Compliments of Mustang Mentoring Day 2011

Large cohorts abound at lower company levels – individuals unable to find a navigator for a maze of office politics they may not even know existed. Most of what matters (at work) is what you do not see – invisible networks with centralized players, insidious slime balls with a smile on their face, office staff with agendas, along with envious colleagues plotting their coworkers’ demise. Sometimes it takes a seasoned politician (an organizational diplomat of sorts) to assist new hires in navigating the office fun house of deceiving skin-deep appearances. How then do we attract the mentor of our dreams?

Most firms do not have a formal mentoring program; thus the unskilled need to make their own connections. Lack of established partnerships makes hitching one’s wagon to a star more strenuous, but not impossible. Is there someone within your firm whose work you admire? Ask to set up a meeting where they can explain a pet project. Take notes, research their interests, then offer your own unique insights. Showing up with magazines (or articles) that may be exactly what they were looking for could brand you as indispensable in the eyes of executive team members.

It goes without saying that potential mentees set the behavioral standard, follow office protocol, put in more hours than peers at the same level, and deliver the unexpected. Can you remake your job (within acceptable constraints) so that it congeals into more than a formal job description? Do you publicize your efforts through media relations, writing articles for in-house bi-weeklys, contacting professional organizations, or alerting trade journals?

Your value added should not be a best kept secret, nor should you be a “hidden figure” within your own firm. Are there well-connected employees with whom you could share some good news? E.g, those with the gift of gab who populate intersecting network circles, allies who would be happy to promote your work? Sometimes just showing up and sharing (at a company town hall), or volunteering to explain your project at a quarterly “lunch and learn” is all it takes to sell an image of “hard worker” who stands head and shoulders above the rest. Linking up with powerful players may be especially helpful for those who might otherwise (due to demographic/cultural/ethnic characteristics) experience marginal treatment. Putting our best foot forward (and holding ourselves to the highest standard in terms of dress, speech, writing, work ethic, and interaction) is a requirement for attracting (and retaining) top level resources.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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