Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rotman Oct. 29

Hey Similar Circles folks in Toronto... Rotman School of Business and their wonderful women's program is hosting my next event!

If you're not already on my mailing list, then check out the Rotman events calendar for October 29.

Sorry guys...this one is women only but since I rotate the guest list with each event, hopefully that's ok? Or, if enough of you want to have a mixed fall networking event, post a comment or send me an email.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Don’t ….

So here’s a few “do not do” thoughts for today:

1 - Don’t seek advice unless you actually want it.
2 - Don’t seek advice because someone else tells you it’s the ‘right’ thing to do for your career unless you believe it to be true.
3 - Don’t seek advice unless you’re prepared to try it.
4 - Don’t seek advice only from those who will tell you what you want to hear.
5 - Don’t seek advice in areas that don’t truly hold your interest.

I'm not trying to be negative! But really, sometimes it's ok to simply go it on your own if that's what you want to do!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Finding a mentor

I find it amazing when folks tell me how awkward or strange it feels to ask someone to mentor them.

We seek mentoring constantly in every other area of lives – parenting tips; home improvement know-how; negotiating a loan; relationship advice; sporting expertise – everyone gets a support at some point along the way.

It’s only in the business context that it seems to become all twisted up with formality and repercussions.

You can follow the same guidelines you use in other areas of life:
• Figure out if you actually want to change something or add to it
• Find someone whose ideas and opinions you respect
• Ask them nicely to talk it through with you

Depending on the topic, it may be one session or many months.

If you’re working your way through a career plan, you might even want to approach several folks who hold different perspectives on your strengths and habits.

If you aren’t sure who to ask, then start with your inner circle. Your communities combined will lead you to your first/next mentor in a just a few coffees.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Who is a mentor?

Traditionally, it has been believed that a mentor should be a senior individual, with influence in your company or industry, who is willing to open their network (and good name) to you.

This raises several assumptions:
• that a mentor is someone senior
• that a mentor is only for the particular challenges found within your industry
• that the issues you face in your career are particular to your company or industry
• that your skills and ambition lie in only one industry

There’s no right or wrong answer but part of the choices you have to make for yourself include:
• Do you want mentoring around a specific industry?
• Do you want mentoring from a different industry perspective?
• Are you comfortable looking outward for guidance as much as ‘up’? (peers can be as valuable a tool for the ambitious as a very senior person)

I strongly believe that mentoring can come from anywhere if we first understand the questions for which we are seeking answers.

Anyone can be a mentor. You can have a mentor and be a mentor at the same time - the two efforts are not exclusive!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Everything is personal

There are lots of us 'bloggers' out there. And even more networking gurus. Thousands of 'hits' on mentoring. Loads of advice. Buckets of articles. Associations, groups, societies and every kind of gathering in every village with more than 3 people.

Which got me thinking about 2 things:

1 - I'm writing as much for myself as I am for the questions I get. Mostly I figure no one is reading this but me :-)

2 - Most folks are on the same quest - buying or selling or trading tips on how to live a more blended life with returns closer to the dreams we all have at 2am.

It's all personal - this search for strangers who have a doorway to somewhere we need to be is both intensely private and the most exposed one can feel outside of a first date.

I no longer kid myself there is a way to make it easy. Relationships are hard. I'm just determined to enjoy the journey and not worry if you actually get to know me along the way.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mentor Day

We need a Mentor Day. We need a Hallmark card, flowers and candy designed!

I want custom truffles in the shape of a handshake filled with champagne, Pear William and dark chocolate flavours.

Let’s have flower arrangements in coffee mugs and tea cups – brilliant blooms in all shapes and sizes.

And the card. “It’s Mentor Day! Thank you for being an influence and allowing me to influence you in return.”

I decree September 1, Mentor Day. Send an email, leave a phone message, drop a card… reach out to those who influence you and let them know it’s working.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Linking In

Yes, I’m on LinkedIn. I’m also on Facebook – but my picture there is a baked potato (get it?). I don’t tweet but I sometimes read them. I ‘google’ and sometimes ‘bing’. I think I do my RSS feeds incorrectly. I definitely blog. I’m on several discussion boards but often ‘lurk’. I attend events and usually wander away vaguely dissatisfied with them. I prefer coffee and tea – one/one or in small groups. I’m constantly emailing. I attend lectures and sometimes give them. I avoid the phone and conference calls seem to be the bulk of my work day.

I figure I meet hundreds of new folks each month and remember at least five of them.

I write several thousand words each month and enjoy all of them.

I work a long week, parent every minute I can, include my friends in everything I do outside my house and spend quiet time (me, no kid, no phone calls) every weekend.

I’m not exceptional; I’m organized. I’m not unique; I’m deliberate in my choices.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I know what I want

We all walk into meetings, coffees, committees, volunteer situations, grocery stores… thinking “I know what I want”.

I should hope so. It’s much easier for folks to help you get what you need if you can articulate it.

But there’s a next step in that thinking. Ask “what do he/she/they want?”

Putting yourself in the shoes of the person (or committee) across from you and articulating their needs is very powerful. It makes them much more inclined to offer you what you want. Notice I didn’t say you’ve given them what they want… you’ve merely shown them that you understand their situation.

I won’t go into negotiation tactics… though that’s a great review for parents and business folks alike. But if you’re building relationships – long-term or short – then including all interested parties in the process can take you to unexpected and wonderful new places.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Similar Circles is something I started with no idea of how wide or deep the ripples would be. I had no grand plan; I merely wanted to share my opinion and encourage others to do the same.

It was an amazing experience yesterday to be in a room filled with folks who regularly attend the events (and listen to me rant between them) and who had strong and terrific thoughts around what Similar Circles now stands for.

It was an ad hoc ‘steering committee’ meeting at which there was no consensus on a particular plan of action. But the entire room was supportive and vocal about the sentiment and philosophy that brought us together in the first place in 2007.

I am filled with gratitude today for their words of wisdom and support. And for your support, dear reader.

Real connections with real people that support your professional growth – and, by extension, your personal communities too. I believe in that.

My life has changed as a direct result of the Similar Circles crowd. I am so excited.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

One step at a time

Let’s go back to my earlier dating metaphor (see posting Feb '09)… Marriage doesn’t have to be the next development from a dating situation. Mentoring or a job offer is not necessarily the next step after a coffee.

Friendship. Work association. Finding an idea for a project - all viable alternatives.

We don’t need to know the outcome in advance. Continually meeting up with folks (new or known) offers a chance to try something and find it (not) to your taste. If you don’t leave room for experimenting, you can’t be sure your end result is as fulsome as it could be. You also don’t have a breadth of experience from which to gauge situations, advice or opportunities.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Social media is just one more toolset

This social media stuff really gets folks riled up - as though one is questioning the integrity of their mothers!

It’s all tools. And tools are only valuable if you need them and use them. And only as good as the plan for information and usage that surrounds them. They don’t solve anything in and of themselves … they're not inherently amazing or awful. It's all in how you - personally - use them.

Computers, social networking tools and all the tweets in the world will not do your networking for you. You still have to share information. You still have to talk with people across the various media. You still have to have a need to share information or find folks with whom you can discuss information.

I like these tools. I use them. But they are not my religion. I don’t even believe they’ve evolved fully yet and here we are trying to box their uses.