Career Advancement

Yoda: The Best Mentor Ever

Mentor Yoda“Help you I can, yes.”
– Yoda

In the original Star Wars trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker decides that he needs help on his quest to become a Jedi knight. Luke needs guidance and training so he can unlock his true potential and master the Force.

Luke travels to an isolated, swamp-ridden planet, where he finds Yoda who helps Luke to learn and grow by facing his fears and building up his confidence. Yoda, a wise and trusted counselor, becomes Luke’s mentor.

Yoda played an important role in Luke’s life – he helped Luke grow as a person and served as his guide for his Jedi journey. Their relationship developed over time, and Luke reaped the rewards of Yoda’s wisdom and experience.

Yoda set difficult challenges for his protégé, and encouraged him to figure out ways to accomplish the tasks. That’s where a mentor differs from a boss or a friend.

A boss is focused on the job or task at hand. They will tell you how to do something or show you how to do it. A mentor helps you believe in yourself.

A friend will tell you the things you want to hear, while a mentor will tell you the things you need to hear. Yoda did not sugarcoat the truth. Instead, he voiced his concerns and feelings directly and openly.

A mentor can have a significant impact on your personal and professional development. This week I will explore different aspects of the mentor-protégé relationship. At the conclusion of the series, you should have a better understanding of the advantages of having a mentor. Stay tuned – and may the Force be with you.

Mentoring Can Be a Boost to Your Company

mentor career boost“Ecologists tell us that a tree planted in a clearing of an old forest will grow more successfully than one planted in an open field. The reason, it seems, is that the roots of the forest tree are able to follow the intricate pathways created by former trees and thus embed themselves more deeply. Similarly, human beings thrive best when we grow in the presence of those who have gone before. Our roots may not follow every available pathway, but we are able to become more fully ourselves because of the presence of others.”
– Lois J. Zachary, The Mentor’s Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships

Learning is the fundamental process in mentoring, so both parties – the mentor and the protégé – need to have a connection for meaningful learning to take place.

It’s also important for the mentor to demonstrate a genuine interest in the protégé. And a mentor has to have the desire to share their knowledge and experience. Their reward comes from seeing their protégé grow and develop under their tutelage. As the protégé gains experience and standing in the company, the success of the protégé will naturally be reflected on the mentor.

But above all, there is genuine satisfaction of playing a pivotal role in another individual’s success. The mentor’s vision and values will be a part of the protégé for the remainder of their career.

Meaningful learning will have a profound effect on the mentor, the protégé, and quite possibly the company as a whole. According to Dr. Zachary, mentoring can:

• Help retain the next generation of leaders
• Improve leadership and managerial skills
• Develop new leaders
• Enhance career development
• Place individuals with higher potential on the fast track professionally

Strong mentoring relationships are positively associated with career satisfaction and employee retention. And people who have mentors are more confident, enthusiastic and successful in their jobs.

Does your company have a formal mentoring program? How has it benefited you?

Don’t Complain, Communicate: Boost Your Career with 7 Tips

Yesterday, I covered why complaining is dangerous to your career. That said, it’s important to understand the fine line between communicating and complaining, because one can hurt your career while the other can enhance it.


One of the most critical skills for employees seeking to grow professionally is communication. Sometimes, it’s necessary to communicate about negative things. Perhaps you need to tell your boss about an abusive co-worker. Maybe as a manager, you need to deal with an employee who messed up an entire product line.


Excellent communicators know that even when they’re dealing with negative subjects, they can keep things positive through what they say and how they say it. You can communicate professionally and make sure you don’t cross the line into the complaining zone by following these tips.


1. Prepare first. When you don’t take time to prepare your thoughts, it’s easy for communication about negative things to become complaining. Think of yourself as a politician who has bad news to deliver to the media – you wouldn’t go into it without well thought out points. Take the time to sort out your ideas, cool off if necessary and prepare your comments before taking on a conversation about a not-so-happy subject.


2. Communicate formally. Most gripe sessions are spontaneous, unplanned, secret and informal. To keep yourself from falling into the complaint trap when it’s time to bring up something negative, do so formally with an in-person meeting.


3. Don’t make it personal. This one is tricky, especially when other people are involved. But you should avoid making things personal when dealing with a negative situation. Otherwise, you’ll become too emotional and won’t be able to handle the situation with a level head. To keep things professional on the job, discuss issues, not people.


4. Discuss the problem briefly. Make sure you outline the basic issue, but don’t give more than a few minutes to communicate it, or you will end up in the midst of a gripe session. If you’re talking to someone else involved in the situation, you will need to take responsibility for limiting this part of the discussion, or you may find yourself dragged down a long path of negativity.


5. Focus on solutions. To keep the conversation grounded and to avoid getting personal, focus on talking about solutions, outcomes and opportunities. Sometimes, worst case scenarios are opportunities in disguise. Talk about what positive changes can be made or what needs to be done to address the situation fully.


6. Follow through. Because it’s a self-serving, emotional process, complaining rarely results in action. It usually starts and ends with negativity. To make sure your hard work and effort in addressing a bad situation properly don’t end up getting lumped in with complaining, follow through on your proposed solutions with actions to change things for the better.


7. Be positive. People often say that complaining is contagious, but positive communication is as well. No matter what negative things are going on, put a smile on your face and focus on the positive aspects of your work, life, co-workers, family and employers. You will realize that thinking positively changes your perspective and helps you communicate rather than complain – and it rubs off on the people around you, too.


Have you ever been in a situation where you found yourself complaining when you were trying to communicate? How do you make sure you stay professional and avoid workplace negativity?

Pick the Job That’s Right for You

My sister-in-law recently received her bachelor’s degree in nursing and began searching for a job. She was a licensed practical nurse for 12 years prior to her graduation – so she had a lot of experience in her field, which helped her job search. She received several job offers and is having a terrible time trying to figure out which job to take. She has three small children, so picking the right job is crucial to her work/life balance.


This job dilemma is a good one to have; however, some people aren’t quite prepared to handle this situation when it arises.  Of course, in the grand scheme of things, you must take into account all factors when trying to find the right job choice for your career. When trying to determine the right job, keep these tips in mind:


Take time to compare: Don’t say yes immediately. Make sure to take some time to evaluate each job offer. Write down the pros and cons of each offer, and go over them with your family or someone you trust. If you have additional questions, write them down and call the potential employer back for answers. Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. You want to make sure it is a good fit for everyone involved.


Focus on your priorities: Money isn’t everything, so make sure that you understand everything each potential employer has to offer. Check out their benefits and healthcare package. Do they offer corporate perks or bonuses? If you receive a great salary but the company doesn’t offer any benefits program, or career advancement opportunities, is the pay worth it?


Be honest: Let other prospective employers know that you were offered another job and you are trying to determine the best fit. You don’t have to divulge any information about the salary or who is offering the job if you don’t want to. Let them know that you need some time to evaluate the offer, and give them a time frame in which you will get back to them. Most employers will understand if you ask for a few days to think.


Don’t back out: Make sure that you are respectful to all prospective employers. After you decide which job you are going to take, don’t back out. Once you have accepted a job offer, the company lets all other applicants know that the position has been filled. If you back out, the employer has to start all over, and it doesn’t usually reflect well on you.


You may love the idea of having multiple job offers, but the anxiety of picking between them can be tremendous. By following these tips, you can help narrow the field down to the one offer you want to accept.

Have you ever juggled multiple job offers? What was the deciding factor – money, benefits, time off?

Don’t Let a Roadblock Derail Your Raise Negotiation

roadblock your raiseYou’ve done your homework, booked the meeting with your boss and prepared yourself mentally. You’ve made the pitch that you are well deserving of a raise based on your performance, progress toward your goals and value to the organization.

Then your boss throws you a curve ball, “So, Peter, what’s happening? Ah, now, are you going to go ahead and have those TPS reports for us this afternoon?”

You are unsure where the conversation is headed when you boss adds, “Oh, and next Friday is Hawaiian shirt day. So, you know, if you want to you can go ahead and wear a Hawaiian shirt and jeans.”

If handled correctly, this blatant attempt to change the subject can work to your advantage. This tactic is used frequently by managers because it gives them the opportunity to regroup and hopefully discuss something else. You need to remember that this is your meeting, and you’re on a mission. Here are a few suggestions to help you reach your goal.

What do I have to do? Ask your boss to explain the career path that will allow you to increase your responsibilities as well as your bank account. Set time tables and measurements so you (and more importantly your manager) will know what’s expected.

Take responsibility. Offer to take on additional responsibilities and have your raise be reassessed in 90 days if your manager is pleased with your performance. Point out that you will be doing more work for the same pay. If your boss is open to this, consider suggesting that the raise be retroactive to the day of your meeting. There’s no sense leaving three months of extra money on the table.

Offer alternatives. There are other ways to get the raise without increasing your salary. A 5% raise for someone making $35,000 a year equates to an additional $1,750. If you know this going into your meeting why not suggest a one-time performance bonus equal to your raise. If that’s too much for your manager to digest, offer quarterly installment based on performance.

Get another job offer. I’m hesitant to offer this as a suggestion because it can backfire. You might mention that you have another job offer, and your boss will give you an empty box and show you to the door along with your last pay check. If you are going to attempt to use a job offer as leverage to get a raise, be prepared to leave.

Good employees are even more valuable in today’s tight labor market. It will cost the company more money to replace you and retrain a replacement than it would cost to give you that well-deserved 4-6% pay increase. Sometimes you have to rattle the cage to get your manager’s attention.

Best of luck to you, and let me know how it goes.

How to Get the Raise You Deserve

deserved raiseWhen was your last raise? If it was more than a year ago you may be losing money.

In 2006, the U.S. inflation rate was 3.24%. That means goods and services cost more today than last year. The price of gas has increased. Milk costs more. Cable costs more. Everything costs more.

If you haven’t had a recent pay increase, you are actually making less today than you were yesterday. So, what’s stopping you from getting that raise?

Many people are afraid to ask for more money. It could be conflict avoidance, fear of rejection or that you don’t know how to pull it off. If you are one of those people, I have some suggestions to help you successfully add some green to your future paychecks.

Know the market value of your job. Research how much your peers are making at other companies. It is dangerous to compare job titles with other companies because you might not be comparing apples to apples. Your best bet is to compare job duties or job descriptions. Online job boards and sites like Salary.com can help you develop a pay range for your position based on your job duties.

Timing is important. It’s not wise to broach the subject when your boss is in a bad mood or on a tight deadline. You should also avoid asking for a raise right after you screwed up a project, went over budget or survived a layoff.  The best time would be after you completed a significant project or after you’ve taken on more responsibilities and proven you’re up to new challenges. Many companies create their budgets in the fourth quarter of the year. Employee compensation is an important part of each department’s budget so it’s best to get your request in early.

Stand strong. Don’t just walk into your boss’s office and demand a raise. You’d better put together a convincing case of why you deserve to make more. Examine your goals, progress and accomplishments. This is your opportunity to sell yourself. If you go in unprepared, be ready to get a quick brush off.

No boot kissing. Whining and groveling are pathetic in most business scenarios. You will be rewarded for your performance and confidence. Stating you need the raise because you’re getting divorced, having a baby or you need to get out of debt are not legitimate reasons. Any raise is based on your work performance. Not on what happens at home.

This should help you prepare, but it’s up to you to book the meeting and to make it happen. If you don’t ask the question, you’ll never get the answer.

This is evident in a recent study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University. Researchers found that four times as many men (51%) as women (12.5%) pushed for a better deal in negotiating a job offer. Not surprising, the individuals who asked for more money received 7.4% more than those who accepted the offer without debate.

The study cited a primary reason that women avoid salary negotiations. Women who pushed for more money were seen as “less nice” and were at times viewed negatively.

Have you recently experienced a successful raise negotiation? Do you feel you’d be looked at negatively if you ask for a raise? Are there different rules for women and men?

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss the appropriate course of action if you meet some roadblocks when asking for more money.

Working in the Great Communication Gap

Do you ever feel like you and your boss never exactly see eye to eye? Do you sometimes wish you knew the whole picture so you could understand why you’ve been tasked a certain assignment? Have you ever been blindsided by change that impacted your job or work environment?

If so, you know how frustrating it is to work in an environment where communication is dysfunctional. In the work world, one of the biggest complaints of both workers and managers is bad communication. And, your relationship with your boss is the one that will probably impact your overall job satisfaction, as well as your career the most. That’s why it’s vital to proactively communicate with your boss. In the book How to Be the Employee Your Company Can’t Live Without, author Glenn Shepard phrases it this way: “Answer the questions your boss didn’t ask.”

This can mean volunteering for tasks before you’re asked, asking for help when you need it or telling your boss you are interested in career advancement opportunities. For more on this, check out our podcasts on the book. You can see how taking the initiative to communicate with your boss really can boost your career.

However, the best communication is a two way street. With that in mind, if you could tell your boss one thing they could do that would make your job easier, what would it be? Vote in our poll below.