Should You Ask For a Mentorship?

Photo cred: Reto Fetz

There are two ways to start a mentorship.

You can let it grow naturally, or you can ask for it.

Personally, I let my mentorships grow naturally.  I view a mentorship as a mixture of a professional relationship and a “friendship”.  Therefore, while you can specifically seek out a professional to be your mentor and build a relationship with them, you can’t really ask for a friendship.

I know others have found success in asking a professional to be their mentor formally.  They find someone who they look up to, who they think would serve as a good mentor, and they just ask them.

What do you think?  Should you ask a professional to be your mentor or should you let your mentorships grow naturally?

I’m Not Here to Be Your Friend

The other day I read a great post by Carlos Miceli titled “The Media Attention Whores“. The post brought up the issue of media professionals that put more value in talking about what they’re doing, than actually doing it.

The post was spot on and the phenomenal (and heated) discussion in the comments provided even more insight.  It got me thinking about a common misconception that has been brewing.

I think perhaps we’re forgetting why we’re all here..so let me tell you why I’m here, why I blog, why I tweet, and why I engage in this community.

I am a business person first.

My activities and interactions in this “social media community” have the primary goal to succeed as a professional. If my time spent here doesn’t help me to perform my job better, and to benefit my career, then I am wasting my time.

Does that mean I can’t make friends during the process? Of course not.  I have made amazing friendships along the way. I consider people like Lauren Fernandez, Arik Hanson, Keith Burtis, Gloria Bell and Stuart Foster to be some of my closest and most trusted friends.  I didn’t engage with them to become friends though.  I engaged with them to benefit my career, and the friendship resulted from the process.

Don’t forget why others are here.  YES, most people are participating in this community for the sake of “conversation and networking”.  But conversation and networking aren’t a result, they’re tactics.  The purpose of building these relationships is to drive more traffic, build more opportunities etc…we’re building relationships for business purposes.

Maybe I’m the one being naive.  Maybe I’m selfish, and I should stop being so “self-promotional”.  If I don’t promote my work to the network that I’ve built, however, then why am I here?

Remember…a community manager is still a manager.

How To: Find a Mentor

Today’s Mentor Monday post comes from my friend Ryan Knapp.  After reading this post, check out his blog to find out more about him.

Photo cred: Kathy a.k.a. "K"

In 2006 I went from a PhD program in Linguistics to becoming a President/Owner of a minor-league soccer club (quite the life change, right?).  Thrust into my new position, one of the first things I did was make a list of what I needed to be successful.  Right below ‘make loads of $$’ and just above ‘hire an assistant’ I had scribbled ‘Find a Mentor’.

So I Googled, “Find a Mentor” and after reading 10 posts about why a mentor is so important and how to find a mentor in 5 steps (or for $29.99) I had a silent freak out moment,

“Oh God, I DON’T have a mentor…what do I do? Where do I start? and HOW do I find one?”

My previous life in academia I was lucky enough to have been ‘given’ three amazing mentors, or advisers as they are more commonly called.  I know many college students who are stuck with an adviser they despise, but my adviser in High School and my two advisers in College (Dr. Jeri Jaeger and Dr. Wolfgang Wölck) are/were incredible mentors and friends, but I never had to venture further than down the hall to find them.

For the first time in my life I was stuck finding a mentor on my own, and I had no clue.

So I took up an industrious approach and searched out potential mentors and read their bios and scrutinized as if I was interviewing them for a job to work with me.  “Nope, too young.  Nope, not in my field.” Lo and behold I came up empty.

However, after a few months of my failed mentor search I realized something — finding a mentor isn’t about trying to find a mentor at all.

Finding a mentor comes from forming quality connections and relationships with new people without a set outcome in mind.  Using this approach opens up a world of possibilities and you view mentorship in a completely different context.  The ‘search’ becomes unnecessary and your focus shifts to a productive two-way relationship with both give and take.

From the get-go you may have been looking for a big-shot in your field to be your mentor, but just because someone isn’t a big shot means they have less to give you.  Maybe you are a business focused person but your mentor might be someone who is an artist but can show you 1001 different ways to look at a situation.

I have been lucky enough to find two incredible mentors who have been instrumental in my growth professionally and personally.  Both Kiko Suarez and Keith Burtis became my mentors during transitions in my life, and they helped me get to where I am today, and are helping me reach where I’ll be tomorrow.

So, if you do not have a mentor but you are looking, don’t fret.  Put yourself out there and keep on making connections and meeting new people.  The beauty about our world is that your mentor could be someone half way around the world, a group of people, or you might become a mentor to someone in the process.

How did you find your mentor?  Were you looking, or did it just happen?

Social Media is a Good Distraction

I don’t know about you, but I’ve wasted countless hours back in the good ol days of highschool, playing One Slime…as well as candystand mini golf and the other simple games that weren’t blocked by the school.

Now don’t try to tell me that employees weren’t wasting their time playing stupid games too.

Distractions on the internet have existed as long as the internet.

Today, our distraction is social media.  In college, I couldn’t go through a single day without checking up on facebook.  Today, if I go a day without twitter, I start to get dizzy and forget where I am.

Not so bad though if you ask me.  Compared to spending hours trying to beat that damn “Big Blue Boss” and his evil minion, the “Psycho Slime”, spending time throughout the day connecting with friends and strangers, sharing valuable or entertaining content, and spreading ideas seems like a big step in the right direction.

Perhaps companies shouldn’t be looking to eliminate the distraction that is social media.  By distraction standards, social media is a blessing.  Perhaps they should start looking into how they can use it to help the company.

pwned.

How Would You Fix this Disconnect in Social Media Hiring?

Photo cred: madebytess

My friend Amber Naslund had a great post recently about the problems with social media job descriptions. I agreed with much of what she said.  So many job descriptions for social media related positions really just make me laugh.

My first reaction is usually to blame the company.  They obviously don’t get “it” and are making themselves look foolish with these job descriptions they’re posting online.

But wait…

Why am I blaming the company?

I thought we’re encouraging companies to start to experiment with social media platforms.  I thought companies are supposed to open their mind.  Now when they take their first step into social media, we judge them for not getting it right?

Amber really got me thinking.  How can companies, who know nothing about social media, know what to ask of a social media job candidate?  There’s a disconnect there.

How can companies fill this disconnect?  Should they start by approaching social media platforms with the employees and resources they already have?  Then when they’re a bit more comfortable with it, they can hire and build out a full team?  That’s what Lee Aase and the Mayo Clinic did and it seemed to work pretty well for them.

Or do they rely on external recruiters? Hire someone to hire someone?

I have my own ideas which I’ll end up sharing in the comments, but I’d like to hear your thoughts first.

What do you think?

5 Creative Ways to Use Sponsored Tweets

sponsoredtweetsBack when Sponsored Tweets launched, I wrote a post asking if it will survive.  (Disclaimer: Ted has since given me credit to test the service, which I wrote about here.)

I continue to think about the service and it’s possible value.  If done right, I really like sponsored tweets.  The goal isn’t always to manipulate the follower into finding value in a product…Sponsored tweets simply allow you to tap in to a community that you don’t currently have access to.

And it’s not always ads.  The message they choose to send can be a number of things. Here are some different ways that businesses can use sponsored tweets.

  1. Market Research. Want to know a community’s thoughts and opinions?   The answers you get will be more quality than a mass snail mail campaign, and it’s probably cheaper too.
  2. Contests.  If you want to start a contest for a specific community, you need to be able to reach the people in that community.  Sponsoring a tweet can be a great way to give away prizes.  It involves no “opinion” from the tweeter so their followers probably won’t be too offended.
  3. Crowdsource ideas. Pull in ideas by sponsoring tweets in different communities and asking for feedback. For example, a company wants to launch a new diaper product, and wants to gather ideas from mothers.  If you aren’t tapped into the “mom-blog” community on twitter, good luck finding answers there. Sponsor a tweet from a prominent “mom-twitterer” to ask questions for you.
  4. Collect donations for a cause. Most tweeters probably won’t even ask for money, assuming you have a worthy cause and you approach them respectfully.  Either way, you can reach a larger audience to get your charity off the ground.
  5. Sponsor a Q&A Expert Session. Say you have a site for bloggers.  Sponsor a Q&A session on twitter with Darren Rowse where he can answer questions from new bloggers directly.  Add your hashtag to the tweets, promote the event with your site.

See a re-occuring theme?  Again, sponsored tweets simply allows you to tap into communities that you don’t currently have access to.  Sure, if you’re trying to engage with the community, sponsored tweets aren’t the best method.

Not all tweets are meant for participating in conversation and building a community.

You can sign up to try out Sponsored Tweets here. (affiliate referral link)

What are some other creative ways to use sponsored tweets?

Why Won’t Bloggers Dig Into Detail?

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Photo cred: Damien Sachs-Dromsön

Do we care more about the popularity of our content than the advancement of our industry?

In order to appeal to as many people as possible, professional bloggers have to make sure that their content can be consumed by readers of different levels of experience.  The beginners have to be able understand what they’re talking about.

The issue is then, what about the more experienced readers?  When the “thought leaders” limit the depth of their thoughts and advice, experienced readers get to a point where they can’t learn any more from reading blogs.

The growth of the industry is halted.

I think that blogging is slowly becoming the heart and voice of so many industries as more and more professionals are turning to blogging to learn, share and grow.  If we don’t help them grow beyong the “beginner” level, the advancement of the industry will suffer.

It’s not just blogging.  Look at conferences. Same speakers, same topics, same shit every time.  Makes sense…if a conference wanted to dig deeper, “beginners” wouldn’t find it valuable.  Less money to be made.

Will this problem become even greater as blogs grow in popularity and influence?  Could young and upcoming professionals become so used to learning and researching with blogs and social networks, that they’ll forgot how to conduct research using other methods?

For contrast, look at the science world. My friend Jon just started a blog that focuses on bridging the gap between the ivory tower and the common man.  This is because when scientists and academics write about their work, they don’t write to get more readers, they write to be acknowledged for their innovations within their industry.  They don’t dumb it down at all.  Sure it created a disconnect with the common man, but science continues to grow and innovate as a result.

If you’re used to information always being brought to you, it’s very hard to go back to seeking it out.  When there’s nothing left to learn from blogs, where do they go to continue to learn?

Help me out here…share your thoughts.