There's no doubt that having a mentor can help in your quest for career greatness. But there's an awful lot of uncertainty about how, exactly, to find a mentor.
Finding a mentor isn't as hard as people make it out to be. It takes time and patience, and you need to be proactive. You also have to know what you're doing.
Instead of waiting for a mentor to find you, you need to first identify someone who can help you out. Then you need to get him or her vested in your career so that, eventually, they will want you to succeed.
Here's how to do it.
I've always been confident speaking in public. Mostly because, when I was about 12, I entered a county-wide public speaking contest. (People say public speaking is terrifying, but for me, there was no way it could be more humiliating than gym class.) And I learned that being a successful public speaker is not about what you're saying.
My topic was Japanese kites. My parents had lived in Japan before I was born, and they brought back a Japanese kite that hung in my room. It was about ten feet long and segmented into about a dozen sections. I thought it would make a good prop for my speech.
The talk went pretty well. I didn't drop any of my index cards, and I think everyone could hear me. At the end of my eight minutes, I folded up the kite and gave my conclusion.
Everyone in the audience suddenly snapped to attention. Even my parents, who had watched me practice, had a surprised look on their faces.
Right then, I knew that I had won. That boy in the blue blazer, who seemed like he was going to win? No way.
Here's the thing: I didn't win for speaking. I won for folding.
We're not so sure about this whole Leaning In thing. Are women really not leaning in? Should we be leaning in more, and if so, how far forward are we talking? When is it OK, if ever, to lean back? What about leaning sideways -- are we good with that?
And does anyone know a good chiropractor, just in case?
There's no debate that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is a powerful, successful, confident, lucky, rich woman. Excellent. We need more of those. Sandberg's new book, Lean In: Women, Work and The Will to Live, has renewed the discussion about the lack of women at the upper echelons of businesses and other organizations in the U.S.
As Sandberg writes, "Women hold around 14 percent of Fortune 500 executive-officer positions and about 17 percent of board seats, numbers that have barely changed over the last decade." Yet multiple studies have shown that companies with gender-diverse management teams and boards perform better than those that are run exclusively, or almost exclusively, by men.
Sandberg's conclusion is that women need to learn how to play better in a man's world. Her suggestions, in part, include smiling, saying "we" instead of "I," praising the boss, and working extremely hard to prove you've got what it takes to rise to the top even as you juggle work with raising a family.
This is just not a modern way to think.
That was my first thought when Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, through her HR chief, decreed that Yahoo employees were forbidden from working from home. It reminded me of Mitt Romney's infamous "binders of women" comment, or of when I worked for a guy who couldn't shake his reliance on military metaphors.
These aren't the world's most egregious examples of bad management, but they nonetheless have a way of making the environment seem rather last-century.
The pundits who are debating whether Mayer is right (more face time equals more innovation) or wrong (telecommuting is good for productivity) are missing the point.
They, and, it seems, Mayer, are looking at telecommuting as a nice-to-have. As a perk, of about the same level of importance as a company smartphone or free food on Fridays or the ability to wear FiveFinger shoes to the office in the name of business casual.
It turns out that we just didn’t speak up.
I thought, that by writing about scantily-clad women hired as spokesmodels for this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, and by asking the Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on the show, why they don’t ban them, I was pretty clearly saying I didn’t think booth babes belonged at a business function.
Not according to the CEA, which says they haven’t received a “single formal complaint” from attendees or exhibitors about the use of scantily-clad women to pitch products. Apparently, negative news stories by reporters and bloggers attending the show don’t count.
Sans complaints, the likelihood the CEA will reconsider its exhibitor policy is about nil. The current policy recommends companies “consider how your chosen presenters will most positively reflect your brand to the diverse group of CES attendees.” If your idea of “most positively reflect” is painted women dressed in thongs and pasties and covered in body paint, as was the case for one of this year’s exhibitors, well, says the CEA, go for it.
Obviously, what the CEA needs are some formal complaints. So I set up an online petition asking that the organization adopt a dress code policy for its exhibitors that essentially prohibits the use of booth babes (but not spokesmodels). I’ve got nothing against attractive women. All I’m asking is that they be dressed in everyday clothes -- maybe matching the dress code back at a company’s headquarters.