Tag Archives: the factory

Mentoring at work: does it work?

There are many different ways in which you can help employees at work. For instance you can be a role model for others, you can sponsor a particular staff member, you can train people, you can coach them, and last (but is it least?) you can mentor them. Mentoring typically involves a more experienced and/or older person providing a supportive relationship for a less experienced and/or younger person. Broadly speaking there are three areas where mentoring has been widely applied: youth; academic and workplace mentoring.

support mentoring

Mentoring is one of those ideas that seem intuitively sensible and worthy of widespread implementation. But how effective is mentoring? Does it lead to any positive outcomes? Anyone who has been involved in mentoring programs will appreciate that they can be time consuming both in terms of the effort put in by the mentor, as well as any training or compliance hurdles that need to be overcome in getting the mentor and mentee together.

There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that mentoring schemes are set up in a moment of enthusiasm, which eventually wanes over time as other matters become priorities, or because the mentor sometimes feels unrewarded, or worse exploited by the arrangement. There is also the concern that mentoring arrangements are seen as cheap alternatives to providing proper induction training or on-going support for people who need it.

Against all of that negativity there are large numbers of stories, many of them quite inspirational about the power of mentoring and particular mentors to effect immense positive changes in individuals who perhaps have failed to respond to other forms of intervention.

The evidence is now in  thanks to a large-scale meta-analysis of all of the mentoring research in the Youth, Educational and Workplace domains. Lillian Eby and her colleagues from the University of Georgia present their findings in the current edition of the Journal of Vocational Behavior. They wanted to check out six key assumptions that mentoring is associated with: 1. positive behavioural outcomes; 2. positive attitudinal outcomes; 3.  positive health-related outcomes; 4. relationship outcomes; 5 positive motivational outcomes; and 6. positive career outcomes.

The researchers found 112 studies over the last 20 years that met their strict criteria of reporting results comparing people who had undergone mentoring with comparable people who had not received the mentoring. (There are a huge number of studies attesting to the value of mentoring that focus only on those that received the mentoring and strictly speaking they are flawed because you cannot be sure that others who did not receive the mentoring do not also show positive change).

There was support for each of the research team’s assumptions – mentoring was related to favourable behavioural, attitudinal, health, interpersonal, motivational and career outcomes. Indeed their results indicated overall that mentoring is often associated with a “wide range” of favourable outcomes for the protégés.

Perhaps most relevant to us, the results suggest that mentors may assist in the skill development and professional networking opportunities for protégés. These are known to be linked to career success in terms of salary, promotions and job offers. They may also provide an informal form of career counselling for protégés.

This all sounds fantastic, however the authors strike two notes of caution. Firstly the positive impact of mentoring was usually only very small, and secondly, as the research stands, there is very little good evidence to show that mentoring is the cause of these outcomes. While the presence of mentoring is a likely reason for these positive outcomes, appeals to the research will not support such a strong conclusion. Mentoring was most successful in workplace and educational settings.

Overall, the message is that if you are offered mentoring at work, take the opportunity because it is more likely to benefit you than harm your career. However if you are an employer looking for a single solution to your career development problems, mentoring may be part of that solution, but it is no panacea.

Melbourne tram model of career development

On the no 8 tram for final day of 3 day course got me thinking career development is like a tram journey. When you are on track we sit back and don’t think about it, but the crucial part is knowing what to do at the interchange and how to change trams. And realizing that although we share the journey with lots of others, it is likely that the tram won’t take you all the way, so we’d better be able to work out how to find a way from the stop to the venue or how to combine the standard route with our personal needs desires and limitations.
Luckily most decisions in life are easier than figuring out Melbourne tram ticketing systems!

On the verge

So here I sit, on the verge. Bags not quite packed, talks not quite prepared. Just how I like it. Tomorrow I will be in wonderful Vancouver. Somebody sold me such a cheap Winter Olympic package, I just had to go and see the games, though I am getting a little suspicious after seeing Michael Buble in some sort of closing ceremony that there might be a reason for the bargain price of the tickets…

Talks not quite prepared… Hmmm. We spend so much of our time urging clients to prepare prepare prepare, yet in my case, if I do this, I become stale. I get bored. I forget what I think I am going to say. I know what I will say, but I don’t know. It is a fractal idea from Chaos Theory – the same but different, sort of like old, but unique. I often do not know what is going to come out of my mouth 10 seconds before I go on.

Recently in New Zealand, I was waiting in the wings of the convention centre in Wellington, due to give the keynote to a very large and august gathering of the great and good in career development, when I suddenly decided (5 mins before my cue) that it would be a good idea to get a technician to climb a ladder behind the stage and give an impromtu mime to my off-stage commentary. It was not rehearsed, I had no idea whether it would work and get a laugh, but I did it. (and thanks to the technician who so happily supported me).

What was I thinking of? In the cold light of day it is the act of a crazy person to suddenly take such a risk in front of getting on for 1000 people, at the beginning of a conference. Well I think I got away with it, if the feedback immediately and later was anything to go by, but what if it failed.

There is a line here between preparation and being able to be on the edge of chaos, where things can radically alter and re-configure with little notice. This is where I believe creative tension and originality occur – being out there, taking risks, but always doing so from a sound foundation of experience/knowledge/achievement. I think being on the edge of Chaos is where “flow” occurs – being in the zone, in the moment, feeling comfortable and alive in the buzzing, booming world. My friend and colleagues Norm Amundson and Roberta Neault will talk about this topic at the conference in Vancouver next week. I hope my keynote does not scare away or disappoint too many. I hope it is sufficiently on the edge, but also grounded in evidence, ideas etc.

Well it is out of my hands. It only remains for me to have fun, because it is the only way I know to make a presentation fun and engaging. On the edge of chaos talking about the Chaos Theory of Careers. The topic: Slow Shift, Fast Shift, Deep Shift.
I hope I have time to visit the artists on Granville Island, they always inspire me. I am lucky indeed to be heading for such a wonderful place as Vancouver. It inspires me with it’s warmth, artistry, tolerance and openness to new ideas, a place that flourishes from being on the edge of Chaos in the most positive way.

If only I can find a sucker to offload my post-winter olympic tickets too…

Using stories to get a job or promotion

How can we use stories to get a job or a promotion? Getting a job is a highly competitive business and there is lots of advice about how to get it.  Well here’s some more!  Start telling tales to get that job!

We remember stories so use them to be memorable in your career development. What is the story of your career? Can you tell at least seven different stories about your career? If not you are not trying hard enough.
Here are 7 essential plots you can use effectively in career development ( adapted from Pryor & Bright, 2008, Intl Jnl of educational and vocational guidance).

get a job with story plots

1. Rags to riches
This is a story about going from nothing to being enriched. You can tell a story about going from no experience to being highly experienced in your field. Or a story of building product sales from nothing to greatness or building a business from scratch or getting into college from humble beginnings.
The story highlights opportunity awareness, resilience, optimism, learning from others, persistence and that you are a winner. These are great qualities to convey in landing a job!

2. Overcoming the monster
This differs from the above in that it is a story about dealing with a particular challenge or threat. It could be overcoming some set back back or dealing with a major impediment on your life. Preferably keep the demons work related or to do with things beyond your control. Ie this is generally not the time to go Hollywood and share stories of your addiction and how you beat it!!
The story highlights your resilience, commitment to learning and improvement, tenacity and ability.  They’ll want to interview for that job just to hear more about these stories!
3. Voyage and return
This is a story of learning. Maybe you set out on a project, discovered new things about the product or how to sell it or even about qualities you didn’t know you had until you displayed them on the journey. The story focuses on how you have become a changed person on your return from the venture a wiser more capable person. I demonstrates life long learning self improvement, wisdom, strategy, insight, openness to experience. Most jobs require continual learning and improvement – these stories will tick those boxes!
4. The quest
This is a story about personal determination to see through to completion a project or journey that was important to you. For instance your quest to ensure all staff complied with safe work practices or your quest to eliminate waste at work etc. The story highlights values and determination.  The job winner is often the most determined candidate!
5. Comedy. Here the story is about you being under a misapprehension while others could see your folly. It starts out with an example of your wrong headedness but concludes with you seeing the light and ‘alls well that ends well”! The story allows you to demonstrate a weakness and how you became aware of it and remedied it. A good one for that cliche job interview question what are your weakneses?
6. Tragedy. Here you tell of a decision made that seemed great at the time but gradually descended into a dire situation. Ie expanding business too quickly, introducing terrible marketing scheme etc. It might seem odd to include this as a story to help your career, but there are two ways you can use it. First you tell the story about another person or company to demonstrate your analytic skill in identifying wrong steps. Or you use it about yourself and the follow up immediately with a rags to riches, voyage and return or rebirth story.
7. Rebirth. Finally this is a before and after story. In this story you fall under the influence of a malign power and ‘go to sleep’ or tread water for a while. Eventually you are woken up – classically by a third party hero figure like a mentor who puts you back on track but now refreshed and better than ever a new you for new times.

Now try writing each of the 7 stories and see what a powerful set of career marketing tools you will have. Why not share some with us on a comment to this post?

If I have time I might post some concrete examples (send a comment requesting it).

Anyhow this is written on my iPhone in hairdresser’s chair getting made slightly less ugly for my keynote next week in Vancouver bccda. Can’t wait!

Giving heart

Long day of training folks on realities of chaos theory of careers. Then at the end of the day I saw a client in the classroom – I am on the road again in Melbourne.

The client told his story – it was moving and engaging. I made some comments. He told me he was moved and inspired. I was non plussed it seemed as though I had said the obvious things. He had not thought of them like that nor had he received encouragement before from someone with no vested interest.

He said I had encouraged him. Courage from the Latin ‘heart’ – encourage to give heart, to hearten. It reminded me never to underestimate the importance of being there and that the obvious is only so when you see it.