Don’t worry. I’m not turning this into a political thing. Admittedly, not so long ago, I admired the guy. Anthony Weiner has always been outspoken and unafraid. I loved this video of him on the House floor fighting for compensation for the heroes and victims of 9/11. When we talk about finding your voice in the workplace, Weiner was definitely a role model.
And then…the photo. Oh, Mr. Weiner. You disappoint us so…
(Note: If you don’t live in North America and you haven’t been subjected to a really uncomfortable two weeks of news coverage known as “Weinergate,” a quick Google search will answer your questions.)
Here’s the thing: I truly believe that what people do privately—as long as it’s legal and doesn’t interfere with their ability to the job—is their business. I don’t want to know what happens in the bedroom of my politicians, my co-workers, or my employers.
But there are two things about this particular case that really get me. And these are the two things that take it from being a private matter to a public one. These are the two things that turn personal lapses of judgment into fire-able offenses (in my opinion). So let’s consider this a lesson for the workplace. No matter what you do in your time outside of the office, I ask you to keep in mind these two points.
Showing flagrant irresponsibility in your private life brings your judgment at work into question.
Even if your irresponsible actions are legal and they do not in any way impact your ability to do the job, they still make others lose confidence. People look at you and think, “If she’s that stupid in her private life, I wonder what she’s doing at work that I don’t know about…”
You see, Weiner didn’t just make one mistake with this Twitter photo. He did it over and over. He took stupid risks. That kind of brazen bad behavior makes you wonder if he’s taking stupid risks on the job as well. Maybe he’s not. Maybe he demonstrates impeccable judgment when he’s not on Twitter. But the trust that was once there is gone.
Keep this in mind in your own life. Even if your outside activities are completely separate from your work, how would they impact that trust? If people knew more about your private life, would they still have faith in your judgment? I’m not saying you have to walk around like a saint, but maybe think twice before dancing topless on the bar. These days, you never know what evidence may fall into the hands of your employer.
Do not use work resources for personal matters.
The other potential issue I have with this Weinergate story is that it appears the Congressman may (though he’s denying it right now) have used public resources to engage in this stuff. If he did indeed use his work computer or take those photos while conducting official business, it’s definitely a bigger issue. It’s one thing to have a messy personal life, but this would make it no longer personal.
Again, keep this in mind in your own life. Work is work. Don’t use work resources or work time for personal matters, questionable or not. This almost goes without saying but it happens time and time again. Don’t write emails to your boyfriend from your work computer. Don’t jump on Facebook from your work computer.
If you do, it’s no longer personal; it’s business. Perhaps you’re okay with that. But remember that one day, you might not be. Once you open that can of worms, it’s open. Separating the two parts of your life after they’ve been mixed up is like trying to pull the eggs out of the cake batter.
So let’s turn this whole messy affair into a positive learning experience. If you want to enjoy an irresponsible personal life, keep it far, far away from your business. Or, better yet, clean up your act. In most cases, it’s just not worth it.
Photo Credit: David Boyle (Flickr)
In my work as a career coach, I find there are several helpful resources that very few people take advantage of. Mentorship definitely falls on this list. It’s really a shame. Having a mentor can elevate your professional capabilities exponentially. And—added bonus—mentors are amazing people. When you take the time to develop a strong mentorship relationship, you get access to a wealth of knowledge and experience, but you also end up with a lifelong friend and potential future business partner. In short, there’s no downside.
Of course, if you aren’t familiar with the concept, you may have questions about how it all works. Well, that’s what I’m here for!! Please allow me to offer some insights.
What Exactly Is a Mentor?
A mentor is a more experienced (typically older) professional in your field who offers you career guidance, advice and assistance from a real world point-of-view. Pretty simple, huh?
Why Should I Bother?
As mentioned above, mentorship offers a host of amazing benefits. A good mentor is wise and willing to share his or her knowledge and experiences in order to help you succeed. It’s like having a wonderful trusted ally to go to whenever you’re feeling unsure or in need of support. They can help you set and achieve career goals, make smart business decisions, overcome workplace challenges, learn new skills or simply offer an outside perspective when you’re facing frustrations at work. The benefits are truly endless.
When Should I Get a Mentor?
Mentors are helpful regardless of where you are in your career. Whether you’re fresh out of college or a few years from retirement, there are always others who have “been there, done that” from whom you can learn. So no matter who you are, I always say, “NOW is a great time to start.”
If/when you’re more experienced, you may want to BE a mentor. Please do so!! It’s an incredibly fulfilling experience and I believe that mentors learn just as much as those they assist. But I encourage everyone to also find a mentor of your own. As humans, we’re always learning and evolving, and even the most experienced professional doesn’t know everything.
More than likely, the mentorship relationships of experienced professionals will not look the same as those who are entry-level or mid-career. You may have a mentor who is closer in age and experience—or even someone who is your junior! As long as the person has qualities and knowledge you can learn from, it’s perfectly acceptable.
Who Should Be My Mentor?
This is a big question and I recommend you take some time to think it over carefully. The choice of person makes a big difference in the success of the relationship and, ultimately, in YOUR success. Look for someone you respect professionally and someone who has a career you’d like to emulate. That doesn’t mean you want to follow in their footsteps exactly; you’re just looking for a person who has had success in your field (or even a similar one) and someone who embodies the professional characteristics you’re working to achieve.
Of course, you also need to find someone who is willing to be a mentor, is eager to share knowledge, will be open and honest with you, will have time to dedicate to you (though how much is flexible) and is trustworthy. You’ll be potentially sharing a lot of sensitive information so this last point is essential.
Lastly, I recommend that you look for someone you like on a personal level, not just a professional one. You should look forward to spending time with your mentor. The conversations should be pleasant, engaging and inspiring.
How Does the Mentorship Relationship Work?
Establish specifics around your relationship in whatever way works best for both you and your mentor. It can be a formal arrangement, an informal one or something in the middle. No matter what, it has to work for both of you. To get started, I recommend that you, as the mentee, come up with your “ideal” relationship. Share the information with your mentor and make sure you leave it open for discussion. Find out how much time they are willing to invest and build a schedule based on that.
For example, my first mentorship relationship was rather informal. My mentor and I would meet via phone about once a month (usually for an hour) and in between these conversations, we would communicate via email. I would send work to him when I needed a quick critique. He would send me links of articles to read when he stumbled upon something I might learn from. When I was facing a challenge, I’d check in with him for a little guidance and reassurance that I was doing the right thing. A few times a year, he’d send me a book in the mail. It was an easy relationship for both of us to keep up with, but I got tremendous benefit from it.
The key to success is simply defining the relationship from the beginning. Make it an open dialogue. Ask for what you want and need from your mentor, be willing to compromise, and listen closely to make sure there is agreement. Be sure to clarify your expectations (specifically around things like confidentiality). You don’t want there to be any confusion.
Lastly, let your mentor know that you see this as an ongoing process. If, at any time, the relationship isn’t working for either one of you, the details can and should be reviewed and revised. This doesn’t have to be stressful like a contract negotiation. Remember, it’s supposed to be a fun, growth experience!
What’s In It For Them?
You’re probably reading all of this thinking, “I get why I should want a mentor. But what’s in it for the them?” Good question. And the answer is different for everyone.
Some mentors simply believe in the person they are helping and want to see him or her succeed, and that alone is worth the time and energy. Others look at mentorship as a way of leaving a legacy. As a mentor, you get to pass your wisdom down to the next generation. You have the power to make a huge difference in your industry, your company and even the world.
In truth, some mentors just like the challenge. They like to talk about what they know and their experiences. It’s fun when someone looks up to you. It kind of feeds the ego.
So there are all kinds of reasons mentors do what they do. It’s a win-win situation.
I hope I’ve inspired you to start a mentorship relationship today. And if I failed to address an important question, please post it in the comments below. I’ll be happy to continue chatting about this!!