Ten ways to get the most out of mentoring at work

Building a trusting, supportive bond requires effort, says Cathryn Newbery

Mentoring is viewed by many as an essential part of personal development. But establishing a trusting, supportive mentee-mentor relationship can be difficult. At the everywoman IT forum last week, a panel of industry leaders from the tech sector - including mentees and their mentors - shared their top 10 tips for making it work in reality.

1. Shape someone else’s career

“I wouldn’t be in technology if it wasn’t for my first mentor,” said Melissa Di Donato, area vice president EMEA and APAC at Salesforce. “I was in graduate school, planning to be a linguist. And my mentor said: ‘I think SAP is going to be big, and you should look into it,’ and he sent me to work with a friend at HP. It was the best decision I ever made, taking me on a lifetime journey that wouldn’t have happened without my mentor.”

2. Ensure diverse interactions

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have mentors both male and female, and I think that’s incredibly important,” says Caroline Hyde, European business correspondent at Bloomberg. “If we’re talking about advancing women’s interests, we can’t just be talking to ourselves; there has to be a dialogue between men and women.”

Larry Hirst, mentor and consultant, and former commissioner at the government's Commission for Employment and Skills, counts two men in their 80s and one in his 90s as his mentors. Conversely, one of his most recent mentees is in her teens. “It’s all about chemistry,” says Hirst. “Sometimes you meet someone, and it just works.”

3. Start early for maximum value

Francesco Bowen, who completed an MsC at University College London last year, is being mentored by Di Donato. Bowen says this experience is “so crucial, because I don’t yet know what I want to do with my career. Meeting people who have years of expertise is opening up career options I never knew existed.”

4. A mentor doesn’t have to be for life

“I think about mentors helping me through little moments of time,” says Polly Sumner, chief adoption officer at Salesforce. “Maybe you’re having trouble at work solving a conflict situation, so you work with someone who always has the propensity to resolve conflict in a positive way. Mentoring can be about where you’re stuck - because the reward for the mentee is to be able to participate in your success.”

5. Know when to say yes - to mentees and mentors

“When my mentor found me, I realised how desperately I needed that advice to continue,” says Di Donato, who in turn was put in touch with Bowen at an industry networking event. “We made that connection, and at our first meeting we just got on really well,” says Bowen. “For me, it’s not necessarily about finding someone who has the exact job I want, because I’m just not that sure at the moment - but someone I aspire to be.”

6. Don’t hold back

“Mentoring should be an extension of your whole lives,” says Hirst. “People talk about mentors being a sponsor, but they should be so much more: a teacher, a mother or father, or a friend. You must be prepared to share your entire self, because the more you share with one another, the more effective that relationship will be.”

7. Prepare for your meetings, and be ready to take action

“Every time we meet, Francesca comes with notes,” says Di Donato. “When a mentee shows up with such a sense of purpose and mission, it makes you feel really good. I can sit, listen and think: How can I show her by example? How can I offer insight from my own and other perspectives? And then how can I actually help? What can I actually do beyond impart my ideas and thoughts and direction? What actions can I take for her?”

8. There’s no right number

Di Donato, for example, currently has six mentees and five mentors. “It’s what every person can take and what every person can give,” she says. “Ensure that whatever number you reach, either as a mentor or receiving that gift as a mentee, make sure you have that time to dedicate and the energy and focus to make it work.”

9. Challenge yourself and be challenged

“Some of the times when these relationships have been most important for me is when I’ve been the antagonist,” says Sumner. “Where I took an opposite point of view, and the person ultimately made a better decision for it, and was more successful. Asking tough questions in this trusting relationship is how you discover and take ownership of the right decision for you. You get amazing breakthroughs when you ask the tough, confrontational questions.”

“You learn from the difficult times,” says Hirst. “You have to call it the way you see it. And ultimately, the mentee makes their own judgement. I’ve had people who’ve ignored my advice and have gone on to be successful. I’ve got it wrong. You have to keep working with them to make sure you’re pushing the boundaries as much as you possibly can.”

10. Don’t be afraid to mentor your boss

“The mentoring relationship doesn’t have a lot to do with where the person is in a company,” says Sumner, who mentored her boss in a previous organisation. “It’s more about a general affinity and need for one another’s support. Shared values, mutual respect, accountability and responsibility are the basis of any great mentoring relationship - not someone’s job title.”

Cathryn Newbery | Cathryn Newbery
6 job-search tips to help you regain your momentum

When your job search drags on for weeks and you feel no closer to landing a job than when you first started, it's easy to get discouraged. But even if you aren't getting the callbacks you were hoping for, now is not the time to call it quits. To stay motivated and focused during this frustrating time, use these six job-search strategies to regain and maintain your momentum.

1. Treat the search like a job
Unemployment often leads to an aimless feeling. The lack of a routine is a major reason your motivation may be waning, as it's a constant reminder of your situation. The key is to treat your search like a real job. Wake up at a reasonable hour and get dressed. Create a schedule with set times for phone calls, emails, social networking and job board searches. Make to-do lists and check off each item as you complete it. After you've completed your to-do list for the day, "clock out" and take part in any leisure activities you enjoy.

In other words, conduct yourself as if a boss were looking over your shoulder. Stay focused on your daily tasks and avoid playing a quick game of Solitaire or Candy Crush when you're supposed to be working. Little indulgences may seem like some of the few perks of unemployment, but they can lead to listlessness and a dip in job-search momentum.

2. Put yourself out there
As important as it is for you to be connected online, you also need to make sure you're occasionally leaving the house. Not only will this help you get out of a rut, but it can also help make you more marketable. Sign up for a class or go to job fairs, workshops, conferences and seminars, where you can meet people and brush up on your skills. Join professional associations and attend their meetings, where you can learn about trends in your field. Volunteer your time and skills with a worthwhile organization, where you can work on your soft skills like written and verbal communications. All of these things will deepen your network and help you find the right job.

3. Be proactive
Don't wait for opportunity to knock. Instead, take the initiative and knock on opportunity's door. In other words, even if the companies you're interested in don't list any current job openings, contact them anyway and express your desire to work there. This extra effort demonstrates enthusiasm and initiative, and hiring managers may take notice.

4. Track your progress
When you start to feel like you're going nowhere, take some time to create a method to track the efforts you've made. Write up a list of realistic short- and long-term goals with regard to your job search, and work toward them every day. For example, decide how many applications you'd like to send out this week, or this month. Set a goal for the number of networking events you're going to attend, and for the number of new people you're going to talk to about your search. Then keep track as you move toward the goal. That way, you'll have a tangible way to prove to yourself that you've made progress, something that can help keep you motivated as you continue to look for a job.

5. Consider other work options
A full-time job with a check direct-deposited to your trương mục is not the only type of work out there. You can also expand your search to include part-time and contract work or set yourself up as a consultant or freelancer. Maybe you can barter your skills in exchange for goods and services.

Signing up with a staffing agency for temporary or project-based gigs can also be a productive approach. It can bring in extra income while you're looking for full-time work. Even better, some part-time or temporary gigs can turn into full-time jobs or long-term contracts. Even if they don't, though, they'll still allow you to make valuable contacts that will help you in your job search.

6. Relax, recharge, revive
Allowing a job search to take over your life is a sure way to burn out. Give yourself permission to take a break from the search at night and on weekends. When you make a point to relax and recharge for a few hours at the end of the work day, you'll be able to start fresh the next day. A change of scenery and new experiences may give you a new perspective on your search and even your career.

The key to finding employment is to keep at it. Don't let a lull discourage you to the point of giving up. By following these job-search tips and persevering, you'll greatly increase your chances of finding full-time work that is satisfying and rewarding.

(Picture Source: Internet)
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