Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Parenting & mentoring parallels

I was asked what my philosophies on raising a kid were like. After I tossed the out the requisite jokes:
  • Say loudly in public spaces when out with your kid: "Well, that's a quarter I owe your therapy jar!"
  • Wave his unmentionables out the window when driving along a street where his friends live
  • Stick to his childhood nickname even when he politely requests you use his real name
  • Show pictures of him at 3 years of age, dressed (or not), to all potential girlfriends
and (my favourite)
  • Immortalize his toilet training in your writing

I realized that, despite my best efforts to be on Child Services "most watched" list, my kid had taught me a lot about mentoring by not moving out at a tender age (or any age yet...).

  • Parenting and mentoring are a mix of working through one's own issues and stories.
    • What's a good story; a lesson to share; a moment I would repeat; an action I would change?
  • A parent and a mentor must decide what kind of leadership and guidance style they believe in.
    • Believe in and be willing to walk the talk. Good parenting is living and breathing a life philosophy even when it hurts. Mentoring gives the mentor a few extra breaths to take a break but mentors are still role models and eyes are often watching.
  • Good parents and mentors ask:
    • What do I stand for?
    • What practices and beliefs do I want to embody?
    • What does that mean day-to-day?
  • We cannot parent or mentor effectively when tired, angry or sad. But we often do.
    • A great parent or mentor walks their talk inspite of personal circumstance - not hiding thoughts and feelings but  being consistent in approach regardless and transparent in how to cope (or not).
We can't change how we were parented. We can change how we parent... and mentor...and the behaviours we request of our parents and mentors as our own self-awareness grows.

I hope my skills have evolved with my philosophy... I'm sure my mentorees and my kid will let me know...

Monday, April 22, 2013

What is a good idea?

There are a lot of good ideas. There are even more "right" answers.  Sometimes the right answer can become the wrong one as circumstances change or time passes. Relationships, strategies, self-awareness... all the endless combinations are constantly shifting. This is why change is constant and Big Change will always come around.

So how does one know if one has a good idea? Assume most ideas are good and have value. It is often their timing that might not be ideal.

The questions to ask are really:
  • Is this the right idea for the identified circumstances and people who will be implementing it? (e.g. if you have only have $5, and it's a $20 idea... or throwing a surprise party for someone who hates surprises)
  • Can this idea be used effectively in the manner for which it is intended? Will it translate to actions well? (e.g. teaching a group of 5 year olds to bake & ice a layer cake...)
 Throw your ideas out there. Be prepared to pull them back if they don't fit but don't throw them away. Instead, throw out lots of ideas; collect the biggest basket of ideas you can. Just ask the right questions to select the best idea.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Resumes: are they outdated?

Are resumes even relevant anymore?
Google /online data gathering ability, Linked In profiles, Twitter summaries… it’s easy to uncover a candidate’s skill set, mindset and experience. Plus, the online communities often is vocal/visible in its support of the candidate so potential employers can easily judge success and leadership – at least at a superficial level.
Do companies want to hire people who have done a job before or do they want to hire a relevant skill set that can be applied across a variety of projects/fields?
Does a resume need to show related roles in a chronological progression or simply a filled chronological timeline?
Do gaps in a resume mean what they used to mean: unemployment? What about maternity leave? Immigrating? Emigrating? Moving provinces to support a partner? Skill upgrade time? Time to ponder passions and redirect skills? Illness?
In The Atlantic is an article about how a resume gap of longer than six months can mean employers won't hire you. The article presumes a status quo in how employers and potential employees approach filling a job. The candidate sees a posting; the candidate sends in a resume; the employer selects a few resumes for interviews; the position is filled.
It does still happen this way. However, job seekers also know this is the least likely way to find a job; employers know it's a random approach to sourcing the 'right' candidate. Networks, mentors, champions, online forums, informational coffees/interviews build stronger paths to success than hoping either a human or auto-filter will deem a resume fit for interview status.
While the resume remains the accepted tool to formally open a door, it still requires more than a chronological listing of jobs and duties. A resume should showcase your strengths, should tell a story and be coupled with a thoughtful introduction.
Will do everything right guarantee success? Nope. Rejection is a fact of life. But I don't buy the outdated thinking that your chronology is what determines your job seeking success.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Women's safety - prevention over invention?

Did you know a female condom with "teeth" was developed? Or a bra, developed in India, meant to alert authorities if a woman is being raped?

While I applaud the folks who considered violence against women and children enough of a priority to put some thinking behind it, they didn't go far beyond the high-end bandaids. As well, it's enough that we have to pay for product to have a comfortable menstrual cycle :-) (as if I have a choice)... now Indian woman have to buy and wear an electronic bra? Manufacture them in pink and you've got a global marketing strategy ready!

These creative inventions don't offer a solution; the heart of solving the issue of respect for women & children is prevention.

Prevention comes in many sizes - just like the women it can protect.
  • Raising our sons to believe in the diversity agenda
  • Talking opening about hidden issues in the workplace and the home
  • Studies that range from women on boards to violence in communities
  • Link bullying (causes & preventions) to respect for women issues & initiatives

 This week, a woman was killed by her partner here in Toronto. It's a women's issue; it's bullying (it's not just in the school yard); it's a lack of voice; it's a lack of visibility into why, around the world in the home and the workplace, some folks lose their humanity around women & children in a myriad of ways.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Informational interviews

Informational "interviews" are not just for when you're seeking a job.

Actually - often the worst time to do an informational interview is when the person seeking work is more focused on finding an immediate opportunity than looking long-term... and the person on the other end of the coffee table then either feels guilty they have nothing to offer or feels tricked into a real interview. (there's little worse for a developing relationship than tossing in some guilt and angst)

If you are looking for work, be upfront. Tell folks this is about seeking a job now and that your questions will be about current opportunities. Be open about wanting to pre-sell yourself into a formal interview. Don't pass it off as "informational" and low-risk if you're really hoping for fast results. (this also goes for calling it "networking" when you're really job hunting; networks must be in place before using them to job search...)
A few thoughts:

1 - If you're truly seeking information with which you'll do some some career planning and decisions, assure your contact that you're not hitting them up for work but genuinely interviewing them about ideas and guidance.

2 - Come prepared with questions. Don't look blankly at your contact and hope they offer a gem.

3 - Ensure your questions can't be answered by a little online research. Nothing says "lazy" like coming unprepared.

4 - Ask questions about cultural aspects "What approaches does your group take to find new ideas?" "What happens when an idea is obviously a failure?" "What's the top skill admired in your team today?"

5 - Be more interested in asking questions and seeking information than about making sure they know all about how terrific you are. You are interviewing them, not the other way around. However, if they start with questions, ask honestly "Would you like to make this a two-way interview? I'm happy to sell myself!"

6 - Have a clear outcome for the interview: Do you need enough information to decide if you might be interested in the industry /company at some date? Do you want a second connection? etc.

Think of the informational interview like the call setting up a first date. Don't ask for marriage. Don't ask for commitment /favours /don't taste stuff on their plate / don't sit in their lap. Simply see if you can have a conversation and see how far that takes you towards your goal.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Caught in the details?

It's easy to go down deep holes of details...and sometimes it is even necessary. While there seems to be lots of information on how to keep out of the holes, there is not as much on how to get out once you've fallen in.

How can we step out of the churn and get some perspective? Ideas?

Here's what I've been doing lately:
Explaining the situation /solution / idea as though I was talking to my grandmother. This eliminates the jargon and complexity (and my desire to moan "you don't understand!")
Asking questions instead of trying to answer them. Sometimes that makes lots of things go away.
Stopping cold and walking away for a cup of tea, a chat on another topic, etc.

I don't know why being anxious and caught in the details is so glamourous these days?