Thoughts, Ideas, and Concepts by Sandra Parks

Posts tagged ‘goals’

10 Tips for Getting the Most from Your Mentor

How can a mentor improve your business and career advancement? Many ways: A mentor can guide you, take you under his wing and teach you new skills. Research has shown that mentoring relationships succeed and are satisfying for both parties when both the mentor and the person being mentored take an active role in developing the relationship.

Here are 10 tips you can implement to ensure you get what you need out of the relationship.

  1. Be clear on why you want a mentor and why you are meeting.
    Define what type of help you’re looking for in a mentor. Are you looking for someone with similar skills or someone with a very different skill set who can coach you? Are you looking for someone who has gone up the corporate ladder and can advise you on the ins and outs of corporate politics?
  2. Establish goals for the relationship.
    Discuss and agree upon the goals of the relationship and what you, personally, are doing to make it a successful venture. Review these goals from time to time to be sure the relationship is working; if not, adjust and refocus.
  3. Network, network and network to find a suitable mentor.
    Once you decide on the type of mentor you need, participate in functions and professional associations where you might find this type of person. For example, scour your chamber of commerce events, alumni and professional associations or even your owncompany. If you do choose someone from your own firm, it’s best to select someone other than your direct supervisor.
  4. Don’t limit yourself to one mentor.
    You can establish multiple mentoring relationships with individuals who can help you grow in different aspects of your life. Think of it as building your own personal board of directors. Also, don’t underestimate the value of a ‘peer mentor’ or someone at your level who has complimentary skills and experiences — even if you think you’re on the same level, you can learn a lot from their previous experiences.
  5. Establish communication methods and frequency of contact from the beginning.
    Talk with your mentor to determine the lines of communication that will work for both of you. Will you meet face to face or communicate mainly through e-mail and the telephone? Make sure you meet/talk enough to suit both of you.
  6. Manage expectations and build trust.
    Mentoring takes time and implies sacrifices for both the person being mentored and the mentor. Be respectful of your mentor’s time and the other priorities in her life, such as family, travel and community activities. Avoid any trust-breaking behaviors such as canceling appointments or not following through on leads and contacts given to you by your mentor.
  7. Acquire mentoring skills and competencies.
    Pay attention to great skills that you notice in your mentors; these skills include listening, guidance, recommendations and wisdom. When you receive corrective feedback from your mentor, don’t be defensive. Listen, digest and take immediate steps to apply what you have learned.
  8. Be respectful of your mentor’s time.
    Do not overburden him by demanding too much time or too many contacts. Understand that the moment you decide you need information might not be the best time for him, so be patient.
  9. Express your gratitude.
    Your mentor is likely to give a lot more than you do in the relationship in terms of time and contacts. Be sure to express regularly that you value and appreciate your mentor’s guidance.
  10. Vary the activities you do together.
    There are numerous activities you can do with your mentor, such as talking about your past experiences, goals, plans, and skill development and attending meetings, conferences, and other events. You can also shadow your mentor at work or exchange and discuss written materials like your resume or an article one of you has written.

Why Not Brand Yourself!

Personal Branding

Job seekers think they need to be salesman, never storytellers. Nevertheless, storytelling is part of every job search. How well you tell your story in cover letters, resumes, networking meetings, interviews — even negotiations — will directly affect your success in the job market.

Storytelling doesn’t mean telling tall tales! It’s amazing how many people ask for help with their resumes by saying, “I’ve got to find a way to make this look better than it really is.” Exaggerating accomplishments and misrepresenting facts is never an acceptable approach. Nor is it necessary. Instead, when people take the time to remember the actual details, a more compelling and truthful story almost always emerges.

The problem is that people don’t naturally think about telling their story.

Your challenge is to find a way to describe your involvement so potential employers clearly see the before and after. In other words, how did you make a situation better because you were there?

You can’t get there simply by rattling off a list of accomplishments; by themselves, accomplishments rarely tell the story. Knowing how much time you saved or how much money you made for the company is of limited use if it isn’t presented in context. To appreciate the importance of your work, the scope of what you did must be clear. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • What problem were you solving?
  • How long had it been a problem?
  • How many people were affected by the issue?
  • What was the cost of not solving the problem? (e.g., lost revenue, frustrated customers, low morale)
  • What, specifically, did you do to address the issue?
  • How did you get involved?
    • Were you asked to address the issue? If so, by whom?
    • Or was your involvement the result of your own initiative?
  • Did solving the problem require an investment of time, money or resources by the company?
    • Were you the person who convinced management to invest in the solution?
    • If so, how did you sell them on the idea?
  • How long did it take to solve the problem?
  • Were there any unexpected results?

Good stories surprise you

Once you have answered these questions, be sure to include the most surprising and memorable details when you tell the stories behind your accomplishments. This is the key to being remembered at the right time for the right reason.

Sadly, few people manage to include these crucial details.

Rather than tell memorable stories that might get people interested in their backgrounds, they rattle off job titles, responsibilities and other unrevealing aspects of their past.

For example, I vividly remember “Eric” (not his real name), a client who had a long-winded, fluffy summary statement that could literally apply to anyone. In it, Eric described himself as an “innovative problem solver.” Unfortunately, this was not supported anywhere in his resume or cover letter. Nor did he spontaneously offer any examples during the course of our mock interview.

Only when I probed extensively did Eric reveal a fantastic example to support his claim:

In his most recent position, Eric worked at a data center that handled transactions for financial institutions. At the time, the company was actively acquiring other data centers. Eric’s job was to help merge the operations of the various data centers the company acquired.

Throughout the process, Eric’s company relied on several highly paid consultants from a well-known firm to evaluate the acquisitions and make recommendations regarding the best ways to merge the technologies. In one case, the consultants concluded that the technology of a recently acquired company was incompatible with the firm’s operations and recommended running the data center separately. Eric didn’t accept that as an answer. Instead, he spent the next month researching and examining alternatives on his own, outside regular working hours.

Being quite resourceful, Eric networked his way to a person overseas who had successfully solved a similar challenge. By taking the time to learn how the other person solved the problem, Eric devised a way to implement a workable solution. Within a few weeks, Eric successfully converted the new data center to the company’s technology.

This is a great example of innovative problem-solving. It wasn’t one Eric had ever thought to share on his resume, in interviews or in any of his networking efforts. Nevertheless, it remains among his most memorable and compelling experiences. That’s the goal of storytelling. You want people to think of you and make the connection between what you have done and what they might need you to do. Potential employers and networking contacts should look at you and think:

“I remember her! She’s the person who _________.”
(Fill in the blank with whatever experience powerfully demonstrates your ability to excel in a particular area.)

Found another good article!!

Dave is a CEO of an Internet startup that failed to get funding, and he’s got to find something else to do. But he’s so focused on his failure that he’s having a hard time seeing what talents and skills he could leverage. Something invisible but crucial is standing in his way — his mental model. Let me explain what I mean.

Carol Dweck is a professor of psychology at Stanford who studies why some people succeed and others fail. What she’s discovered : At a young age, people develop beliefs that organize their world and give meaning to their experiences. These mental models determine the goals we pursue and the ways we go about achieving them.

1. Fixed mind-set
Intelligence is static and leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to:

  • Avoid challenges
  • Give up easily when faced with an obstacle
  • See effort as fruitless or worse
  • Ignore useful negative criticism
  • Feel threatened by the success of others

As a result, may plateau early and achieve less than full potential

2. Growth mind-set
Intelligence can be developed and leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to:

  • Embrace challenges
  • Persist in the face of setbacks
  • See effort as a path to mastery
  • Learn from criticism
  • Find lessons and inspiration in the success of others

As a result, reach ever-higher levels of achievement

When someone like Dave, with a fixed mind-set, fails at something, they believe the situation is out of their control and nothing can be done.

They lose faith in their ability to perform. They shrink previous successes and inflate failures. They give up.

Those with a growth orientation do not see failure as an indictment of their capacity. For those folks, a problem is just an opportunity to learn new things. Their attention is on finding strategies for learning. When they blow it or meet an obstacle, they realize that they just haven’t found the right strategy yet. They dig in and make optimistic predictions: “The harder it gets, the harder I need to try. I need to remember what I already know about this. I’ll get this soon.”

Two questions can determine failure or success

These mind-sets can powerfully affect our career trajectories. One of Dweck’s research studies was with Chinese students in Hong Kong who were given the opportunity to learn English, which in the long run would increase their ability to get good jobs. The students with the fixed mind-set turned down the opportunity because they knew it was hard. But the students with the growth mind-set said, “ Sure, I’ll do it; e ven if I don’t do well, I’ll grow my capacity.”

She also discovered that extremely highly paid athletes with a fixed mind-set often don’t do well on a team. They decide they don’t need to practice because they are so good, and they flame out.

Want further proof that success comes from accepting that you will make mistakes and you have the ability to learn from them?

Would-be neurosurgeons were studied to determine who would succeed and who would fail. The researcher discovered that the answer came down to how they responded to the following two questions:

  1. Do you ever make mistakes?
  2. If so, what is the worst mistake you ever made?

Those who flunked out claimed never to make mistakes or attributed any error to things beyond their control. Successful neurosurgical students admitted to many mistakes and described what they had learned about avoiding them in the future.

Dweck’s research offers powerful evidence that when it comes to moving through the challenges of a job search and career change, we need a growth mind-set. When we see our minds as capable of learning and life as a chance to grow, then everything we do is grist for the mill. We don’t give up when we experience setbacks but learn what we can from the experience and begin again, wiser.

Your attention is focused on the question, “ How can I use the constraints and challenges I’m facing to grow my own capacity?”

Where do these orientations come from? It turns out that it has to do with whether you think intelligence is fixed — you’re born as smart as you’ll ever be — or changeable — you can get smarter throughout life. When provided with evidence that the brain can grow new pathways, fixed-oriented freshman college students on the verge of dropping out switched to a growth orientation and graduated.

What about you?

In working with hundreds of executives, I’ve found that many of us have a growth orientation in some of these attributes and not in others. Each person is different based on his early history. For instance, I’ve got no trouble with the first three or the last one. I’m still working on seeing mistakes as learning opportunities. There continues to be a voice of perfectionism inside me that panics when I find I’ve made an error, although it’s much softer than it used to be. And I still have trouble seeking out feedback because I’m afraid it will be negative. But I’m working on it! I’ve gotten much better at feeling the discomfort and asking for input anyway.

Looking at the list, is your mind-set a growth or fixed one? Which of these are easy? Difficult? Try to notice without beating yourself up. That just interferes with a growth mind-set because it reinforces the belief that you should know everything already.

After all, even know-it-alls don’t know it all. And accepting this premise is the key to success.

Share your thoughts with M.J. Ryan the author of many best-selling books and a consultant with Professional Thinking Partners, where she specializes in coaching high-performance executives and leads trainings in effective teamwork in corporations, nonprofits and government agencies. Her latest book is AdaptAbility: How to Survive Change You Didn’t Ask For. Visit her Web site for more tips.

Magnificant Mondays!!!

For some Monday’s are dreaded days but for me its another Magnificant time to continue to prepare for success. See everyday that I’m allowed to see is another day for me to stay focused on what it is I want to do. My overall goal is to come out of corporate and make a living for me and my children on my own! Now don’t get me wrong corporate America is not a bad place. But it’s not what I want. I’m a carefree spirited person! I love to help others! I love the ability to just get up and go. I can’t take someone watching me go on lunch for a hour!!! UGH!!! But I’m not complaining!!!

At any rate let me encourage each of you to get out and explore! Dig deep down inside and figure out what it is you really like doing and step out on faith! Make sure you have paid off your bills though if you can. But go out and do what it is you really like doing. Even if it is the same thing that you are doing for your current employer do it for yourself! You can make much more and enjoy much more freedom doing it for yourself. It’s really not that hard. I’m a single parent of three and I enjoy doing my own thing!!

Stop by later on in the week and I’ll give you some more income tax information along with some much needed etiquette tips as well. 2010 is going to be a prosperous year for me and for you!!! Not making any new years resolutions either just speaking things into existence thats all.

Be blessed! You can look me up on facebook, LinkedIn, MSN Live or you can visit my website at or (coming soon) and one other project is coming soon too. You will hear about it really soon right here on my blog so stay tuned and keep coming back! I won’t disappoint you I promise. You can also reach me at 972.838.0106 or 972.569.7938.

As always be blessed!

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