Success? Definitely a Journey.

I was asked not too long ago to talk about building blocks for success… and specifically what my building blocks have been for my success. Odd, I thought. I don’t really think of myself as “successful.” I love my work, I adore my family and I’m pretty darn happy. But for me, I guess because I’m still in a growth phase of my career, I’d just never slapped the success label on any part of my life.

But request made me think… mostly because once I’d said yes I’d certainly have to come up with something to fill 30 or 45 minutes on this topic. So I got a little existential and pondered,

How did I get here?

For the purposes of my presentation and discussion, I defined three “building blocks”: the intangibles, the skills and the glue.

The Intangibles

What are your values? I identify three that have been important for me.

  • Empathy – the ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes. I’ve talked a lot about empathy here. You can read it here.
  • Generosity – generosity of time and spirit lets you put yourself out there and trust me, you’ll learn more than you teach.
  • Curiosity – be insatiably curious and always excited to figure out what’s next.

The Skills

You can’t be successful without the skills to do your job.

  • Writing – communicating clearly in writing and verbally is crucial regardless of your industry. Get some practice, get an editor and build your skills.
  • Verbal – you don’t necessarily have to give presentations, but you have to be able to communicate your ideas clearly and out loud. To other people.
  • Industry Specific – In PR, it’s writing and speaking that’s the crux of what we do. But it’s increasingly important to ¬†undersand technology (web, video, audio), too.

The Glue

Even if you have all the above pieces, you still have to have the glue that pulls it all together.

  • Networks: online and offline networking with other professionals. Learn to build your networks.
  • Mentor: My mentor has been pivotal in my career, and in turn I enjoy being a mentor, too. I’ve written about the mentor-mentee relationship before.
  • Friends & family: Pretty basic concept. My friends and family keep me grounded. And my partner is the household manager for our family, which really allows me to do what I do.

You can click through the Prezi here.

Building Blocks for Success on Prezi

What are your building blocks?

Building a Strong Mentor-Mentee Relationship

My mentor has been an important part of my professional life and, over the years, a trusted friend, confidante and adviser in many aspects of my life. She’s given me opportunities to earn experience in areas of public relations that I might not otherwise have had and is always ready with advice if I ask. If I don’t need advice, she’ll just listen.

We met when I volunteered for a nonprofit organization as an undergrad where she was serving as the communications director. We had a chance to work together on maybe a project or two before she left. I continued to volunteer for the organization and frequently asked my mentor for her advice on projects.

It wasn’t long before she asked me to help her with a client project – doing some basic media relations work. That was 8 years ago.

I am not exaggerating when I say that my career would not be where it is without her guidance and advice (and trust!). I’m a better person and a better PR professional because she’s in my life.

I think I’m pretty lucky. But how did I build this relationship and how can you seek out and develop one that works for you? I also asked my twitter network. I’ve noted their advice with a twitter ID after each point.

Being a mentee.

Being a “good” mentee has to be a part of figuring out a mentoring relationship. From the very beginning, think about this relationship as two-way. As a mentee, you have responsibilities:

  • Know yourself. Know what you’re looking for in a mentor and can identify the qualities that you want to grow in your own life. Think about your values and priorities. For example, for me a mentor without the same family-focus that I have would’ve been a problem. I need someone who understands, and encourages, work-life balance (mostly because I can forget the “life” part). (@AmandaJones)
  • Talk about your goals. Being clear about your goals and aspirations will help your mentor be clear about what you expect. (@sarahannelilly)
  • Do outstanding work and be enthusiastic. It’s rewarding to mentor someone who is learning and growing and doing work that you can both be proud of. If you’re seeking career guidance, show that you’re actively working toward those goals and making progress. (@krhodey)
  • Listen. Listen to what your mentor has to say. Only you can make the right decision for you, but good advice is valuable. Showing that you’re listening can strengthen the relationship and encourage your mentor to continue sharing his or her insights and experience. (@RichBecker & @aplambeck)
  • Reciprocate. Everyone has something to offer. Figure out how you can give back to the relationship.

Finding a mentor.

  • Set some goals. Be clear to yourself about what you’re looking for in a mentor relationship. A mentor can be helpful in many ways, and often more than one mentor is necessary and appropriate.
  • Consider logistics. Do you need a mentor who works at your company? or would you like (or need) someone from outside the organization?
  • Be proactive. Just ask! I was flattered to be asked to be a mentor recently. It really only took an email and I was on board. I also recognized that she and I would be a good fit and so it was easy to say yes. (@ntindall)
  • Ask for referrals. Ask friends, your peers or family to help identify a good mentor. You may be able to extend the possibilities far beyond your own personal network.

Being a mentor

As I mentioned early on, the mentor-mentee relationship must be two-way. The mentor also has some responsibilities besides just sharing what s/he knows. Two important “duties” stand out to me. My mentors have excelled in these areas, and that has truly benefited our relationship.

Listen. Listen to what your mentee says and needs to meet his or her goals. Clearly s/he respects you and your work, but everyone has a different life path. So your path might not be the right path. (@RichBecker)

Be genuinely interested. It is flattering when you’re asked to be a mentor, but it must be more than an ego boost for you. You need to be genuinely interested in your mentee’s life and career and eager to help meet the goals he or she has set.

Setting expectations.

Women for Hire has a great list of questions to consider at the outset of mentor relationship. I don’t know that something this formal will work for everyone, but it’s worth considering these questions and determining if the answers are important to creating a functional relationship. A few of the questions worth considering:

  • How often will you meet? Before you approach your mentor, have a good idea of how much time you’d like from her. Do you need to meet once a month or once every other month?
  • Under what circumstances will you meet? Coffee shop, home, office? Morning, lunch, evening, weekends?
  • How you will stay in touch? By phone or email? Ask what is easiest for her and be willing to accommodate that.
  • Confidentiality. This is a must on both sides, especially if you work for the same company or know many of the same people professionally. You’re likely to discuss work situations and professional relationships in the course of your work together, and you must agree to keep all information just between you.
  • Honesty. If you can’t exchange ideas freely there’s no use in getting started

So what are you waiting for? Just ask! It won’t cost you more than some time and a cup of coffee and the rewards can be tremendous.

If you have (or are) a mentor, I’d love to hear your tips and stories! Please share in the comments.

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