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MAKING THE MOST OF MENTORS

If you are lucky enough to have a mentoring program in your workplace, you should take advantage of this as mentoring has been proved to be integral to the career success. As a mentee you are not a ‘passenger’ in the relationship and you have to manage the relationship collaboratively with your mentor.

Here are our tips for making the most of mentors:

Know what you want out of a mentoring relationship

Be clear about what you need for your career and how you think the mentor can help you. What skills do you need to develop, both personally and professionally? Make sure your mentor is someone who can help you in those areas.

Set some goalsMentors

You mustn’t go into a mentoring relationship without some career goals – having said that, your mentor can help you clarify your goals and refine and define them with you.

Agree on structure of meetings and timings

Plan and set meeting times; bearing in mind that your mentor is no doubt a very busy person, and you will need to build some flexibility into set schedules, to take account of busy times and last minute urgent matters.

Be Prepared

Don’t waste your mentor’s time by going to meetings unprepared and making the mentor do all the hard work! Review your notes from the last meeting, and make notes of things you want to talk about, especially what you have achieved since the previous meeting.

Listen and Follow through

Active listening is a vital skill to learn – ask questions to clarify, look at body language to clarify the message being given. Follow through on suggestions made by your mentor – if you continually fail to follow through, you are not only letting your mentor down, you are letting yourself down.

Being proactive, willing to listen, acting on advice and not wasting your mentor’s time will ensure a successful mentoring relationship.

How flexible is your work place?

I recall a conversation with a young woman recently who wanted the opportunity to work from home one day a week. The only reason was that she travelled for an hour each way to and from work and she wanted to reduce the stress and be more productive with her time. She said that her supervising partner was not very keen on the idea at first but then she convinced him.

When I asked her how she smiled and said ‘I pointed out that most Fridays he left the office at lunch time to drive to the sunshine coast to go windsurfing’. Some might say that is a cheeky response, but she had a good relationship with him, and as she pointed out, she was planning on being available to clients and colleagues on her day at home, rather than in a wet suit on the water.flexibility

It was not that simple of course. While she overcame resistance, she had to make sure that her supervising partner, the other partners, her team members and clients were all going to benefit, or at least not be disadvantaged by the new arrangement, so she agreed to a two month trial period.

After two months her billable hours were better and communication had improved in the team, largely because she took responsibility for making sure everyone was informed of whatever they needed to know, and neither clients nor partners were the slightest bit concerned about her ‘absence’ from the office. In fact her supervising partner is now considering working from home on a Friday, from the sunshine coast, to save time driving!

Does she have a secret? This young woman is a very determined and focussed person and she provided her tips for making it work:

  • never assume the team knows what you are doing
  • over communicate if necessary
  • always prepare for your day away from the office on the day before
  • flexibility is a privilege so it is up to you to show how it can work and work well
  • practice reciprocity – if there are times you are needed to work longer hours or work in the office on your ‘at home’ day, then do it
  • put yourself in the shoes of your colleagues – what would you need to make it work?
  • Express gratitude to those assisting you, and often
  • communicate about problems and be open to many views

This is a good example of flexibility in action and how good communication can overcome even the toughest barriers. Do you have any advice for making flexible work, work?

Working Flexibly? Make it Work

Flexible work is mainstream now – at least it is supposed to be.  We now have a legislated right to parental leave, and a legislated right to request a flexible work arrangement and have it considered.Working Flexibly

Getting a proposal request right and approved is one thing, but making your arrangement work once it is approved takes hard work and lots of communication.

Here are some tips from those who have done it successfully:

  • Make sure you understand what the impact will be on your budget and be clear about your career development expectations while working flexibly.  A conversation now may save misunderstanding later.
  • Have a communication plan to ensure it works for you and everyone in your team – who will be responsible for contacting clients.  Are you prepared to answer urgent emails and phone calls when not in the office?   Your ‘out of office’ message should state who should be contacted in your absence.
  • Are you able to change your days or hours if you are needed – if so make sure your supervisors know what you can and can’t do – for example if you have dependents you may be limited by the days of care that is available.
  • If you do work additional hours or days, then assuming your billable hours targets are being met, ask how will this be remunerated?
  • Talk to people who are working flexibly and successfully – they will be able to help you if you have issues to address.
  • Find someone to take responsibility for your matters when you are not in the office – and use this as an opportunity to develop and mentor that person.  This will be to your mutual advantage.
  • Over communicate  – remind people when you will be away from the office, when you will not be available, when you can be available if you are not normally available, what needs to be done between periods at work.
  • If problems arise – with communication, expectations of workload, disappointments – don’t obsess and worry about it.  Start a conversation, however difficult, at the earliest opportunity before the problem gets bigger.

The key to any successful flexible working arrangement is open communication and support.