Career Management

4 Steps to Finding the Best Mentor for Your Career

Posted on September 9, 2015. Filed under: Career Management |

career mentorIf there’s one thing that separates wildly successful people from everybody else, it’s often the presence of a mentor.

In the IT and tech worlds as in life, we can’t do everything on our own. We need good advice, a sounding board, and the perspective of somebody who understands where we’re coming from. So why do so many people avoid mentor-mentee relationships?

Because most people don’t understand how to get a mentor, if they realize they need one at all.

A great mentor is rarely handed to you. Sure, some people naturally fall into mentorships without making a concerted effort, but this isn’t something you want to leave to chance. In tech and IT, it’s imperative to be at the top of your game and to think like an entrepreneur. A mentor can help you make the most out of your job and show you how to turn it into your life’s work, not just another 9 to 5.

However, there’s a catch: finding the right person for you. But don’t despair. Mentees have found their mentor matches for centuries, and you can, too. All it takes is a little work.

How to Find Your Best Mentor

First, you need to realize that most mentorship happens organically.

The words “will you be my mentor?” should ideally never come out of your mouth. That’s because good relationships develop naturally over time. In fact, you may already have a mentor if you seek the counsel of a trusted advisor regularly. Don’t discount any relationship just because the person in the mentor role isn’t in your exact field or industry. If he or she is valuable to your career, the person becomes your mentor as soon as you start thinking of them as such. No further acknowledgment is necessary.

If you haven’t found your mentor yet, determine what traits and qualities an ideal mentor would have to be useful to your specific work life.

Does your mentor need to have taken your career path? Or would it be better to get an outsider’s perspective? Do they need to be senior-level, or would somebody with just a few extra years’ experience suffice? Remember that mentors can come from anywhere, so don’t set your sights too narrow.

Start or deepen a professional relationship with your would-be mentor.

If you’ve pinpointed a stranger as your ultimate mentor, do not start by asking him or her for mentorship. For new as well as old contacts, let them know that you value their knowledge and would appreciate their professional opinion. Invite them to coffee or lunch, and get to know them (or know them better). If and only if you feel that the relationship is comfortable for both of you, see if you can continue asking their advice in the future on an ongoing basis.

Be the relationship’s maintenance person.

When you’re receiving the benefits of mentorship, make your gratitude known. Say please and thank you. Ask your mentor about his or her life, and offer your help. Mentorship might look from the outside like a one-way street, but nothing is further from the truth. It’s up to you to nurture the relationship — and eventually, to pay it forward by taking on a mentor of your own.

Stephen Van VreedeAbout Stephen—-

Stephen Van Vreede is not your average IT/technical résumé writer. He provides career strategy and concierge job search solutions for senior (15+ years) (ITtechExec) and up-and-coming (NoddlePlace) (5-15 years) tech and technical operations leaders. Stephen and his team focus on building simplified, targeted, and certain career move campaigns, be it an external search or an internal promotion. He is co-author of UNcommon with career development leader Brian Tracy (out June 11, 2015). Contact Stephen directly at Stephen@ittechexec.com or send him an invite at https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephenvanvreede. To see whether Stephen and his team are a good fit for you, take their free (and anonymous) 1-minute compatibility quiz, Is the ITtechExec Approach a Good Match for You? Also, feel free to take his complimentary resume self-assessment quiz, How Certain Can You Be About Your Technical Resume? You might be surprised by what you find out!

 

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The Great Vacation Debacle: Take 3

Posted on August 25, 2015. Filed under: Career Management, Work Issues |

biz260

by Sheree Van Vreede (@rezlady)

A couple of years ago, after being somewhat frustrated with myself for my inability to disconnect from work during my family vacation, I published the following post. Now each summer I like to re-post it as a reminder of what a vacation is supposed to really mean:

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As a career professional, I spend lots of time discussing benefits packages with my clients. What I’ve discovered is that the type of benefits package offered by a company can often trump salary for many people (or at least be a strong deciding factor). And although health care is a main topic of concern, perhaps the next biggest issue is vacation time.

I have witnessed many clients use vacation time as a bargaining chip when negotiating a work contract. I have witnessed many clients brag about the generous vacation packages offered by this company or that. I have even witnessed some clients leave companies over lack of vacation time (yes, it’s true) or over demands that they “check in” while on vacation.

So without a doubt, vacation time matters…or so we say…

In a discussion on Twitter regarding Gen-Y work-related issues, participants were adamant that this next generation of workers will not stand for anything less than a proper work-life balance. Period. End of story. They are not caving in, so companies better beware! (It was all so very…romantic.)

To which, I say, “Phooey.”

That’s right. I don’t believe it.

And here’s why…

In today’s work environment, taking a true vacation (you know, one where you disconnect and actually hang out with family and friends instead of, well, working) is getting harder, not easier, to do.

And it has nothing to do with the amount of vacation time you receive, and even less to do with the company’s expectations that you “check in.”

The truth is that we live in an age that no longer has the ability to understand what it means to “disconnect” (I mean, after all, we seem to want to keep all those high-school friends we were so anxious to shed 20 years ago now that we have Facebook) and we secretly (or maybe not so secretly) have disdain for people who do achieve total “disconnection” (“I texted you.” “I e-mailed you.” “I messaged you on Facebook.” “And you took a week to respond to me!”). We’ve certainly lost touch with what a true emergency is. We just don’t want to wait. (Remember when people used to respect “dinner time” or “business hours”?) Frankly, we want people to be available to us 24×7 (not that we would say it like that, of course).

We also live in an age where people are clamoring to work for companies like Google that have turned their corporate compounds into playgrounds, complete with massage services and pool halls, not to mention fun activities for the rest of the family. I mean, it’s vacation everyday there, right? Hmmm, I’m pretty sure Google still expects you to work. (“Hey, we’ll let you relax; just don’t go too far away or disconnect from us while you’re doing it. See, we’ll even let your kids come and hang out! They’ll forget your working because they’ll be having so much fun.”)

For sure we don’t like our companies telling us what to do, like to check in during vacation, and we despise it when the office calls us during our cruise (“How dare they?” We get so indignant), but there we are willingly doing it on our own anyway, sending all kinds of mixed signals.

“It’s better if I clear out my e-mail before I go back. Otherwise, it will take the whole first day in the office to do it.”

“It’s no big deal if I just sit it on this one conference call.”

“I’m not working; I’m just checking e-mail.”

Now, I know, there are the true renegades out there. They are adamant that they are not available during their vacation or family time. But have you ever noticed how defiantly they have to state their case? “I’m on vacation, and I will NOT be disturbed!” The reason is because they know that even though everyone back at the office is going, “Oh Judy is on a well-deserved vacation, and she does not want to be disturbed,” they also are just waiting for some type of “emergency” to crop up so they can do just that, disturb Judy. After all, they each took phone calls and answered e-mails when they were out. I mean, just who does Judy think she is, after all? Who can’t respond to one little text?

As employees, we are a hot mess.

We demand our vacations and our family time, and then we let guilt or our sense of obligation (I mean, you did “promise” to see this project or that one all the way through, right?) linger during that precious time.

And companies know it.

(Why else do you think so many are so willing to offer up lots of vacation time and buy us shiny new iPhones? “What? You’re willing to work from home? You’re dedicated to sleeping with your iPhone? You’re going to take your laptop on your European vacation? Sure! Take all the time off you need!”)

Believe me, I am no better. I’ve caved more times than I can count, and although I have had some nice vacations, I have still worked through just about all of them…not really reaping the full benefit of what the vacation could offer me. I’ve never really disconnected. And although I have cried and moaned about why people won’t leave me alone while I am away, there I am “checking in” here and there, afraid someone might need me. (Ah, maybe that’s it! We need to be needed…)

So, no, I’m sorry, but achieving work-life balance is not likely for today’s or tomorrow’s young worker, especially a driven one, and neither is successfully disconnecting on vacation. It takes years of hard work and a thick skin to cultivate, and even then you’re still wondering whether it’s ever totally possible.

I mean, there really is something to be said for clearing out all those e-mails before you go back to work. 🙂

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The Tech Startup Phenomenon: Where Do You Stand?

Posted on July 28, 2015. Filed under: Career Management, Consulting/Contracting, Executive Job Search, Job Market Trends, Work Issues |

startupsMy team and I produce a lot of online content for both of our sites (ITtechExec and NoddlePlace), from blog posts to podcasts to webinars, and we engage in many group discussions on LinkedIn and in Twitter chats.

Time and again one of the most popular topics among today’s technical leaders has to do with startups.

It seems everyone has some opinion about the general internal culture at startups and whether they are the better work environment.

So to get a better sense of where my network lies on this issue, we published the following blog post earlier this year, and I am looking for your comments.

What say you? Would you like to work for one? Have you worked for one, and if so, was it a good or bad experience? What are some key things to consider in choosing one?

We had a lively discussion on our ITtechExec Facebook page when the article first posted, much of which resulted in the majority of respondents stating that startups were “great, but be prepared to wear many, many hats.” Do you concur?

Add your comments here or at the link below. Any insight you can share would be great!

The Real Skinny: What It’s Really Like to Work at a Startup

 

Stephen Van VreedeAbout Stephen—-

Stephen Van Vreede is not your average IT/technical résumé writer. He provides career strategy and concierge job search solutions for senior (15+ years) (ITtechExec) and up-and-coming (NoddlePlace) (5-15 years) tech and technical operations leaders. Stephen and his team focus on building simplified, targeted, and certain career move campaigns, be it an external search or an internal promotion. He is co-author of UNcommon with career development leader Brian Tracy (out June 11, 2015). Contact Stephen directly at Stephen@ittechexec.com or send him an invite at https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephenvanvreede. To see whether Stephen and his team are a good fit for you, take their free (and anonymous) 1-minute compatibility quiz, Is the ITtechExec Approach a Good Match for You? Also, feel free to take his complimentary resume self-assessment quiz, How Certain Can You Be About Your Technical Resume? You might be surprised by what you find out!

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