Peer Mentor Network

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Building Blocks of Career Success

Jim Citrin wrote a fabulous article I found on Yahoo. Absorb it people. Seriously, it's good stuff - I particularly enjoyed the discussion on the career conundrum. If you've ever said to yourself "I can't get that job I want because it requires experience I don't have and I can't get that experience without getting that job first" then read this. He also touches on the idea of skill breadth and depth which we're discussed in part on the Of Proteges and Pitfalls post.

Here's your teaser...
Despite advice from career experts to set specific long-term career goals with interim milestones to measure your success, this is not how extraordinary careers really unfold.

Monday, May 15, 2006

To Find a Mentor – Be a Student

I was lucky. In my first job after college, I had a marvelous mentor who took an active role in my career development.

He pushed. I listened.

Actually, make that hung on every word. Because the fact that someone at the top of their profession would take time out to coach a newbie like me was a gift…and I knew it.

Example: When I asked for a raise, he made me “demonstrate I was worth it” by:

First, reading a series of books (How to Win Friends and Influence People, etc.)

Then, writing a paper about what I learned from each one and

Finally, by finding an operational problem in the office and solving it using TQM processes. (The result was a binder of information and charts.)

Along the way, there were a lot of naysayers who thought my boss was just stalling because he didn’t want to pay me more. In fact, many people I spoke to were borderline appalled that someone would have to jump through so many hoops to earn a raise that they were entitled to anyway.

But I knew better.

In the five years since, my mentor has had many new professionals work under him and yet he’s had no official “mentee” since me. Last week, I asked him why.

His response? “No students.”

The point is that finding a mentor is only half the battle. After that, you must be a good student. Listen gratefully. Apply what you’ve learned to your work. Demonstrate enthusiasm so he/she feels their investment in you is meaningful.

It’s not the quickest route to success by any stretch, but I promise you the journey is its own reward.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Of Proteges and Pitfalls

Check out this Fast Company Article on mentoring.

Ah, mentoring. No one disputes its value, but its pitfalls are legion. Since the 1970s, studies have repeatedly demonstrated that mentoring is the single most valuable ingredient in a successful career for both men and women. So now everybody wants a mentor. But mentors aren't fairy godmothers; they can't and shouldn't be expected to make all your dreams come true.

Also, if your company makes it particularly difficult to find mentors in-house, be sure to check out the sidebar on open-source mentoring. Thanks for the link Brooke!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Professional Boot Camp - Career Development Plans

You have a Career Development Plan, don't you? No...having vague ideas swirling around in your head doesn't cut the mustard. Shame on you! Career Development Plans are intended to help you accomplish your goals and give your career a more defined sense of direction; a road map, if you will.

An example of the process I follow is depicted and described below:

Start by identifying the job you want to have in 20+ years. This should be a far reaching goal. Dream a little bit. You certainly don’t want to under estimate your potential.

Next, think about the jobs that are typically required to get from where you’re at today to your long-term goal. If you come up with a long list, create separate categories for mid-term goals (10-20 years) and short-term goals (0-10 years). This will give you a clear outline of your career path.

Next, you’ll need to generate a list of skill sets that are required to reach each of those positions. If you’re not sure what those are, interview the person who is currently holding that job and ask him or her which skills are critical. Don’t limit yourself to skills you need to gain. Give yourself credit for the skills you already have that are necessary for your next promotion.

Lastly, identify the specific actions you must take to obtain each of the skill sets you’ve listed. These should be attainable, realistic performance objectives that you can accomplish in a relatively short time period. You’ll feel a greater sense of achievement if you can “check the box” more frequently.

I would also recommend creating a schedule that you intend on following. If your goal is to make Manager in 3 years and Director in 10 years, write that down. Set up quarterly meetings with your manager and/or mentors on Outlook to review your entire Career Development Plan. It will be a dynamic document so expect to make adjustments often. Don’t assume that everyone knows what your plans are. Talking to your manager about your Career Development Plan will communicate that you take your job seriously. Exemplify motivation and passion in what you do and the impression that you are a high potential employee adding value to the company will be constantly reinforced.

Please share your own approaches to Career Development Plans!