope to gain provides a starting point to help you and your mentor chart different potential paths. The more you clarify your goals and communicate your needs, the more effective your mentor (and you) can be. Ask questions. Effective mentorees ask questions—and thoughtfully consider the answers. Ask your mentor questions about business processes or skills you want to master, challenges you want to overcome, experiences you want to gain. Ask them questions even when the answer seems obvious or when you already have an idea or set view of things. Asking questions opens the door for new ideas and perspectives, which is a good thing when you are looking to develop and grow. The mentoring relationship provides a safe space. Take advantage of that open forum and unfettered access to the views of a seasoned, experienced mentor. Welcome and accept feedback. Being an effective recipient of feedback is key to being an effective mentoree. In fact, the ability to receive—and actively seek—feedback is key to being successful in any role. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to accept feedback that is less than a raving endorsement of how we would like others to see us. Even when we ask for it, constructive criticism can generate internal resistance that leads us to push the feedback away. In their book “Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well,” authors Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen urge readers to focus on cultivating a “pull attitude” toward feedback. They write, “Creating pull is about mastering the skills required to drive our own learning; it’s about how to recognize and manage our resistance, how to engage in feedback conversations with confidence and curiosity….” Ask for your mentor’s feedback and be ready to consider it fully—what makes sense about it, what seems worth trying, what might they be right about, how could you apply it? If you struggle to accept feedback despite your best efforts, this may be an important area to focus on during the program. “Thanks for the Feedback” and other books on the topic can be a great starting point for mentoring conversations and work around this crucial skill. Be grateful. Countless studies have shown that gratitude can change our brains, our lives, and our very selves. Showing appreciation can lead to deeper connections, increase prosocial behavior, improve self-esteem, and enhance mental strength. These gains align with successful, effective mentoring. We all have the capacity to cultivate gratitude and focus on what we already have, not just what we are striving for. Be grateful for your mentor’s time, advice, feedback, and suggestions. Be grateful for stretch assignments and networking opportunities. Be grateful for mistakes that enable learning, challenges that facilitate growth, and the achievement of goals, big and small. In each mentoring activity, look for opportunities to feel gratitude and express appreciation.

  • 0 Lean into Gratitude

    It’s almost Thanksgiving and, at TTC, we often like to underscore the gratitude season by seeking balance and appreciation in our professional lives. This month, we are going to map our way to thankfulness by cutting out the static and zeroing in on the things that are working well and staying steady, no matter how small. When it comes to life, grief, disappointment, and fear can strike at any time: the unexpected illness of a loved one, being passed over for a promotion or a project not going the way we hoped. Whatever its source, taking a measured approach to managing disappointment can foster personal and professional growth and push you to a place of gratitude. First, manage your expectations A few years ago, the Harvard Business Review HBR published a list of strategies for coping with work-related disappointment. They urged readers to arm themselves against the lingering effects of disappointment by first managing their expectations that any situation will be free of it. Even when something goes as planned, we might not feel as satisfied by the experience as we hoped. Though disappointment is sometimes unavoidable, the worst thing that can happen is that it festers, morphing into resentment and apathy. “When we catch ourselves thinking negatively,” HBR advised, “we should redirect our energy and focus on positive solutions.” While it might be difficult to let go of a disappointing experience, not letting go of it creates unnecessary stress and makes it harder to find forward momentum. Keep in mind that disappointment is an occasion to build resilience and widen perspectives. It can even help you make better and more informed decisions in the future. Rally around your long-term goals. Though this particular situation did not end up as planned, it is not a derailment. You might simply need to reframe your path. Bring the growth mindset to the front Shape shift your thinking! Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck developed the notion of a growth mindset which is centered on the belief that talent can be improved over time. People with a growth mindset look for opportunities to develop their talent through hard work and feedback, both good and bad. A fixed mindset, on the other hand, leans into feelings of inferiority and the belief that each of us has only a certain capacity for success or a finite level of intelligence. People with a fixed mindset begin to doubt their abilities compared to those around them. If you notice others are finding greater success, don’t slip into insecurity. Use your growth mindset to find inspiration in the steps they’ve taken. Examine their experience and network as possible factors. Focus on the positive Navigating a challenge or obstacle is a powerful opportunity to demonstrate your leadership capacity. Start with being candid about your disappointment and what needs your attention. Consider setting measurable goals to gain more experience in a specific area, better your knowledge or improve your outlook. Shift your language so that you talk about what has happened with positivity and persistence. Make sure those around you understand your awareness of why this has happened and be sure to convey your openness to grow from the experience. Let them know that this experience has motivated you. Now, welcome gratitude Seek out the positives. Think about the things that are solid at the moment. What is going well? Where are the bright spots? What holds steady even as the situation evolves? Lean into your successes, no matter how small, as you prepare to make your next move. This is your opportunity to launch a new and grow. If you’re finding it hard to access gratitude in your current situation, it might help to write down your next moves. Eventually, you will probably be able to see why something turned out the way it did but, until that happens, here are some productive steps to take: Consider your expectations. Do they need to be adjusted? Are you being too hard on yourself or others? Are you being unrealistic? Open up to a friend or mentor. It can help to seek emotional support. Try to talk to someone who isn’t directly related to the issue or in your office. Do something different. Map out a new project and set goals in another area. Taking some time away might be refreshing. Examine what is getting in the way of your contentment. What, specifically, is causing you unease? Is it something temporary? Is it in your control? Can you think of a different perspective on it? Sit down with your supervisor. If you are hoping to achieve something different, talk to your manager. Don’t be grim, choose positive and energetic language so they understand your genuineness.

  • 0 WISE @ UCF Mentoring Program

    • Mentoring
    • by Kathy Wentworth Drahosz
    • 04-10-2021

    Kathy Wentworth Drahosz traveled to Orlando this week to kick off a formal mentoring training session for the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Mentoring Program!  The WISE mentoring program matches successful professional women in STEM related positions with young women in their sophomore and/or junior year at UCF.  Due to the pandemic, last year’s program was all virtual, this year we were able to facilitate a hybrid program (both live and virtual).  “The use of technology has been a game changer the past 18 months”, comments Drahosz, “partnerships who may not have had an opportunity to meet face to face, were able to enjoy connecting through Zoom.  Mentors from government and industry (Johnson and Johnson, Duke Energy, Blue Origin, Naval Air Warfare Center, Lockheed Martin, and more) signed up to help the students this year.  The sophomore and junior year can be challenging for some students.  “It’s always wonderful to see our industry and government partners take such interest in growing our future STEM women leaders”, said Melissa Dagley, Executive Director, Initiatives in STEM. 


    People often ask us- “how do I choose the best mentor for me?” This question is broad, but understandable. There are multiple metrics that contribute to a successful partnership. Experience is important, but is it more helpful to have years of experience or a certain type? Maybe it’s easiest to collaborate with a colleague who shares a similar communication style, but would it make a bigger impact to absorb attributes from someone who operates a little differently?Set developmental goalsThe best way to get started is by setting your developmental goals. Jot down some notes:What are your career aspirations?Where do you want to be in five years?What will it take to get there?Pull your story together as a pitch that you can lay out quickly. For example, “I would eventually like to be a supervisory IT specialist, so I am working toward a technical detail. I enrolled in this program to hone new technical skills that will help me get there.”Identify your ideal mentorThink about the capabilities or functional background your mentor should possess. Consider whether you are looking to stay in your area or bridge into a new career field. Weigh the merits of seeking specialized experience versus a rich and varied organizational background. Forbes Magazine ( pointed out that it doesn’t always matter how many years of experience they have, its more about whether their knowledge and expertise is going to be helpful to you in the job you’re doing or the job you hope to get. Identify a mentor who will push you outside of your comfort zone and who is willing to give honest, candid feedback.Create a list of potential mentorsOnce you’ve prepared your pitch and identified the characteristics of your ideal mentor, create a list of potential candidates. Research your candidates’ backgrounds. You might even solicit advice from an outside source like your supervisor or people in your professional network. Try to collect information from articles the mentor may have written or explore their contributions to highly visible projects. NPR reminds mentees to “recognize the difference between a mentor and a sponsor.” The purpose of a mentor is to give you guidance and impart their own experience, not to get you a promotion or a raise.Arrange Meetings with your Top Two or Three ChoicesOrganize a list of five potential mentors and arrange meetings with your top two or three choices. The purpose of these meetings is to explore the possibility of establishing a partnership. When speaking with each candidate, find out as much as you can about their accomplishments and character. Partnering with someone who shares some personal commonalities- such as charity work or raising children- can make relationship-building easier too.Ask guided questions about the mentor’s background such as:How did you get to where you are today?What factors and skills have made a difference in your career?What have you found to be the secrets to your success in this organization?Then be prepared to share some information about your background, accomplishments, and areas in need of improvement. Be honest and forthcoming as a good mentor will also be evaluating you to see if the match will reap worthwhile benefits.Prepare as if you were going to a job interview. Lean in and give it your all. Be warm and enthusiastic so that the mentor has an idea of what it would be like to work with you.Prepare for “The Close” with Your Elevator SpeechAn advantage of using an elevator pitch when speaking about your career or aspirations is that you can show you are capable of taking the lead. Instead of waiting on the other party to direct the conversation, and potentially away from what you would like to discuss, you can assertively explain what you need and have to offer.Communicate your interests in being mentored by this person.Share your expectations of the mentoring partnership.Estimate how much time you plan to commit to the partnership.Explain why their talents suit your developmental needs.Once you have narrowed down your mentoring choice, e-mail a message to the mentor expressing (or reaffirming) your interest. Be prepared for the possibility that your potential mentor will not be able to accept so that you can respond with grace and professionalism despite the initial disappointment. Likewise, if you find after speaking that the mentor is not right for you, be prepared to communicate that directly and respectfully.Identifying and selecting the right mentor is both critical to the success of the mentoring partnership and a challenging task. Doing your homework ahead of time will ensure the process moves smoothly for you.

  • 0 Navigating Challenging Conversations

    Some conversations are downright terrifying. Even if you are a confident person with competent communication skills, trying to fulfill a need without being able to predict the outcome (“Will she say yes?” “Is he going to be upset?”) can be overwhelming. When returning from maternity leave after the birth of my first child, I was fraught with worry over letting my boss know that I’d need to take the 4:50pm train out of the city every day to relieve the babysitter on time. When I tried to find the words, all I could see is how this new schedule made me less. It was a busy Manhattan office where few had children and many routinely worked well past traditional business hours. I agonized over the timing, the verbiage, the perfect rationale. The more I tried to get the request just right, the more I spun circles, moving from anxiousness to avoidance. Eventually, I couldn’t spend another second trying to perfect this question that I had convinced myself would mark the end of my career. There was a job, a newborn, a train, and a babysitter. No amount of handwringing was going to change those variables. And, as it turns out, my supervisor was great. She just wanted to know if it was okay for her to get in touch with me after 5:00 pm if something came up. Capitalize on the moment A lot of us are currently on the edge of transition. Many have summer vacations in the pipeline and we’re beginning our re-entry after many months of working and schooling from home. There might be something you are looking to ask your supervisor but don’t know how to get started. Perhaps you want to work remotely more often, take time off for a trip, or ask to be considered for a new position with more responsibility. We’ve spent over a year accomplishing our work completely differently than ever before which leaves us with a strong position for any changes we want to make. If you are seeking more authority or responsibility, articulate the way you’ve navigated the recent obstacles. If you are hoping to expand your remote working routine, quantify the output you managed this year from your home office. Be respectful and persuasive. Take the conversation into your hands In the TED Talk series “How to Be a Better Human” series, Daryl Chen says that sometimes we avoid difficult conversations because, even if something hasn’t been going our way for a while, we’re worried we might make things worse. He urges us to “move toward- not away” from the conflict. Be informed but stay humble. When asking for something, ask the other person about their experiences. Keep quiet, especially in the beginning. Once you address the question (for example, transitioning to a new project?) be quiet for a few minutes. Give the other person a chance to talk. Try to see things from their perspective. Why might there be hesitation on their part? What other issues could they have going on in that moment? If you sense things aren’t going your way, try to slow the dialogue by paraphrasing the other person’s points. Taking time to show that you are listening and thinking critically demonstrates your genuineness. A recent Harvard Business Review article described how asking questions can also be a persuasive tool. It requires humility to give the other speaker space to elaborate on a position that contradicts your own. They said, “When you listen deeply and sincerely, others feel less of a need to resist you in order to be heard.” Prepare and research No matter what the nature of your conversation, take the time to prepare and practice: Understand your organizational landscape as it relates to your request. What are the trends? Do you know anyone in your situation? Can you ask them about their experience? Explain how this change could help you do your job better. What are the benefits to the organization? How would it make you more productive? Is it a good business decision? If so, what is the return on investment? Write a workplan. How might you adjust your day to absorb this change? What would each day look like in the coming weeks? How will you take charge of this? Explain how you will prove your success. How will you demonstrate a positive outcome? How will you stand out? Articulate- for yourself- why this matters If you’re still having a hard time getting started, jot down three reasons why this is important to you. Project how your situation might be different in a few months- or even after a year- if things work out the way you want. Why is this worth the conversation?  

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