I felt anxious and unsure when I was invited to attend a speed-mentoring event at work last week. Yes, an opportunity to sit down with my agency’s leaders sounds great, but the thought of saying something stupid…or not saying anything at all…made my pressure rise. Is this going to feel like an interview? EEEK!
The large conference room was set up with four tables. At each table was a senior leader at my agency and four mentees. Each leader had a topic that they’d speak about to their mentee group for 15 minutes, and then we’d then have five minutes for Q&A and discussion. After time was up, the mentees would rotate to the next leader. The four topics were:
- Self-Marketing: How do I (the employee) make myself known without being annoying?
- Innovation & Technology: Where is the agency heading and how do I (the employee) fit in?
- Political Savvy: How do I negotiate with senior leadership?
- A Picture of Success: What does it take to move up the ranks, and what strategies are needed to overcome challenges along the way?
I made some notes and prepared some questions in advance, just in case nothing came to mind as the sessions were going on. I prefer a more organic conversation, so I was a little nervous because I knew my questions sounded canned and prepped. But that’s better than having nothing and risking brain freeze in the face of leadership.
The event went so much better than I expected. The conversation flowed effortlessly, the topics were really interesting, and I actually had to force myself not to interrupt other mentees in my group when they asked their questions. I struggled between furiously taking notes because so much good advice was given, and trying to listen and converse with the group.
So here are my top ten take-aways from the speed mentoring event:
- Order business cards ASAP.
- Make yourself both visible and vital to leadership.
- Say something in every meeting, and have an interest in what you say or ask.
- Attend social events, brown bags, or workgroup presentations.
- Say thank you if your supervisor approves training, and then follow up after the training to say what you learned from the course.
- Push yourself to talk to people you know by sight but have never spoken to.
- Understand how your organization operates and how decisions are made.
- Take note of who sits where in meetings and who speaks up first. Also note if your manager or leader looks to someone else for input when questions are asked of him/her.
- Identify parts of your job that can lead to an innovative solution. Tasks that take up a huge amount of time and have a lot of repetition may be able to be automated.
- Take time to master emotional intelligence and self awareness.
If you have an opportunity to attend events like this at your organization, I strongly encourage you to attend, even if you are happy with where you are, you don’t see the immediate benefit, or if you are a bag of nerves. The tips and strategies discussed in this event helped put me in front of leaders I may not otherwise have had exposure to, and also gave me food for thought for my own personal aspirations, both in and out of the workplace.
Have you ever done anything like this? What did you take away from the experience?