In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Elizabeth Holmes reports on the lack of career mentors for 20-somethings entering today’s job market. Here’s an excerpt explaining why:
The mentor-mentee relationship used to be a partnership between a manager and a new hire. The experienced boss coached his rookie. When the newbie looked good, the boss looked better. Now, with managers stuck volleying emails, tackling expense-account systems and dodging high-velocity blame, time for teaching has evaporated.
She says the HR answer to this has been the assigned-mentor program which matches rookies with someone who’s been there awhile. The problem is that these peer advisers “have no attachments to their mentee and no stake in the person’s future.” As a result, they’ll show them where the office supplies are but not much else.
My first professional job was in a U.S. Senator’s military liaison office. I’ll never forget Colonel Miller’s kind but inattentive management style. It was a sink or swim atmosphere, which has its own pros and cons. Since then I’ve had the privilege of being in a supervisory role and would like to share some general tips for all you mentor deprived rookies that may help you transition well into the workplace.
- Be on time. Even if the boss has flexible work hours and comes and goes as he pleases, don’t assume that gives you license to.
- Be eager to listen. Don’t talk too much. When you’re in a meeting or have face time with the boss, listen well, take notes and ask questions when needed. That said, don’t be afraid to offer your opinion. Just wait for an appropriate opening.
- Be eager to work. Having a “can do” attitude goes a long way when starting out. Most bosses don’t expect great wonders from new hires. But they do expect someone who’s willing to try anything that’s asked of them.
- Be a good steward of the work day. Take care not to spend an inordinate amount of time surfing websites of personal interest, sending personal emails, and talking on your cell to friends. You can do things on your own time, over lunch if it’s permitted.
- Be well groomed. Don’t get too crazy expressing yourself with your hair, head, facial or otherwise. And look sharp whatever your office dress code.
- Ask questions. The old adage that there’s no such thing as a dumb question is true. Put aside your fear of looking stupid and ask lots of questions.
- Take responsibility for your mistakes. When you mess up, own it. Don’t shift the blame or make excuses. Be direct and say “the fault is mine.” Then move on.
- Stay put. Unless you’re going through some unbearable circumstance, stick around for at least a year before moving on.
I could literally go on and on but these should get you started. And I know these seem fairly obvious, but you’d be surprised at how even seasoned professionals forget the little things.