How to ask someone to be your mentor

I have a suggestion for everyone who has picked someone that they want to be their mentor.



I am always amazed when people say that they have been working up the courage to ask me for a number of months.

It makes me wonder, am I that hard to talk to? 

If you think you are the only one afraid to ask, I’m happy to inform you that you are not.

A good idea is to ask for something very short and easy to refuse — that makes it more comfortable  for everyone.   If they don’t want to do it, they don’t feel too badly — it wasn’t a big ask.  If you are told “no”, it’s easy to regroup, as it’s not a big rejection.

It should go something like this:

Ask for 15-20 minutes to get some advice — don’t throw down asking for mentorship, that’s like proposing on the first date.

If that first meeting goes well, then ask if s/he would mind a more regular arrangement.  Depending on the level of the person, this might be 1/2 hour a few times a year or at most monthly.

Again, make it easy.     Easy is the brand you are looking for as a mentee (note: not desperate or needy).

Good luck asking, I’ll try to write more about what to do when they say “yes”, because I know they will.

High achiever career trap

I’m not sure if it is my job in engineering or my background in economics, but I tend to notice patterns.

One pattern I see a lot, is what I call the high achiever career trap.

I call it a trap which is a bit unfair, but only a bit…

This tends to happen to people who are very good at their jobs.  Often so good, there is no incentive for their career to progress.

The current manager is motivated for them to stay exactly where they are, as the work is being done so well.

The organization has trouble imagining the person in any other role.

The individual finds themselves frighteningly comfortable in their star status.

and then what? 

A whole lot of the same,  is what.

To get unstuck, you need to put a plan in place to get out of the trap.  I must warn you this is not easy.

The first step will be to acknowledge that  you are part of the problem.  You are probably happy with the fact that you are indispensable and you might enjoy the comfort of being the best at what you do.

This is fine — unless it’s not.

So the first thing to do is decide what is important to you?

You should not decide you are trapped based upon ego or comparing yourself with others.  That will breed dissatisfaction.  You should be thinking about what you are achieving.  I do mean achieving… if you are really just looking for more money, I can say with confidence, you should get tips on that from someone else ;-).

When I coach people, I spend a lot of time digging with them to discover their real career objective.  Most have a very hard time answering this question.  If the goal is professional growth, you must get unstuck.

Actual growth does not happen when you are doing what you already know how to do.. growth comes when you are learning to do something you don’t know how to do.

You have to be willing to step away from being the best, and push yourself to something that requires you to change.  Something that requires stretch.  Something that scares you.   Something that might bring failure.

I hope to help people, to separate the desire for career growth from ego.  To move away from the traps — and to push themselves toward growth.

This is not for everyone and it is not easy. 

It’s what deliberate practice is all about.  Hard work, done on purpose, to yield new and amazing results.

Tips from a working mom

I get asked a lot about this — how do you manage to have a “big job” and a family?

First, I want to be very clear — I am not a poster child for balance or sanity or success.

Just like you, I have days where I feel like I have it under control and days where I feel it is all falling apart.

What I do have that might be unique, is a general belief, that this is normal.

People never tell you the truth of their lives.  The piles of laundry they have not done, the second grade science project they messed up, the school assembly they arrived at the wrong date/time/location.  Rarely do you hear those stories that show someone being a horrible mom.

I’m no different, I’m not going to tell you those stories either.

What I will tell you, is my belief that the most important trick is cut yourself a break.  Your kids think you are a terrible parent when you expect them to eat carrots, or require them to brush their teeth before bed.

Being to blame is part of the job description.

Get over it, and quit blaming the fact that you work, as the reason you got it wrong.  I promise, if you were a stay at home mom, you would do stuff wrong too.  It’s called being human.

The next big piece of advice I could suggest is to get help.

Now, here I am very fortunate, I have more options than most to help me.  What I notice in about this topic, is that many people do not get help due to  guilt.

I find guilt not helpful so I tend to skip it.  Seriously.

I can say with confidence, that the biggest factor for my career success is how much help I get at home.  I’m not kidding — I get help for a surprising number of things including, grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, house cleaning, yard work, social scheduling, kids sports, Brownies, etc.

If there is someone who can do it as well (or most times better) than I can, I give the job away.  I haven’t purchased a birthday gift for a kids party in over three years.  I see the inside of a grocery store about twice a year.

I’m a complete domestic failure.

I keep the jobs that I love or feel are critical (to me).  For me, this is often things like bedtime story reading, parent-teacher conferences and a subset of performances/activities (where I always am sure to get photo proof of my attendance, as I have near litigators for offspring).

To net this all out, I think the trick to being a great and successful working mom, is to do less and feel good about it.

What are your tricks?

Really? Another blog?

I know I know, I’m blogging less not more these days.

Why would I start a new blog?

I’ve come to realize that I blog about two very different things.  The first is closer to my work — technology, systems, human resources, organizations.  That is very clearly ideal for TalentedApps.

The second area is more about coaching, career advice and tips to finding your own personal leadership style, passion and direction.  This has always been just a little orthogonal to the TalentedApps charter, and I wanted to pull that into it’s own blog for the benefit of (hopefully) a different audience.

Oh, and I also needed something to put on my new domain that had a bit more value than a photo.

And thus a blog was born.

I’m looking forward to seeing where this journey takes me.  Appreciate you coming along for the ride.  It means a lot.