Mentoring has always been something close to my heart. Recognizing how valuable that mentorship has been has motivated me to make myself available to mentor others. Over the years I’ve gone through different stages reflecting on my own experiences and the advice my own mentors have shared with me. In the beginning, I used to tell everyone, “Pick the right company. That’s the most crucial decision you’ll ever make; the right culture, the right people, the place where you can really develop a career.” That was when everyone assumed they would be committing to a job for life, picking the right company really was a major life decision.
It’s the people that matter
As my network grew, I started seeing patterns of personal and team advancement change. Despite working for companies that were underperforming or challenged by reputation, many people would often describe how much they were learning from a great manager. In contrast others shared how although they worked for “top tier” companies, they were having the worst experience because of a poor manager. My guidance evolved to focus on the manager, or in many cases the brand or franchise. Growth can happen at both a critical brand given top priority and available budget, or a mature brand on the decline yet still with opportunity for you to be recognized for your work.
How portable is your skillset?
Yet over the last 10 years, I’ve been seeing how building the right skills within a company has become even more important. You must pick a job position, company, and team where you can build skills that have equity inside and outside of your company and your industry. We call these portable or transferable skills, and as the labor market continues to rapidly evolve these need to be highly transferable skills.
Seizing the opportunity
What skills are really critical to your job right now? What skills will create equity for you in the marketplace? Digital literacy, critical thinking, structured communication and storytelling, project management, teamwork, creativity, and leadership are all important transferable skills to sharpen and develop in any company. But it’s not just about possessing those skills but having the opportunity within your company to build upon them.
The power of a good story
The skill that I talk a lot about with my mentees is the power of communication and storytelling. Whether you are communicating with a customer, a client, or a coworker the most effective communicators will have a deep understanding of their audience honed by their critical listening skills. They will use language to not only inform, but also to advise and persuade. Verbal communication skills are essential but developing smart writing skills should never be undervalued; your writing creates a lasting impression.
Digital literacy skills
Technological communication skills will continue to be vital both now and in the future. Digital literacy requires not only the ability to navigate various digital platforms with finesse, but also the critical thinking skills to evaluate each tool and choose the medium most fitting to your audience and message. Being able to conduct independent research, adapt to new technology and then to be able to teach or explain the technologies you use are all part of digital literacy and communication.
Upskilling the next generation
The guidance I’ve shared over the years still stands true in any situation. However, in today’s world where the war for talent will continue to define the winners from the losers, great leaders need to prioritize their teams’ needs. I am passionate about enhancing the personal development plan of everyone that works at Recombinators with me, giving our team the opportunity to build the critical skills that will help them succeed throughout their life, whether it is in our company or in their next role. Many would advocate that companies should only invest in their employees for the here and now. But we must think about our employees holistically, their experiences at work, home, and their future by facilitating training, mentoring and dynamic opportunities that will help them thrive. That’s the kind of innovative approach that will attract the best talent to your company, build highly skilled teams and grow new leaders who in turn will mentor the next generation.