5 Ways to Unlock the Power of Mentorship in Your Career (Video)

Mentorship is critical to career growth and the benefits of mentorship include faster promotions, salary growth, and increased job satisfaction.

But finding the right mentor can be challenging and it’s not always clear how to build an effective mentoring relationship.

In Episode 6 of The Not Your Parents’ Workplace Show, I cover why mentorship matters, four ways to attract a mentor, and creative ways to find mentorship.

5 years ago I published Not Your Parents’ Workplace. In the book, I wrote about the challenges I faced in 2008 when I had a front-row seat to the largest bankruptcy in US history. Given today’s economic environment and career challenges, I’m kicking off a YouTube series where I’ll share lessons I wrote about in the book as well as lessons I’ve learned since.

Daily Gratitude: The Impact of Strong Mothers (Day 1,130)

In April 2017 I kicked off a gratitude challenge where I wrote a daily blog post for 30 days (more on my learnings here). When the challenge ended I decided to continue the habit but only occasionally share these gratitudes on my blog. 

In his book Standing for Something, Gordon B. Hinckley shares the impact that strong mothers can have on both their children and the world.

The story is told that in ancient Rome a group of women were, with vanity, showing their jewels to one another. Among them was Cornelia, the mother of two boys. One of the women said to her, “And where are your jewels?” Cornelia responded, pointing to her sons, “These are my jewels.”

Cornelia-Mother-of-the-Gracchi-cover
Angelica Kauffmann, Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi, 1785. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Under her tutelage, and walking after the virtues of her life, they grew to become Gaius and Tiberius Gracchus—the Gracchi, as they were called—two of the most persuasive and effective reformers in Roman history. For as long as they are remembered and spoken of, the mother who reared them after the manner of her own life will be remembered and spoken of with praise also.

Mother’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the wonderful women that have influenced our lives. I have been blessed to be surrounded by remarkable mothers.

The first mother I am thankful for is my Grandmother, Lenore Hobbs. My grandma stayed with my family for extended periods of time when I was in middle school. We’d watch basketball together and she loved cheering for her “Little Johnny” (John Stockton) and the Utah Jazz. She was a joy to be with. She always made me feel like I was the most important person alive. My grandma was one of the most loving people I’ve known. She gave and she gave and she gave, never expecting anything in return. While Grandma Hobbs passed away several years ago, the memory of her kindness lives on.

Second, I’m grateful for my mother. She taught me to read at a young age and instilled a love of books. My siblings attended a private school and the commute was 45 minutes each way. When she wasn’t driving them to school or dropping us off at soccer practice, or taking us to baseball games, she was helping us with homework or assisting in our classrooms. She devoted all of her adult life to raising me and my siblings. She is an example of selfless service.

Finally, I am thankful for my wife. I’ve written before of the many things I love about her, so I’ll be brief here. Motherhood is always hard, but COVID-19 has brought unique parenting challenges. With schools getting closed and sports seasons canceled, she’s taken on increased responsibilities. She teaches, cares, and serves with love and patience. She shows up every single day. She is relentless.

If service is the rent we pay for living in this world, these three women have more than paid their portion. I am grateful for strong women who, like Cornelia, have chosen to make their children their jewels. The world is a better place because of them.

3 Daily Practices to Thrive During COVID-19 (Video)

I don’t know about you, but for much of this COVID period, I’ve been in survival mode, learning on the fly how to cope with this new reality. But recently, I was challenged to look at things from a different perspective.

Rather than merely survive during this period, what if it were possible to truly thrive? What if it were possible in one year to look back and say that we experienced more personal growth and were more productive during this time than any other?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to believe that, while difficult, holding a new perspective is possible. In this video, I share 3 daily practices for thriving during COVID-19 and any other challenging period.

For more videos, click here.

How to Develop a Career Competitive Advantage (Video)

In 2012 I read a book that had a profound impact on me and shifted how I think about my career.

That book is The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha.  The authors argue that we can develop a competitive advantage by answering questions regarding our assets, our aspirations, and the market realities.

1) Assets: What are you inherently good at? What do you have going for you? These can include soft assets (knowledge, skills, connections) and hard assets (cash, investments).

2) Aspirations: Where do you want to go in the future? What do you want to do? Who do you want to become?

3) Market Realities: What will people actually pay you for? Where is there a market demand?

In my latest video, I dive into these three critical questions, sharing how these questions inspired me to make a career pivot and how they can help you build a career competitive advantage.

Fortune Favors the Bold (Video)

Being bold is important in all aspects of our lives, but it’s especially critical in our careers. I learned this lesson firsthand when my friend Ned’s boldness and creativity helped him find his dream job.

In Episode #3 of the Not Your Parents’ Workplace Show, I walk through why fortune favors the bold, share the story of how Ned landed the job, and provide two tips on how YOU can be bolder than ever.

What Pitbull Can Teach You About Building a Powerful Network (Video)

What comes to mind when you hear the word “networking”? If you’re like many, you think of an extreme extrovert at a cocktail party or networking event, glad-handing and dishing out business cards to everyone in sight. Ughh. We know networking is important, but does it have to be so painful?

In my second video, I share tips on how to network in a more focused and authentic way, as well as how to build a personal board of directors.

Going forward, I plan to post one video per week. If you like what you see, subscribe to the channel so you can catch future ones!

5 years ago I published the career strategy book, Not Your Parents’ Workplace. In it, I share the challenges I faced and the lessons I learned during the 2008 financial crisis and beyond. Within a year of graduating college, I worked at three companies, enduring the largest bankruptcy in history at one and getting laid off by another. It was a brutal period I’ll never forget.

We’re now in another period of economic uncertainty. Many have lost jobs and others are worried about what the future holds. In light of this, I’ve decided to try something new. I’ve kicked off a series where I share stories and lessons from Not Your Parents’ Workplace as well as insights I’ve had over the last five years.

Career Q&A with Ryan Seamons, Co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Sprintwell (#8)

Our next Career Q&A is with none other than Ryan Seamons, Co-founder and Partner at Sprintwell. There’s a lot of goodness throughout. I’ve always been impressed by Ryan’s commitment to learning and how intentional he is in living his life. Enjoy!

Ryan Seamons is co-founder and partner at Sprintwell. They help teams build habits of innovation without burning out. Ryan believes that everyone can do meaningful work, and that people growth and product growth go hand-in-hand. 

After a decade working in product management, Ryan loves helping others understand the mechanics and mindset that drive great product teams and save companies time, money, and energy. Ryan created the first internal version of LinkedIn Learning and led product teams as Director of Product at Degreed. 

He is passionate about education and family. He and his wife write about intentional family living from their experiences homeschooling their 5 children. He also created the “What do you really want?” newsletter with weekly conversations about getting what you want at work and in life.

ryan seamons

What’s a book that has influenced your career or life, and why?

First, Break All the Rules. This book got me into organizational behavior. It was eye-opening to realize that many people go into management not because they would be good at it, but because of the additional income and power. 

Gallup calls this the “blind, breathless climb”. This explains a good percentage of incompetence and friction at work. Just because someone was a good individual contributor doesn’t mean they will be good at managing other people doing that thing. We promote people just beyond their capabilities. 

That book was the beginning of my finding the problems I care deeply about — the reality that:

  • Most people don’t like their jobs.
  • Many managers aren’t ever equipped and enabled to guide meaningful work.
  • Often companies have no idea how to build sustainable habits of innovation.

There’s a better way. We should all be able to find meaning in our work. Management can be a noble profession. And innovation is more like math than magic. 

Was there an experience you had before age 21 that shaped who you are? What was it?

I served a 2-year mission for my church in Bangkok, Thailand. While the entire experience was incredibly formative, the most impactful part was 9 of those 24 months spent living with native Thai companions (missionaries pairs are called “companionships”). 

It’s incredible to spend 24/7 living with someone from a different cultural upbringing. To speak their language and learn about their country and culture by observing them. I made too many mistakes to count. My world view was challenged over and over again. But not a day goes by that I don’t use the skills of empathy, observation, patience, and compassion that I learned from my time with them. 

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

Lots of failures to choose from. 😂

My favorite failure ended up being the best thing that happened to me. I dated this girl in high school that broke my heart, per my mother’s encouragement (my mother didn’t want me dating seriously so young). I was hurt and discouraged but moved on. 

A few years later that girl and I reconnected, had a quick engagement and got married. We were both a little older and wiser and the time allowed us to both grow up. A decade of travel, entrepreneurship, and 5 kids later I realize the best thing in my life probably wouldn’t have happened had it not ‘failed’ first. 

Thanks, mom. 

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

1) Never stop learning. Most people get stuck because they stop learning. 

2) Spend time early and often deciding what you really want. Too often we choose a path for the wrong reasons. It’s easy to accept the script of others but it ends up being the #1 regret at the end of people’s lives

3) Be Bold. I got my first internship by first being told that a recruiter “wasn’t looking for interns, only full-time”. I was about to leave, but then turned back around and asked, “well, if your company were to recruit an intern, who would I talk to about that?” He sized me up for a few seconds, then handed me his business card with the email of a colleague written on it. That one moment of boldness turned into an incredible experience where I first got exposed to applied bioinformatics, web development, design, consulting, database, etc. Many skills I have used in my career came from that moment of boldness. 

What are the bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

“The Product Manager is the CEO of the product.” It’s a horrible mindset that leads to a lot of stress and poor expectations. Too many people go into product management because they think they will be in charge or be able to call the shots. That’s rarely the case. 

A product manager is a lot more like an American football quarterback or a pirate captain. You have to be a master of influence without authority. Your job is a lot more about alignment, inspiration, and communication than many expect. The hard skills of market research, analytics, prototyping, etc are important, but if you don’t build trust with your stakeholders and team, you’ll never deliver value to customers in the way you hope.

So many teams grind to a halt because product managers don’t prioritize the people side of product management. 

If you could go back in time to when you were entering the workforce and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Optimize for learning. Learning compounds just like money. Given the choice, choose the opportunity where you’ll learn most.

This has driven my choices in schooling, switching teams/companies, and how I spend a good deal of my free time. More than ever you will stand out by intentionally learning (vs binging on Netflix or social media). There is so much knowledge out there. Spend a few minutes each day consuming in a high-quality way and you’ll stand out with your ability to help others and lead change.

Who is one person, dead or alive, who you admire? Why do you admire them? 

Stephen Covey. I love the stories about how he prioritized his children, even while working hard. I hope to influence just a few people the same way he influenced millions.

What habit or practice helps you manage stress? 

Whenever my wife and I are stressed out or overwhelmed, we have a “whiteboarding session”. 

This is a technique we use in our consulting at Sprintwell to help teams get clarity and alignment. But it works incredibly well for individuals or couples as well. 

We pull up a whiteboard (or document) and go through the following steps:

  1. Write down what’s going well. 
  2. Write down what’s not going well, stressful, or needs to get done
  3. Organize the list, putting like items together and then sorting by priority. 
  4. Make some quick decisions about next steps. 

This always gets us unstuck and facilitates positive conversation and action.

When have you felt stuck in your career? How did you break out of it or push forward?

I had a boss who once told me that I didn’t have what it took in the career path I was hoping for. I remember being devastated. I was pretty mad walking out of that 1:1. I distinctly remember realizing that I could decide how I responded. I decided to ask myself, “what can I learn from this?”

Suddenly I realized how much I could learn. I did have a long way to go. So, I got to work learning. Now, years later, I’m sharing the knowledge I learned with product managers and leaders at some of the world’s most successful companies. I might not have built that expertise if I hadn’t been “challenged” by that boss. 

For more Career Q&As, click here, or you can check out my monthly newsletter.

 

Comparison is the Thief of Joy. Here’s the Antidote. (Video)

5 years ago I published the career strategy book, Not Your Parents’ Workplace. In it, I share the challenges I faced and the lessons I learned during the 2008 financial crisis and beyond. Within a year of graduating college, I worked at three companies, enduring the largest bankruptcy in history at one and getting laid off by another. It was a brutal period I’ll never forget.

We’re now in another period of economic uncertainty. Many have lost jobs and others are worried about what the future holds. In light of this, I’ve decided to try something new. I’m kicking off a series where I share stories and lessons from Not Your Parents’ Workplace as well as insights I’ve had over the last five years.

Here’s the first video. I’d love to hear what you think and if there are specific topics you’d like covered in future ones!

 

Daily Gratitude: Marco Polo (Day 1,086)

In April 2017 I kicked off a gratitude challenge where I wrote a daily blog post for 30 days (more on my learnings here). When the challenge ended I decided to continue the habit but only occasionally share gratitudes on my blog.  

One of the challenges I’ve faced while physically isolating during COVID-19 is the lack of connection to the outside world. Marco Polo (no, not that one, or that one) is a video chat app that’s been a gamechanger for me.

There are countless ways to stay connected. Phone calls, Facetime, and Zoom/WebEx are great for real-time, synchronous communication. They’re great for talking with friends, family, and colleagues at the same time. Text messages work well for asynchronous communication and I love being able to respond at times that are convenient.

I love Marco Polo because it provides asynchronous video communication. I experience the joy of connecting face-to-face but don’t have to get everyone together at the same time. Through Marco Polo, I can watch video messages at my leisure, then create and send a video when convenient. It’s super easy to use and makes staying in touch fun.

Isolating physically has been a challenge for me and countless others. Meaningful connection is a basic need for everyone and I’m grateful we have technology in Marco Polo that can help fill that need.

Career Q&A with Lisa Lee, VP of Global Culture, Belonging, and People Growth at DoorDash (#7)

Our next Career Q&A is with my friend and colleague Lisa Lee, VP of Global Culture, Belonging, and People Growth at DoorDash. Lisa provides fantastic advice on bouncing back from failure, creating stronger and more inclusive teams, and the need to continually invest in building relationships.

Lisa Lee is the VP of Global Culture, Belonging, and People Growth at DoorDash. She oversees Employee Connections, Diversity & Inclusion, Internal Communications, and Learning & Development, weaving together these four critical areas to create an interconnected strategy so DoorDash’s employees can do the best work of their careers.

Lisa joins DoorDash from Squarespace, where she led the creation of its first diversity and inclusion strategy. Before Squarespace, Lisa served as Pandora Media’s first Director of Diversity and Inclusion Strategies. Prior to joining Pandora, Lisa was at Facebook where she led initiatives in User Operations, Product Operations, and Diversity Programs.

Lisa served as the publisher of Hyphen magazine, an award-winning publication about Asian American arts, culture, and politics, co-founded Thick Dumpling Skin, a positive body image community for the Asian American community. Most recently, she co-launched The Margin, making space for people of color at conferences around the world.

lisa lee

What’s a book that has influenced your career or life, and why?

Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy is a book I will forever remember not just for the important message it has for all of us, but also for the way it made me feel. 

Just Mercy documents Bryan Stevenson’s life long quest to free wrongly convicted people from death row. The majority of his clients being poor people of color from the South who were targeted in a justice system that is systematically unjust. 

I remember the day that I finished the book, I went to a meeting for a nonprofit organization that I volunteered with and just cried the whole drive there. In doing diversity and inclusion work, one can easily become so well versed with the data and “the business case for diversity” that it’s easy to forget about the lives of real people who are impacted as a result of racism, sexism, and other forms of bias. Bryan Stevenson’s message reminded me that if we want to solve the problems that we see, we must become intimate with the people impacted and the system that perpetuates those persistent problems.

Was there an experience you had before age 21 that shaped who you are? What was it?

I was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan. At the age of nine, my family immigrated to South Africa and we immigrated again to Los Angeles, California when I was 15. Throughout, my parents weren’t always with me and my siblings because they worked abroad to provide for us. 

The experiences of assimilating within such vastly different cultures without a traditional family unit had a profound effect on me in my understanding of the world and myself. I learned to be independent and to trust myself (as much as this is a lifelong journey). I learned to be resilient and to acknowledge my differences. I also learned that you can learn from everyone around you, especially those who don’t look like you or reflect your upbringing. 

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

Earlier on in my career, I prided myself on being principled. I had a strong sense of right and wrong. Frankly, I probably felt like I was right most of the time! While this served as a guiding light for me in my life, it didn’t help me to be a great listener and I didn’t always make room to understand other people’s perspectives. Rather than asking myself, “how can I make sense of this?”, I would double down and become frustrated. 

This lack of curiosity on my part resulted in some major failings with internal partners and stakeholders, where even as I wanted to lead, I was getting further and further away from that goal. 

Looking back, the failures helped me to learn a few things: 

  • Listen, and do not listen to speak or defend. Listen to understand the other person’s perspective and the impact that you had on them through your actions 
  • Hone and master your craft. Deliver excellence always, even when it is hard. If you’re thinking that people have different standards of excellence, sure. Then go back to #1 and also ask yourself “am I putting out work that I am proud of?”
  • It’s ok to feel ashamed, but don’t let it erode your faith in yourself. We all have our good days, bad days, highs and lows. Take the time to acknowledge, “I could’ve handled that better” and even sulk for a few days is absolutely ok! But don’t beat yourself up to the point when you’re so down on yourself that you can’t see clearly. 

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

Graduating from high school, I didn’t get accepted to any of the schools I had my heart set on. Growing up in a community where mostly many people in my circle touted their prestigious school acceptance like a badge was especially tough. It was around that time that my dad told me that life is a marathon, so don’t let one milestone (or the lack thereof) be the determination of where you’re going. This stuck with me. We all have our own timeline, even if you don’t know where that destination is. Focus on being the very best at what you get to do every day. Be prepared, do your homework, and ask questions. Be open to all possibilities, and friendships, because you never know what doors people can open for you. 

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I would ignore the advice around “don’t worry about money,” or “just follow your dreams.” Financial independence for me was incredibly important since my family was far from well off. At a young age, I knew that my parents were under a lot of pressure for taking care of their four children and I knew that I wanted to 1) not be a burden on my parents financially, and to 2) take care of them one day. Depending on your circumstances, money could be a very real reality for you. Find ways to feed yourself and your family (literally), as well as your soul. It may mean putting in more work, after work hours, but know that the two are not mutually exclusive. 

What are the bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

These are more common mistakes that get shared out as good practices rather than bad recommendations.  

  • Start with “gender diversity”: Gender diversity is oftentimes, in action, synonymous with increasing, promoting, and retaining white women. This is dangerous because it implies there’s a pecking order in how a more diverse and inclusive workforce can and should be achieved, and it further ostracizes and excludes women of color (and men of color) by not addressing experiences that they’ve had. 
  • Setting up Employee Resource Groups as (the start to) a company’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts: Employee Resources Groups can only be as successful as the leaders of the company want them to be. They’re oftentimes seen as fun extracurricular activities that only the employees themselves care about, yet companies like to tout them as a badge of honor. It’s important to remember that Employee Resource Groups are oftentimes formed to yes, build community, but also to address gaps that underrepresented employees feel, whether that is a lack of representation in the company’s leadership or practices that could be improved to be more inclusive. Therefore an incentive and reward structure needs to be created to sustain Employee Resource Group participation, and funding, as well as leadership involvement, needs to be built into the structure from the beginning. 
  • Focusing D&I efforts mostly on recruiting, or at the talent attraction level: Many companies think of D&I as a recruiting problem, and think that investing in recruiting is a good start, instead of looking at the employee lifecycle holistically. While it is important to set goals around increasing underrepresented people in the applicant pool, it is just as important to ensure that people can come into your company and grow to have meaningful impact. 
  • Learning and Development efforts being separate from D&I efforts: “Unconscious Bias Trainings” have traditionally been divorced from manager trainings and other curriculum offerings at a company. Amongst training topics, such as coaching and delegation, where unfair treatment often happens, it is important to educate how bias can cause us to give disparate amounts of time to people of different backgrounds and how we may inadvertently delegate more “house” work to women, such as note-taking and planning team offsites. In order to correct unhealthy power dynamics at work, especially if your company has had a more homogenous workforce, it is key to embed D&I training into all L&D efforts because it is incumbent on everyone to create an inclusive culture that will enable diversity to grow. 

What’s one of your proudest professional accomplishments? 

In addition to purchasing my own home before I turned 30, I’ve been able to support my parents and siblings in their home ownership. As an immigrant and a child of immigrants, I’ve spent most of my life being obsessed with the idea of “home” and I love that we’ve been able to find it and create it for our family.  

What habit or practice helps you manage stress?

A few years ago I made physical fitness a priority to help me manage stress and to feel more balanced. I work out with a kettlebell trainer twice a week and go to yoga about twice a week. During the summer I love biking in New York as a form of (fun) commute. 

I also set reading goals every year to get through a number of fiction books. To reach the goal, I go down the rabbit hole of finding my “next book” and it can be fun researching. 

One of the greatest benefits of living in New York is, of course, experiencing great art! I was a theatre and performance studies major in college so I make sure to attend theatre performances, live music, and even comedy. It’s always inspiring to be wow’ed by other people’s creativity, which helped me to think about how I can be even more innovative in my own work. 

If you could go back in time to when you were entering the workforce and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

Invest more time in relationships. Given that I had a lot of interests outside of work, I didn’t spend a lot of time getting to know my coworkers because I always had somewhere to go, whether that was volunteering or my existing friend circle. Many people that I used to work with are doing absolutely incredible things now with their lives and I could be learning more from their journeys.

For more Career Q&As, click here, or you can check out my monthly newsletter.