Mentoring 101: The Connector’s Advantage

This will the first in a new series of posts that I’m creating to help folks at all stages of their career and the official kick-off of my 2020 efforts to document helpful and key things that I have learned and shared.

Background

Growing up, and throughout my career, I’ve had challenges in finding the right professional mentors or mentors at all. At 14, I was enrolled in the Adolescent Vocational Exploration summer program where I started my deep dive into resume writing and building a career. Around the same time, I realized that the library was a beautiful haven of knowledge and dove into books of all interests, even to the point of working at my local and school libraries, as well as a teacher’s resource center. It was at my local library where I found folks returning mystery and computer books, which became my two passions. I grabbed the books, read them, enjoyed the stories and applied what I had learned from the computer books on the library’s IBM XT PC. I was so driven that I ignored other teenage desires so that I could save up for an Apple II gs and the rest was history. What I’ve noticed throughout my career was that I learned best by working with great leaders and continue to do so. Besides that, I spent most of the time learning on my own and freely sharing my code, design tips and provided free development advice to help others debug or create their applications. Ironically I was recognized because of a small community of Mozilla developers that I helped and those efforts eventually led to a publisher tapping me to write Hacking Firefox. I’ve always seen that helping others with the same questions that I’ve had as a young man (or even today) was the best reward and being recognized for those efforts was beyond splendid.

Current Day

Each day I’m in contact with genuine folks face-to-face or virtually and feel compelled to provide any help I can. I know first hand of the challenges with careers and life and while I’m no expert, nor get paid for this, I’ve reviewed resumes, made LinkedIn content recommendations, connected folks, just about anything that may help. Much of my tips I’ve gathered from extensive conversations with top executive recruiters, senior leaders, professional groups like Society for Information Management, and others.

Today I want to tie the past and the present to acknowledge a book I just read that perfectly summarized what most folks may be missing to get ahead: connections or more specifically The Connector’s Advantage – 7 Mindsets to Grow Your Influence and Impact by Michelle Tillis Lederman (2019).

So let’s see: you’ve constructed a real-time nuclear reactor simulator, you’ve been published, have patents but you just can’t seem to figure out the next steps in your career. Well, if you’ve spent all your time doing those things and not connecting, then it may be all for not.  The Connector’s Advantage walks you through the tactics, examples, advice from industry leaders (Michelle being a foremost expert herself), as well as guides you through how to identify what stage or level of a connector you are and more. Michelle Tillis Lederman

“Faster, easier, and better results, that’s the connector’s advantage” – Michelle Tillis Lederman

 

One motivator to this mentoring series and recommending this book was a recent outreach call that I made to a senior leader to see how I could understand the companies vision and how I might be able to help them in general. The call was short and response took me off guard but it was basically “that’s networking 101, just reach out to XYZ” and the call ended within minutes. Oddly, XYZ was a name I had already reached out to but had not gotten much traction in connecting but there was no opportunity afforded me to build a relationship. Was it my pitch, my tone, either way, I had offered to help in any way I could and there wasn’t anyone accepting on the other end. So don’t expect that every call, every outreach to learn, nor every offer to genuinely help someone will be received in-kind. Stay the course, make sure you are always asking, “what can I do for you?” and you’ll have more successes than failures in your endeavors to meet and learn from great people who are willing to share in their experiences.

“Your relationships are your most valuable resource” – Michelle Tillis Lederman

The Connectors Advantage I won’t give away the farm here, so please go get the book which essentially encapsulates a lot of the piecemeal advice I’ve gotten throughout the years, organizes it, and then adds a bunch more. It breaks out what you should and most importantly shouldn’t do. One critical validation in my networking efforts was when reading the book I found that I was connected to and had spoken to one of the senior leaders that she quotes, who just happens to be a connection of a connection and had given me excellent advice about four years ago. So now I can attest to the power of connecting and my continued efforts in finding ways to help others. As soon as I read the quote, I dropped my tablet and wrote them, then followed up to congratulate them and offer to see how I could help them. So this may have been due to proximity, luck or similar but at the very least I re-engaged to give them kudos for their advice in the book.

So go ahead find out if you’re a good connector with this book. I didn’t think I was and knew I needed to improve and found the missing nuggets in The Connector’s Advantage. Being able to breakdown and classify the types of connectors was exactly what my procedural mindset needed. I had a lot of the core elements and was able to analyze how to push things to the next level. Communications, connections, and building a true network is a lost art, in reading The Connector’s Advantage I was able to fill the gaps and get over the fact that I may not immediately have something to contribute but would spend time to learn more and see how I can make the connections. You’ll have to remember, some folks will ignore you and then folks that will respond, not everyone that responds is as giving, just had this happen last night again; just get over it and connect with the folks that engage.

Next Steps

The first thing to do is drop all your current networking efforts, read this book and learn about what you’re not doing (or not doing right), what you’ll experience, and what to expect.

The world is ready for you to connect, meaningfully, so go out there and help someone!