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Understanding Your Role as a Mentee

SHANE NELSON: What advice can you give to folks that are new to their company on how they can adapt to the company’s culture quickly


YRTHYA DINZEY-FLORES: It is important to listen. What I typically do when I’m new to a company is go on a small listening tour, if you will. I make sure that I take time out to either meet for 15 minutes or do a lunch with the people on my team. Then I ask them to recommend someone else that I should speak to so that I can learn a little bit more about what everybody does. I want to know what the company is like, what the different roles are, and how those intersect. Listening to the cues that help you understand what the company’s culture is is very important.

NELSON: Any tips for high potential women in terms of how to balance work/life, the importance of being mentored or sponsored, or giving back to the organization what was given to them early in their career

DINZEY-FLORES: I think the important thing is to realize that you’re never too far along in your career to be mentored. It’s important to have mentors within the organization, but also outside of the organization so that you’re getting 360 feedback about how you are internally, both within the organization and what you’re aiming to achieve.

But also to have an external perspective that also helps you calibrate your broader life goals. I do think it’s important to give back. A lot of people sometimes become overwhelmed by the time investment. For me, if I don’t know someone very well or I’m asked to speak to someone, instead of thinking of it as a big investment (time), I try to say yes and meet with them for a half hour. It’s important for me to share with them the benefit of my experience. And sometimes, just that one touchpoint gives that person some ideas about how they want to proceed.

NELSON: That’s good. Why should employees join resource groups What are the benefits to them, and how can joining help their careers

DINZEY-FLORES: The interesting thing about this question is that employee resource groups have come a long way since their inception. There are now many companies that have leading employee resource groups. Places where you get to understand what the leadership’s commitment is; where you get to meet some of the senior executives that run the company and hear what their vision is, not just around diversity and inclusion, but also for the company and what the business priorities are. So, a benefit to joining is exposure to leadership. It’s also exposure to the leadership of the business resource groups, which typically have people that are very well connected within companies. These people have a track record of success, especially if the ERG is very strategic. They can really help you understand how to maximize your network at your company. They can also help you understand what kind of leadership qualities are valued within the company, in addition to connecting you with the leadership of the organization in a way that’s very genuine and goes beyond a work product. It’s really the soft skills that at a particular point propel your career. It’s not just about knowledge of a particular subject.

NELSON: So we’ve often heard that mentoring isn’t just a one-way street, it’s a two-way street.

DINZEY-FLORES: Right.

NELSON: And the mentee should bring something to the table. They have a big role in the relationship. What advice can you give to folks in terms of understanding their role as a mentee

DINZEY-FLORES: I just had this conversation with someone today. I think that a lot of times mentees go into their relationship almost as an empty vessel. I think mentees have a lot to contribute. I would say number one, understand what it is that you want to get from the relationship and define some goals or things you want to accomplish with your mentor.

Second, I think that it’s important to open up your mentor’s world to other perspectives, challenges and points of view and to have a real discussion and exchange. That exchange shouldn’t always just be around professional goals or specific to your current job, but more broadly about your career path and some of the challenges that one would either face or need to address. You need to get a little bit deeper into the relationship.

One way mentees could really activate the relationship is by making it not so transactional but by opening up and actually deepening the relationship. I’ve done this many times. On one particular occasion, I was looking for a job transition and I had lunch with my mentor. I said, very honestly, “You know, I don’t know what my vision is but I need to find a way for my ideals to line up more with my career objectives. I need you to tell me how you did that, and also I need you to help guide me in terms of how I can accomplish that.”

NELSON: Great point there. I have one more question here and an interesting one. What advice would you give to folks on how to manage their personal brand in the workplace

DINZEY-FLORES: You can’t build your personal brand alone. It’s important to understand that it’s not just about what you want other people to understand about your brand, but that people also form ideas about who you are. And so, in that sense, I think it’s important for us to manage our personal brand and to understand what the external factors are that impact it and create a feedback loop.

Managing your personal brand is not just about your idea, but also about understanding the culture in which you work and how people understand your brand. It’s appropriate in some cases to have those conversations with your manager and with other people on your team to understand how they assess your contribution and who you are as a team member.

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