Today, I was supposed to have lunch at Twenty Tap with my friend and former colleague, Steven Shattuck, but we were foiled by Monday hours. Not lunch-friendly.
Instead we continued on down the street to Yats, where we traded marketing stories, caught up, and enjoyed some delicious Chili Cheese Étouffées. At one point in that lunch, in the midst of a discussion about not always being able to do the kind of work I want to do at my own company, I accepted a challenge to write one blog post every day – whether it’s here or (cross your fingers for me!) a guest post on a relevant industry blog. More importantly, though, my friend helped me to see some career challenges I’ve been dwelling on lately in a whole new way.
AND…now that some of these ideas have been rolling around in my head all day, I’ve come up with some challenges of my own. Feel free to try them yourself, and I promise to keep you updated on my progress and the things I learn along the way!
- Don’t be afraid to ask, “How can I help?” – If you want to be a part of something, no matter how big or small, just ask! Don’t be afraid to approach an organization you really admire and ask if there’s anything you can do to help or how you can get involved. I took my first step today, when I asked the Executive Director of my favorite local non-profit if I could offer my skills on a volunteer basis.
- Building the career you want comes from more than just the work you do at the office – put your underutilized skills to work volunteering, blogging, writing for blogs and publications that publish on topics you’re passionate about, and staying connected to smart, driven, and passionate colleagues and mentors
- Nurture relationships with smart, passionate people who you can talk to about work and your career, in a frank and open manner, from whom you can solicit advice, but also share ideas. A mentor doesn’t have to be a boss, he or she doesn’t have to come from within your organization, and while we’re talking about mentorship…
- If you want a mentor or sponsor, you have to earn one. Do work that makes people want to to help you grow. I’ve been thinking so much lately about how I need a mentor to help me figure out how to get where I want to go in my career. I had a realization tonight – it’s okay to ask for feedback and advice, but if you want someone to invest time and effort into helping you become awesome, you have to show that you’re willing to put the work in.
- Also, did some research, and in case you were wondering, this is the best breakdown I could find on the Internet, of the difference between mentors and sponsors:
“Mentors act as a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on, offering advice as needed and support and guidance as requested; they expect very little in return. Sponsors, in contrast, are much more vested in their protégés, offering guidance and critical feedback because they believe in them.
Sponsors advocate on their protégés’ behalf, connecting them to important players and assignments. In doing so, they make themselves look good. And precisely because sponsors go out on a limb, they expect stellar performance and loyalty.”
-Sylvia Ann Hewlett, New York Times (follow her on Twitter)
So that’s my song and dance for today. Stay tuned for more on marketing, career development, community, culture, and organizational health – often with a geeky twist ;)