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Cultivating Your Success

Recently, my partner and I purchased a new home. It’s a beautiful townhouse in a wonderful neighborhood, with an excellent homeowners’ association – the grass is always well kept and the trees neatly groomed. Just before we moved in, the real estate agency came by and removed the “for sale” sign, leaving a bald spot in the middle of the front yard.

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About six weeks later, I offhandedly mentioned my dislike for the grassless patch in the middle of the yard. My partner quickly responded with, “Well, maybe next year the grass will grow there.” Laughing, I said, “The grass won’t magically grow in that spot . . . weeds will! We need to put down grass seed.” It is really quite commonplace that we often don’t plant the seeds for the success
we long for in our lives. The amazing and amusing thing is that we end up disappointed by our lack of success!

Many young people come out of college, into the workforce, expecting to be in full bloom when they haven’t even prepared the ground—much less planted the necessary seeds. So, then, what does it mean to prepare the ground and plant the necessary seeds for success in the workforce after college?

The following are 3 “seeds” you can plant to help cultivate your later career success:

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  1. Reflect on your strengths – take time to ask yourself about your previous jobs, consider the tasks you really enjoyed, and those you did not. Spend time thinking about the sorts of jobs you really like, what makes you passionate, what you really love to do. If you are having a difficult time finding answers to these questions, begin exploring – try new jobs, or new tasks at your current job.
  2. Build a network of friends and colleagues – plan time each week to nurture your relationships. Take the time to go to networking functions and get to know people.
  3. Always do your best – it doesn’t matter what job you are in, do your best – your reputation for performance will follow you. Let the world know you will always give it your best effort, regardless of the task. As you try on new opportunities and learn about what you really like best, your reputation will help you get into those positions. Regardless of what your long-term goals are, it is important to lay the foundation for your success. If you do a great job with whatever comes your way, consistently follow through and work at nurturing relationships, the rest will take care of itself.

“Life, a Balancing Act”

After my September newsletter, one of my readers sent me some great feedback. Although she thought the newsletter was interesting and informative, she was still left wondering how to avoid working 80 hours a week without getting unceremoniously dumped by her company. In other words, she wanted to know more about how to balance her family life with an extremely demanding career, without totally sacrificing one for the other. As a woman, the challenge of this balancing act is often much greater than for a man, for obvious societal reasons. In a world where there is so much to do, how in the world do you avoid working 80 hours a week – and find balance in your life? In considering this question, a quote from William Jennings Bryan comes to mind: “Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”Creating your “destiny” in terms of your career requires that you take some time to think about what you really want for yourself and what it takes to create a life that embodies your aspirations. Determining what you want may sound simple, but it is not quick and easy – it is a process, one that you must perpetually repeat, and as such requires a consistent commitment to the following three activities:

1. Determine Your Values

Set aside some time to really think about your values. If you are a parent and you value being present for your child’s school events, finding a job in which your values are actively supported is important. Women are especially good at trying to do it all – if you want to keep your sanity and thrive in the areas you value, make the difficult decisions which allow your life to reflect your values. If you are a working parent and you would really like to spend more time with your children, consider your options and take steps toward your goal.

2. Set Goals

If you don’t know what you’re aiming for, why would you expect to hit on it? What I’ve found in my coaching practice is that some people are very good at setting goals in one or two areas, but neglect the others – in order to create balance, every area needs to be considered.Begin by selecting one day every month in which you can devote two hours to goal setting and management. Set goals in the following seven areas: Financial, Career/Business, Free Time/Family Time, Health/Appearance, Relationship, Personal Growth, Making a Difference. I have an excellent format for keeping track of goals – if you’re interested, send me an email and I’ll send you what I use.

3. Build and Nurture Your Network Consistently

There are a million books out there about the importance and “how to” of networking, so I won’t go into detail here. The most important thing to remember is that relationships are incredibly important no matter which direction you decide to go. Here are a few ways to keep up with your network: attend one networking function a month, send out handwritten notes every day (people are perpetually bombarded with impersonal email!), make phone calls every day, keep track of birthdays (put a reminder in your calendar) and send birthday cards.There is no one magic answer to achieving and maintaining balance. If I sought out and polled 100 top leaders who have managed to find a sense of balance in their lives, I would likely find 100 different balancing acts. Each person has their own unique values and goals, and as a result finding balance is unique to each person.When you know your values, align your life with those values, set goals for yourself and consistently build and nurture your network, you set yourself up for success no matter what organization you’re working for or what job you hold. If the outfit you work for goes “belly up,” but you have budgeted appropriately over the years, stuck to a solid financial plan, continued to develop your skills sets, and maintained a well-nurtured network, you won’t be out of work for long!Please write to tell me how you have achieved balance in your own life. The story of how you tackled your own “balance” problems may just be the inspiration needed by someone else—and I’ll share it in my next newsletter!

“Pay my dues? Why? What are you doing for me?”

As a generation Yer, you may have watched your parents or relatives work hard, demonstrate commitment, and sacrifice their personal lives, only to lose their jobs and/or pensions by right-sizing, out- sourcing and corporate scandals. Why, then, should you “pay your dues” to try to climb the corporate ladder – especially when you saw that paying your dues doesn’t always pay off!

Let me begin by suggesting that “paying your dues” has different meanings for different generations. While a Baby Boomer may define “paying your dues” as demonstrating a commitment to the company over time, a generation Yer may hear “paying your dues” as working 80 hours a week and putting the company first always. As generation Yers, we’ve learned what working 80 hours a week can do to one’s family life, personal life, health, etc. You’re not interested in giving your life to a company that does not care about you.

Is there a win-win solution– where you successfully demonstrate a commitment to your company – “pay your dues” – and feel empowered doing so? The following are five ways to demonstrate commitment to your company, while considering your future and taking care of what’s important in your life:

  1. Be patient with yourself and your company – So many times generation Yers come to me six months into a new job feeling anxious, hating the work and ready to jump ship to a new job, even though they don’t have a clear idea why they are leaving. Generally speaking, they do not really want to leave their job, but they don’t see a way to get what they think they “should” have as quickly as they think they “should” have it. As a generation primarily raised on television, where you see the beginning and end of every success story within an hour, you may not have a clear understanding of the hard work and dedication that goes into real life success.
  2. Each job is an opportunity to become clearer – about your strengths, your special talents, and your interests. While some seem to know exactly what they are good at and what they want to do with their life, most of us need time to explore what we’re passionate about, what we’re good at and what we love. Take advantage of opportunities to learn about yourself.
  3. Find a mentor – create a plan – If your company has a mentorship program in place, find a way to get involved. If not, approach your supervisor and ask if there is a way he or she can help you locate a mentor inside your organization. It’s very helpful to have a mentor in addition to the mentoring your supervisor may be giving you. Having an opportunity to build relationships with others inside your organization can be invaluable in making your capabilities known within the company as well as increasing your chances for promotion. Network, network, network! Taking the time to think through what you really want and sharing your goals with your supervisor and mentor is important – if they don’t know what you want, they won’t know what experiences to help you gain.
  4. Build a name for yourself – Through consistent achievement, and by making sure the right people know of your achievements. Yes, this does require that you share your achievements with others (go ahead and brag, it’s better than hiding your light under a bushel!). If no one knows about all the great work you’ve done, how will they know you should be promoted?!
  5. Keep Learning – Explore, ask questions, request new assignments, find a mentor, take advantage of training programs, get to know the context of your work – the “big picture,” read industry information, etc.

Almost two years ago I began coaching a 19-year- old (we’ll call him Adam) who had failed out of college three consecutive semesters. His father reached out to me in hopes of helping his son get on a positive track – he was very worried. When Adam first came to me he did not want to finish college and he didn’t know what he wanted for his future. Over the past two years, he has learned a great deal about his strengths/weaknesses, taken the time to face his self-imposed limitations, begun an internship in his field of interest, and is preparing for his next semester of college with an entirely new frame of mind.

The key for Adam was getting to know himself, his interests and making positive advances in order to do what he likes, long term. If you can learn about yourself, find what you love to do, and build your life around that, the financial and personal rewards, as well as the increased responsibility, will come. So many people force themselves to do jobs that do not fit their passions just to pay their bills. Don’t be one of them!

Be patient with yourself. Take time to explore, learn about yourself, generate a plan, build your network. You will have failures, certainly, but you will succeed in the end.

“What? You want ‘balance’? We’ve got work to get done!”

So many times I have heard this exact quote when talking with executives about their youngest employees. And so many just like them…

“They’re demanding ‘balance,’ and they’re not willing to do what’s needed to get the job done “who are these people “seriously!”

“When I was just coming into the workforce, I was lucky to have a job “I worked hard “I paid my dues — that’s how you ‘get ahead.’”

“Don’t they understand they need to prove their worth “demonstrate their abilities before they get promoted or get a raise?”

The truth is “they probably don’t know they need to demonstrate their abilities or prove their worth. Why would they? They grow up getting a trophy, even when they didn’t play in the game! By and large, the newest generation entering the workforce was spoon- fed, coddled, and now feel left to fend for themselves in the corporate world where the rules were set long ago “where they clearly do not understand what’s expected of them or how to get what they want. Much of the time, they don’t even know what they want “they’re simply acting out what they’ve heard they should want.

With many having had both parents working full time, generation X and Yers had less adult interaction growing up. They played sports only when ‘organized,’ rather than taking initiative to start a pick-up game. They missed the 1950’s rite of passage of having a paper route at age 11, likely not having their first job until they got to college. For many, their first job is right out of college. They watched an average of 30 hours of television a week, adopting the values of popular culture. Along the way, they missed the basic skills necessary in a corporate environment, like goal-setting, strategizing for their future, time management, and communicating outside email or IM! Instead “they grew up with a “faster is better” mentality “seeing the beginning and magical ending, but no struggle in the middle. They were told what to like, where to be, when to be there “they weren’t encouraged to think for themselves, explore who they are, or learn about facing adversity.

So, with this in mind, what can organizations do to retain and motivate generations X and Y “get them to perform and stop griping about things like “balance” so much? Here are 3 great ideas to get you started:

Don’t take them personally! When they say things like “I’m going to have your job in 6 months” and you’re a Senior VP of the company, recognize it’s not about you “they just don’t get it!
Don’t make assumptions about what they “should” know. When you see a gap, provide the training they need, either one-on-one or through formal programs. As a manager, sitting down with your young employees and helping them see the progressive steps in their career, will help reduce their anxiety and build loyalty “yes, they perceive you care! Also, providing workshops on time management, goal-setting, networking, and career management are very helpful.
Ask them what they want/need, and help them see the context in which you make the decision about what is possible to do for them. I have come into companies and facilitated discussions with generation X and Y employees to determine exactly what they want and helped generate a way to give them what they want while keeping an eye on the bottom line. Simply caring enough to ask them what they want makes a big difference “again, they perceive the organization cares about them!
When organizations can let go of “the way it’s always been” and become focused on the benefits of an engaged workforce throughout the organization, so much more can be achieved! I challenge your organization to listen to what your generation X and Y employees are asking for “and generate a plan with them to achieve your bottom line results.

Leveraging Generational Diversity

With 2006 underway and the Baby Boomers beginning their move into retirement, many companies are searching for ways to attract, retain and motivate the next generation of leaders. The more seasoned generations have an incredible amount of experience and expertise, while the younger generations are techno literate and eager to learn. The opportunities for collaboration and growth are tremendous.

The more seasoned generations have an opportunity to share their expertise and aid in the development of the next generation of leaders. Likewise, the younger generations have in front of them an opportunity to learn from the experiences of the generation that came before them.

That being said, why aren’t the more seasoned generations sharing their expertise and mentoring the youngest generations? Why aren’t the youngest generation employees reaching out for mentorship? Why are the younger generations jumping from job to job – from company to company? Why is there such a disconnect between generations? Why are companies spending so much money on training their new hires, just to turn around and watch them leave to work for other companies?

Fostering a work environment in which employees from a variety of generations can work in partnership toward the achievement of the company mission, grow together and learn from each other, while reaching their individual goals, requires awareness and understanding. Each generation has unique work ethics, diverse perspectives on work and life, distinct preferred ways of being managed, individual styles and unique ways of viewing such work-world issues as quality, service and showing up for work.

Managing The Generation Gap

Silent Generation:

  • Assets: stable, detail oriented, thorough, loyal, hard working
  • Liabilities/Challenges: inept with ambiguity and change, reluctant to buck the system, uncomfortable with conflict, reticent when they disagree

Baby Boomers:

  • Assets: service oriented, driven, willing to “go the extra mile,” good at relationship, desire to please, good team players
  • Liabilities/Challenges: not naturally “budget minded,” uncomfortable with conflict, reluctant to go against peers, may put process ahead of results, overly sensitive to feedback, judgmental of those who see things differently, self-centered

Generation X:

  • Assets: adaptable, technoliterate, independent, unintimidated by authority, creative
  • Liabilities/Challenges: impatient, poor people skills, inexperienced, cynical

Generation Y:

  • Assets: optimism, tenacity, heroic spirit, multitasking capabilities, technologically savvy
  • Liabilities/Challenges: need for supervision and structure, inexperience – particularly with handling difficult people issues

Ultimately, How Can the Generations Understand Each Other Better?

Employees from all levels and each generation within the organization must be formally trained in generational workplace dynamics. Once individuals from the various generations understand each other, they can discuss those differences openly, identify strengths and weaknesses, and successfully plan for the most effective way to reach desired goals.

When Silents and Boomers take the time to understand Xers and Yers, and Xers and Yers take time to understand Silents and Boomers, the respective contributions will bring extraordinary results.

If you and/or the leadership of your organization want to learn more about leveraging generational differences – or supplement the work you are doing internally – visit for information on our workshops and coaching solutions. Inspirion Inc provides workshops and one-on-one leadership coaching solutions that deliver results for people, performance and shareholder value.

The 7 Most Effective Ways to Recruit, Retain and Motivate Your Youngest Generation

2006 is a year of great excitement for the Baby Boomers, as they begin to turn 60 and move toward retirement. The organizations that employee this generation – the largest generation in history – are beginning to realize the importance of “knowledge transfer” – or “succession planning” – and are beginning to ask the question “how do we recruit and retain the next generation of leaders?” The answer lies in the approach to understanding, motivating and mentoring this generation that grew up with/in an environment of instinct gratification and a lack of parental guidance. Recognizing these differences, and the different way in which they view the world is critical to meeting them where they are and developing them into the next generation of leaders.

I sometimes hear frustration from organizational leaders that the younger generation has an “entitlement mentality,” they lack loyalty, and don’t want to pay their dues. In fact, compared with previous generations, in general they do share different values that can create those perceptions. Organizations and leaders can respond in a number of ways: they can churn these employees until they find some with the “proper” attitude; they can hire them and try to mold them into the corporate structure; or they can avoid hiring them. The most successful companies will be those who can attract them, create an environment in which they can thrive, and learn to leverage their differences into assets for the company. Just as successful companies have learned to respond to market threats and opportunities, they too will find the opportunity provided by the attitudes, skills, and perspective of the new generation.

The following tips are meant to help foster a greater understanding of Generation X and Y employees, what they may be looking for, ways to gain their commitment and loyalty, and tap into their uniqueness.

1. Mentorship
As an organization leading this generation, you must make a commitment to creating effective mentoring programs. The younger generation is impatient, raised in a fast-paced world dominated by technology and instant gratification – they need guidance.

While the younger generation is screaming for balance in their lives, they are also craving challenging work. They want the challenge and they need the guidance.

2. Coaching – Communicate and Connect
Separate and distinct from mentorship, coaching goes to a much deeper level. While mentoring is about showing the way, sharing experiences and transferring knowledge, coaching is about helping them get to know what they want, who they are and what experiences might serve their needs best.

Providing feedback and support to this generation is essential – they want to grow – AND – they want to know what they can do to contribute to their company and their community.

3. Provide Training and Development
Much like the Baby Boomers, this generation is education focused – they love to learn. In fact, many experts label this group as the most education- oriented generation in history. If we do not provide training and development to this generation, they will quickly lose interest and become disengaged in their work.

4. Design a Plan
With both parents working, this generation was raised by institutions and the media. Institutions told them exactly where to be and when to be there and media told them exactly what to think and who they should be – they were not challenged to think for themselves. Now – they’re out in the working world expected to know how to manage their time, set goals for their future and manage their career and they don’t know how. Helping them to create a plan for their future will help them to be present and motivated in their current role. Without a plan they will not understand why it might be good to stay a few extra hours to complete an assignment – they need to see and be excited about the bigger picture.

5. Be Flexible – Balance
Encourage their values. The younger generation has seen what working 80 hours a week can do to their health and their families. They desire a work place and a work load that will allow them to have the flexibility to balance the many different components of their lives – setting an 8-5 work day may not work for all employees. Truth be told, some people do their best work at mid-night – why not let people work during the times they are at their best? Let them know when they need to be there for meetings and let them figure out the rest – after all, getting the work done is the most important – manage that and let them manage the rest.

6. Opportunities to give back/Volunteer
This generation has an intense desire to make a difference in the world. Allowing them to take paid time away once or twice a month to be of service to their community will make a huge difference for them – not to mention the positive outlook the community will have on your company!

7. Responsibility
This generation seeks freedom and desires responsibility – they want to be a part of the decision making process. Hand them the work, set a deadline, be available for questions/support – then let them figure out how to get it done on time. If they can’t manage to get their work in on time, you might ask how you can help them reach their deadlines – they may need to take a time management course!

Below are some messages to motivate our youngest talent, Zemke (2000):

You’ll work with other bright, creative people.

Your boss is in his (or her) sixties.

You and your coworkers can help turn this company around.

You can be a hero here.

Do it your way.

We’ve got the newest hardware and software.

There aren’t a lot of rules here.

We’re not very corporate.

Providing a Blueprint for Generational Leadership

Developing an understanding of the specific ways in which Generations X and Y view the world will provide your organization with valuable insight into how to attract, sustain and motivate the younger generations. When you speak their language and they understand your language, the stage is set for better communication, increased productivity and increased profitability. I was reminded of this when one of my client’s commented, Why do my younger employees keep talking about this whole balance thing, when there’s work to be done?

There are a couple of important things to consider here.

First is the fact that each generation has different formative experiences and, therefore, place different values on different things. The fact that they are differently valued does not make one right and another wrong they are simply different.

So, what are those differences and what can you as a manager do to best tap the talents of these generations?

Each generation has its own work ethic, different perspectives on work, preferred ways of being managed, idiosyncratic styles, and unique ways of viewing such work-world issues as quality, service and showing up for work.

Bridging the generational gap will:

  • Provide an atmosphere for shared learning
  • Heighten productivity
  • Increase leadership capability
  • Identify company and individual goals and enable action to reach them
  • Boost morale
  • Sustain commitment and reduce attrition rates, thereby reducing cost of recruiting and training.

Working Harder or Smarter?

By and large, the more seasoned generations believe working harder equals achievement. Often times their philosophy entails, the more hours in the office, the more work that is accomplished. The younger generations place a higher value on balance, informality and working smarter. When I first began my career at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), I remember thinking to myself do these people have a life outside of their computers all they do is work all the time. I was confused and, frankly, scared although I did not know exactly what I wanted to do with my future, I did know that I did not want to work crazy hours glued to a lighted screen. What I needed more than anything was to spend some time thinking about and creating my future actually developing a plan. If my mentor would have taken the time to sit down with me and help me think through and create a plan, my anxiety would have decreased and my commitment to her and the organization would have increased significantly.

Learning on Your Own or Through Mentoring

As soon as I arrived at NIH, I began searching for someone to mentor me. Every time one of the scientists said they would mentor me, they simply gave me more work to do. They didn’t understand that I needed to know what the larger vision was for my future, how my efforts would contribute to the vision at NIH, and how the work they were giving me would help me add to my professional growth. I have now realized that this scenario is wide spread. The intentions were right but they did not have the understanding of how to effectively mentor younger generations. In addition to providing these generations with important work, it is crucial to show how their work contributes to the larger picture, which in turn enables them to explore and clearly define their career plan and the steps to get to where they want to go.

Paying Your Dues

The second thing to consider is that many if not most young people expect to finish college and land a well-paying job without having to prove their work ethic and abilities. Of course, it rarely happens that way. Simply put, showing enthusiasm and a desire to do a great job with small projects even something as small as offering to take notes in meetings shows a potential to take on bigger projects. Managers are more likely to trust such a persons level of commitment, and trust is built and nurtured over time. In general, most managers are unwilling to delegate larger projects if the employee cannot demonstrate an ability to do the small tasks really well. Allowing for time to pass, so that experiences and relationships can be built, is vital to career growth.

Taking the time to help your younger employees understand that something as small as doing an excellent job taking notes in meetings can affect their future with the company is vital to their development. As a result of mentoring your younger employees in such ways, they begin to trust you and loyalty is developed. What you give is what you get may be a truism, but it is no less true for being so especially when it comes to the development of younger employees. If you take the time to help them plan for their future and see the value of their work, there is a greater chance they will work that much harder and smarter for you.

While many people might think of mentoring as babysitting because it can be time-intensive, mentoring does not need to be hand-holding, nor does it have to lead to frustration. You begin mentoring a young employee simply by listening and searching for ways to address the inevitable uncertainties and fears. By effectively mentoring, you take the anxiety for the future out of the picture and allow the employee to be present in their experience of your organization.

Charting a Course

For example, when you hire a younger employee, it is of tremendous benefit to both of you to map out a plan for the future accompanied by milestones to achieve your respective goals. It’s a win-win situation you want highly productive, engaged (and engaging) employees, and your employees want to know what’s possible for them and how to achieve it. If you discover that the position an employee currently occupies is not a good match for his or her abilities or future ambitions, be sure to explore how the employee sees this position leading to the future he or she desires. Ultimately, it is not about acceptance or rejection it is about filling needs not only your organization’s needs, but that of your employee. If it leads to a change in jobs for the employee, whether inside or outside your organization, positive growth will occur for both the organization and the employee.

“Secrets” of Effective Networking

Effective networking really means purposeful networking, and purposeful networking is really about building relationships. No matter what you want to do, where you want to live or what specific job you seek, understanding how to network is an incredibly valuable tool. I have met many, many people who dislike going to meetings in order to network, because they think they are a waste of their valuable time—because they have never seen meaningful results. Whether you are “networking” in order to find a job, to learn who and what is out there on a chosen subject, to get into a college or university or to build a business, knowing how to network effectively is a tremendous help. The rewards that ultimately come your way as a result of networking effectively are well worth learning this valuable skill.

Networking will:

  • Give you the opportunity to get “your foot in the door” of an organization and tap its “hidden job market.”
  • Allow an organization to match a face to your name, putting you at a competitive advantage.
  • Provide occasions to listen for an unfilled need within an organization and enable you to offer your skills as a solution.
  • Give you the opportunity to learn what positions are suitable to your skill level and what skills you need to advance to the position you desire.
  • Provide occasions to practice your communication and interviewing skills, as well as develop the capacity to spring back from rejection.
  • Provide venues to meet new people and build relationships.

I was reminded of this when a client said to me, “I already have a job, so why should I waste my time going to networking meetings?”

There are a couple of important things to consider here.

First is the fact that the best time to network is when you are already in a job. When you are in an intense hurry to find work – any work – you will very likely come across as less confident in your abilities. If you are already gainfully employed and do not absolutely need a job to keep your bills paid, you will naturally be a little more confident and selective in your search process.

When I first quit one of my jobs without another one lined up, I began frantically searching for a job through networking meetings. The people I was networking with could really sense my nervousness and were clearly put off by it. It wasn’t until I calmed down, became more confident in my abilities and appeared less frantic that I began to make real headway in my search.

The second idea to consider is that while most people expect networking to produce quick results, it rarely happens that way. Simply put, it cannot be done overnight. People are more likely to help people they trust, and trust is built and nurtured over time. In general, most people are unwilling to refer your name to a potential employer until they get to know you. Allowing for time to pass, so that experiences can be shared and relationships built is vital in networking.

Taking the time to help others in your networking group(s) will make you look great and build others confidence and trust in you. “What you give is what you get” is so true, especially with networking. If you take the time to help other people in your networking groups, there is a greater chance that someone will turn around and help you.

While many people might think of networking as “scary” because there is always the possibility of rejection, networking does not need to be frightening, nor does it have to lead to rejection. When you go to a networking meeting with the intention of truly listening to others and searching for ways to address their problems, you take fear of rejection out of the picture.

For example, if you are just out of college and searching for a job in a company that needs to hire an employee with your skill set, then obviously you can help that company fill an unmet need. It’s a win- win situation– you need a job and the company needs an employee with your skills. However, if you discover that the position has already been filled with another candidate, be sure to ask if they know who else is looking for someone with your skills. It is not about being rejected – it is about filling a need – not only your need, but that of a prospective employer, even if it is not the employer you first approached.

As for rejection: yes, it is always a possibility when you make the affirmative effort to network, and everyone, even the most self-assured, is subject now and again to fearing it. Rising to the occasion and overcoming that fear is often liberating—and the best way I know of to achieve that sense of freedom and to conquer that fear is to take the focus off your own needs and concentrate on the needs of others. Yet, what if you are still rejected? If you really have put the focus on the needs of the other person, you will only conclude that the problem lay elsewhere, not with you—which certainly takes the sting out of the situation.

So, if you find you or your friends saying that you do not like to network because you think “it’s a waste of time” or are “afraid of rejection,” consider all of the opportunities that are passing you by – consider the wonderful relationships that could be forming.

It is my hope that you will become aware of the many opportunities that can be tapped and the meaningful relationships that can be built as the result of networking. If more people opened up and reached out to help each other – fewer people would feel alone and frustrated by their inability to move forward with their lives!

Lend a Hand – Lift a Soul: Helping Young Women Recognize Opportunity

Sex at a young age, troubles in school, gang-related activity, remaining in abusive relationships, wearing provocative clothing, physical and emotional violence – versus – excellent academic achievement, outstanding athleticism, participation in extra- curricular activities and a commitment to community involvement. What can we do to transform the lives of young women from the first scenario to the latter? And how can each of us make a difference? Can you as an adult step into the world of a young woman and work diligently to empower her to become what she is capable of becoming? How can someone like you possibly help the young women with whom you come into contact? These are all important questions, and I would like to share some of my thoughts.

In our fast-paced society where most parents work and have too little time with their children-certainly much less time than in the past-it is extraordinarily important to find time to encourage and empower young women. Young people strive to achieve a sense of belonging-often in a group or clique of one sort or another-where they can explore and define their identities. In a world where adults are often less involved in the lives of young people, we need to step up and take responsibility for helping them learn about themselves and how to make their way in the world. If we do not, we leave it up to our modern mass media to dictate our children’s view of the world, themselves, and thus, their very future.

Mass media does not, and perhaps cannot, teach many things. It certainly does little to teach self worth. It does not teach initiative. It does not teach young women even simple things like how to eat healthfully, the value of dressing with class or where to go to grow and learn about themselves and other successful young women.

Young women need you to help them learn and grow. Programs such as Girls Unlimited, athletic activities and extracurricular academic programs all provide positive community-based youth support systems. Many young women do not know about these programs, nor do they think they could ever be a part of them. This is where excellent women mentors can play a key role in the development of young women. Listen, listen, listen to what they are working through. Think about how you can connect them to others and how you can help them grow in a positive way. It simply does not matter if a young woman is your child or not – help them – they will thank you immensely later.

I will never forget the first woman who told me that I could succeed, and then stuck by my side through both good and not-so-good days. No matter when I went to her, she listened to and encouraged me all the same. She never asked, in word or deed, how I was going to help her. She focused only on how she could help me. To this day I think of her, I call her and I send her cards to let her know how much I appreciate everything she did for me. I encourage you to take a moment to think about the first woman who empowered you.

Without mentorship, it is far too easy for young people to be drawn into negative cliques or groups, never living up to their full potential. Because we know that young women have a strong need for affiliation in peer groups, it is absolutely essential that we enable them to connect to positive, supportive environments where they can explore who they are and what they wish to become. Ultimately, we must provide the settings and tools to enable them to realize all the wonderful opportunities that are out there just waiting.

I firmly believe that we should strive to create a world in which any child or young adult – regardless of origin – is not impeded from achieving his or her full potential. Obviously, the desires and wishes of the young are, in large part, directly influenced by those surrounding them. Given the opportunity to be involved in programs that enable them to see their own positive potential, many young women will begin to realize that the world holds possibilities of which they never dreamt. The ability to see what they are capable of in the wider world has to begin somewhere. Strong female mentorship is the key to helping young women get a fast start in the race of life.

I ask you now – who are you mentoring – how are you Lending a Hand and Lifting a Soul?

Here are some suggestions for how you can Lend a Hand to young women:

  • Find someone you work with to listen to and encourage – listen for how you can help her and offer your assistance – do it without any expectations of something in return – just help her.
  • Go to an organization whose mission is to empower young women and offer your time.
  • When you see that a young woman is having difficulty, ask yourself how you can be of assistance – and offer to help.
  • Go to your local University/College’s CareerCenter and offer your time to mentor a student.

If you would like more information on how to become an outstanding mentor – or – if you would like to begin receiving my e-newsletter, please contact me at: