This might be a controversial entry describing what happened recently.
A hand full of situations of professionals who have asked for
specific mentoring assistance from me are shared.
HE WAS LISTENING ALL THE TIME IN SEEKING A POSITION
MM has a world of experience going for him. He is a service
veteran who returned to graduate school and has finished his PhD
in materials science. We worked hard on his public relations
documents and interviewing skills.
He told me when we met in June that he landed a full time position
in a government engineering facility. saying he was most comfortable
in the military environment. I congratulated him on his achievement,
but offered my thoughts that he may find his career stifled. If he was
happy, secure and challenged by what he was tasked to do, I was pleased
Speaking with one of his classmates, I learned that he was starting a
new assignment in the US PTO (patent and trademark office). Now,
I was pleased. He was listening– landing one position in government
is like getting your foot in the door and other opportunities can open
up to you.
TECHNICAL SKILLS ALONE WILL NOT GET YOU A POSITION.
IN START UPS ESPECIALLY
AG asked if we could have a conversation about his start-up
venture. He had formulated a good idea and was seeking advisers
and help getting started. We agreed that he could pick me up at
the airport and discuss things over lunch.
He made his “idea pitch” to me with enthusiasm, passion and promise.
He even asked for a small amount of follow up involvement. Then,
I had to ask some “stinging questions.” Does he have mentors in
the field? which I learned from Tom Ashbrook’s podcast. I asked AG
if he was planning to have a “board of advisers?” While he did not
he thought it was a solid idea.
Did he have a timeline, first product innovation and a first customer
in mind that will shake out the bugs? He and his collaborator had
initial notions and a start, but it is still in the formative stages.
Then, I asked for a business card. He had one but it did not
describe what he and his business can do for customers. Then,
we reviewed his personal performance–listening skills, body
language, small talk, willingness to ‘go the extra mile’ and more.
AG is technically skilled. Technical skills alone do not get
you the job or assignment. So, my role as a mentor was to
provide honest, objective feedback. His role was to assess
it and provide appropriate follow-up. It should involve three
1- donor motives; were my motives in his interest?
2- idea merit; what was the merit of each point. Did he note
and create a strong plan to follow up and execute?
3- response; what will emerge from the ideas and assessment
yielding productive results.
My future involvement will depend on how well he responds. If
he only comes back with items he wished for me to do, it may
take a long time to respond. If he creates a “punch-list” in
project management lingo– mentors, board of advisers, first
customer, first product, business card and such, in addition to his
request, the connection was made.
Speaking with a mentor is a two way street. Communication is essential.
FOR A POST DOC, CHOOSE A “ROCK STAR”, DO YOUR
HOMEWORK AND KNOW YOUR CONTACTS REPRESENT
YOUR FIRST PROFESSIONAL ASSIGNMENT.
Several people seek help figuring out what they will do next.
None want to follow an academic path and each is in a
different technical field.
So, we work on identifying their “target rock stars” that will
enable them to land their desired position. Once they have their
list we reduce it down to their top three and work on each one
separately by revising their master resume into their targeted
working document. Then hard work goes into making an initial
contact, through a common associate, at a meeting, through
their graduate PI, or other “warm” connection. Followed by
a winning cover letter of request.
As we have mentioned before, special considerations need
to be incorporated into this letter, revealing what you seek,
that you have read and benefited from his/her work, that you
have ideas of your own, and that you would be willing to
write proposals for funding. It is not going to be successful
if you cut and paste something someone else has written.
It needs to be authentic.
This role of mentor I sense is different than the student’s
perspective of a mentor.