Whether you’re a CEO, an intern, or anywhere in between, It can be difficult to stay motivated at work. There are priorities, challenges and distractions. There are people who help you – and perhaps people who hinder you. There are office politics, layoffs, and lost clients to contend with. Even if you have an inspiring boss, mission, and culture, it can be helpful to have your own tools to drive you and inspire you. Here are eight ways I’ve found to get myself in a good place to be productive, at work and in life, when I’m in need of some inspiration:

1) Read a book.

There are thousands of great, time-tested books available for inspiration and motivation. I wrote on LinkedIn about nine great books that have inspired me and changed my life here. I’m currently reading another amazing, timeless, inspirational book that is having a profound impact: How to Win Friends and Influencer People by Dale Carnegie.

2) Write a blog post or letter.

Reading can be very valuable, but writing requires more thinking, and so it can be even more valuable. Write about something you’re passionate about – write about how to solve a problem, or write an article about your business that you wish you had read yourself a year ago. You don’t even need to publish it for writing to be effective. But if you do want to publish it, here’s how to become a better writer.

3) Exercise.

Sometimes you just need to get the blood flowing. Go for a walk, or a run, or a workout. There are two great advantages of exercise: First, it’s healthy for your body. Second, it forces you to spend time thinking – time when you can’t be on your smartphone or otherwise distracted. As little as 15 minutes of movement can burn some calories – and set your mind on fire with new ideas and inspiration.

4) Write a thank you note.

Not a thank you email, or a thank you text, or even a thank you phone call – a physical, hand-written thank you note. Tony Robbins said, “Gratitude is the antidote to the two things that stop us: fear and anger.” I have found that is impossible to feel upset and grateful at the same time. So every morning, I start out my day by writing three thank-you cards. Here’s more about my thank-you card routine.

5) Perform a random act of kindness.

The ironic and amazing thing about acts of kindness is that they end up being kind-of selfish, because you feel SO great after doing them. Open a door for people leaving it for awhile. Help an elderly lady cross the street. Buy a homeless man lunch. Retweet a bunch of people. Whatever you do, take your mind off of yourself and your problems and focus on helping another person. You’ll come back feeling rejuvenated.

6) Read inspiring quotes.

Reading a book or even an article can take more time than you have to spare sometimes. So it’s worth looking at inspiring quotes from great leaders, writers and thinkers of the past. Google makes it easy – simple search for “Inspiring quotes about [whatever it is that’s on your mind],” and feel better within seconds. Here are 25 of my favorite inspirational quotes for leaders.

7) Listen to music.

Plato said, “Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.” Looking to educate your soul? Or perhaps just to let off some steam and feel better about the work before you? Turn on your Itunes, or Spotify, YouTube, or even the radio, to elevate your mood through music. Here are 21 songs to inspire you at work– favorites from 21 entrepreneurs I know.

8) Watch an inspiring video.

As inspiring and uplifting as music can be, video can be even more inspiring. Whether it’s your favorite movie, or, if you don’t have time, a short video you find through a quick search on YouTube, you can get in a good mood in just a few minutes. Here are two of my favorite inspirational videos on YouTube, courtesy of “Facing the Giants” and Britain’s Got Talent respectively:

Whether it’s through reading, writing, music, video, or your own virtuous activities, inspiration is absolutely within your reach, anytime you seek it. Whatever challenges lie ahead for you at work, and in life, I hope you’ll embrace these tools to inspire yourself when needed.


Now it’s your turn. Which of these tools do you use to inspire yourself? What are your favorite inspirational books, songs, quotes, and videos? Which of these tools will you try the next time you’re in need of some inspiration? Let me know in the Comments section below, and please do share this article with your network if you feel so inspired.



When it comes to being interviewed, many candidates naturally are nervous, thinking over what questions they’ll be asked and making sure they are selling themselves in the interview. And similarly, the people doing the interviewing often forget that they not only need to be sold on the candidate but they also need to sell the role they’re hiring for. I’ve found more often than not, candidates neglect to “interview the company” they are meeting with and find out whether the organization is a good fit for them.

The fact is, our greatest and most valuable asset is our human capital. The way we invest that capital is up to us, and it is a responsibility we should not take lightly. Why invest your greatest asset in a company that won’t give you the best return? This is not about compensation at all; it is about the ability to do one’s best work and grow as a professional. A bad decision on investing one’s skills can lead to the biggest loss, which is unrecoverable – lost time! My grandfather used to remind me always that “time and tide” wait for no one. The opportunity to do great work that is lost because of a bad decision is too big to not take seriously.

In the end, you have to manage your career objectively. When you go on an interview, you need to interview your hiring manager and assess the company you are about to bet on, just as seriously as they’re interviewing you. Then very thoughtfully make the best investment of your talents.

Taking a new job always presents a risk – you are coming out of your comfort zone where you presumably have a certain level of security and influence. But a new role often presents opportunities to stretch yourself, make new connections and expand your knowledge. And most importantly, contribute to your industry at a greater level. When you face these decisions you have to have a clear vision on how you want to invest your stock.

To find out how the potential employer will invest in you, ask questions that get at the heart of what you’re looking for in your next role. Determine if the hiring manager has a clear and specific vision for the role. Is there consistency around the true north of the organization amongst all the people you are talking to? Is the company or team structured in a way that you can learn and grow? Are they asking insightful questions, or regurgitating generic interview questions that don’t really let them know what you’re about? You have to dig deeper about the role and structure to find out if this job will make your stock rise over time.

And don’t forget – the interview starts the moment you arrive in the parking lot. Look around – are the people engaged? Excited? Are you seeing employees passionately discuss topics, or are they closed off? Pay attention to the little cues you see while you’re there to get a sense if this would be a place that will raise your stock. And always research the company in great depth before you make your final decision. Read analyst reports, browse their job site, look at age of open jobs, find those in your extended network who may have insight into the company culture. Just as you wouldn’t invest your money in a stock without researching it in great depth, don’t invest your human capital in a company without a lot of due diligence.

Learning the skill of interviewing a hiring manager will in the end net you the best opportunities in your career.


People often wonder why they never hear anything back after they hit ‘send’ on the email with a resume attached or on the on-line job application. If you’re very lucky, you might have a preliminary email exchange with a recruiter and then never hear from them again.

It’s a depressing experience, and one which also casts a shadow on the hiring company’s reputation. So why does it happen? Is it you, is it them, or is it just something every candidate must prepare for in the hiring process?

There’s no question job seekers face an uphill climb. High unemployment nationally means more competition for every position; according to a January 2012 article in the Wall Street JournalStarbucks “… attracted 7.6 million job applicants over the past 12 months for about 65,000 corporate and retail job openings…”

An oft-cited recruiter’s complaint is that as many as 50 percent of people applying for a given job simply aren’t qualified. Adding to the challenge, most large companies – and many smaller ones – use talent-management software to screen resumes, weeding out up to 50 percent of applicants before a human even looks at a resume or cover letter. The deck is definitely stacked against the job seeker. So how do you break through?

Here are my top 5 reasons you’re not hearing back after applying for a job, with five suggestions for ways to avoid the Resume Black Hole.

Why You Never Hear Back:

  1. You really aren’t qualified. If a job description specifies a software developer with 3-5 years of experience and you’re a recent graduate with one internship, it’s unlikely you’ll get a call. Avoid disappointment – don’t apply for jobs for which you lack qualifications. Most job descriptions are written with very specific requirements. Yes, the company is trying to find the most qualified candidate; yes, they are trying to weed people out. It’s not personal, it’s business.
  2. You haven’t keyword-optimized your resume or application. Job descriptions are salted with keywords specific to the skills or attributes the company seeks in applicants. A close read of the job description is a necessity, as is keyword-optimizing your resume and cover letter, if you’re using one, or email. If the job description lists words in a certain order, e.g. a list of programming languages required, use the same order in your resume.
  3. Your resume isn’t formatted properly. You might think distinctive formatting will set your resume apart, but automated programs don’t care if a document is pretty. Help a machine out. Be consistent in formatting – consider using separate lines for former employer, job title, and years worked.
  4. Your resume is substantially different from your online profileLinkedInDice and other online profile sites can be useful tools, so it‘s important to make sure they match what’s on your resume. This may seem to be a contradiction – in #1 I advised keyword optimization – but it’s really common sense. Jobs worked, employers, years on the job and other details should match. The subtext here is always tell the truth.
  5. The company received 500 resumes for one job posting, and yours was 499th in. Looking for a job is a job. Do your research – know which companies you want to work for, organizations where you sense culture fit. Every morning scour the job postings and jump on anything for which you’re qualified (and in which you’re interested.) Being early with your resume or application does matter. Check back often in the first few days to make sure the listing hasn’t changed. Often a company will post a job and halfway through the process change the description.

It’s hard to game the system. Your best bet is still a personal referral, and even that may not be enough to get a call. A guy I know gave his resume to a woman who worked at a company where a good job had been posted. He received an automated email noting his resume had been received but never heard another word. After a month he asked his friend to check with the recruiter. It turned out the job description had changed, but the recruiter never bothered to let the referring employee – or the applicant – know. This isn’t unusual, unfortunately. So what can you do?

How You Can Get Noticed:

  1. Research interesting companies on social media. Find out who the recruiters are and follow them. Many will tweet new postings, so watch their streams and jump on anything for which you are qualified. And if they tweet news saying the company’s had a great quarter, retweet the news with a positive comment.
  2. Consider starting a blog in your area of interest or expertise. It’s a social world; time to build a trail of breadcrumbs leading to you. Include the blog, and links to any especially relevant posts, in your emails to recruiters with whom you’re working.
  3. Get professional help with your resume. Either a resume writer or an SEO expert can help you increase your odds of getting through the talent management software. If you can’t afford this step, read the top career blogs for advice.
  4. If at all possible, don’t wait until you’re out of work to find your next job. I realize for many people this isn’t possible or might even be offensive, but your chances of finding the next job are best when you’re still employed.
  5. Network. Old advice, but still true. Be visible, be upbeat, be informed about industry trends and news in your area of expertise.

Finding a job is tough, no question. I’ve talked to other recruiters who say they only respond to 30 percent of applicants. The odds are good you’ll be in the 60+ percent who hears nothing a lot of the time. Don’t take it personally – it’s not a rejection of you, it’s a reflection of the times. If you don’t hear back, know you’re not alone.


Read more:

Why aren’t U.S. businesses leading the global economy to recovery? Erratic capital markets, systemic risk, tax policy, and regulatory uncertainty have all been offered as culprits, and all play their parts. But another factor is lurking that may eclipse the rest and, if left unaddressed, will continue to put the U.S. at a severe global disadvantage — the great mismatch between skilled jobs and the talent needed to fill them. The failure to find and nurture this talent is preventing U.S. companies from innovating their way to competitive advantage.

This problem is alarmingly widespread and not limited to start-ups: According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 15th annual CEO survey, released at last January’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, nearly 50% of CEOs from all sectors and all corners of the globe say that this skill gap has become more difficult to fill.

How is it possible that finding talented employees is a problem for U.S. (and European) business when unemployment rates remain so stubbornly high? Why are CEOs having just as much trouble finding talent now as they did in tighter job markets?

The problem is that the financial meltdown that has swelled the unemployment ranks is dwarfed by the on-going effects of the digital transformation of world markets. This transformation was taking place well before the financial crisis, but while other trends ended or shifted gears, the transformation to digital economies kept on going, with very little interruption.

An interesting thing happened on the way to the future. Innovations like smart phones and the ease of transporting financial data through mobile technology are having a more immediate positive effect on emerging economies than on developed ones; demographics are on their side, and there were few legacy industries that needed to be supplanted or creatively destroyed. They skipped over the heavy capital expenditure required to put infrastructure like wires in the ground and went straight to mobile phones.

Companies and industry sectors in the West are only just beginning to realize the promise of the digital revolution and to understand its profound impact. As one bank CEO interviewed for our survey put it, “Our future competitors will not be traditional banks, but large technology companies.”

The paradigm shift at work here is just now becoming apparent. Manufacturing companies are beginning to regain their competitive edge through new applications of technology in the production process. Consumer goods companies are trying to figure out how to sell directly to customers. Retailers, long viewed as mostly domestic players, are stretching their reach globally by becoming “omni-channel” retailers.

Traditionally, such transformations create skills gaps that are temporary. But a transformation of this scale will take a lot longer than such shifts have in the recent past. That means the mismatch between talent and demand for constant innovation will likely remain high on the agenda of CEOs of businesses in both the East and the West long after the financial crisis resolves.

Already, 75% of the U.S. CEOs and 70% of global CEOs in our survey say they are investing in training to ensure a future pipeline of qualified employees. Such training will likely need to be on-going, as the digital revolution plays out in continual technological innovation. However, companies can’t do it alone. As we work our way out of the greatest recession in 80 years and into this burgeoning digital economy, CEOs are looking for a partnership with government. In fact, 57% of U.S. CEOs said creating and fostering a skilled workforce should be a top priority of governments. So while the appetite to invest is there, U.S. CEOs are looking to forge more public-private partnerships, to fully embrace the challenges and opportunities of the digital transformation that in turn will help restore competitiveness.

But beyond that, for U.S. companies to become and remain competitive, they will need to find people who are not just trained in, familiar with, or comfortable with these ever-transforming technologies, but also those with the entrepreneurial drive to conceive of practical, productive — and profitable — uses for them.

Source: Harvard Business Reveiw

Executing on major initiatives requires teams that are large, diverse, and virtual. Yet, as team size grows and the group disperses, team performance diminishes. You can build collaboration within complex teams in three ways:

  • Train employees in the right skills. Most people don’t collaborate by nature. They need the right skills: appreciating others, engaging in purposeful conversations, and productively solving conflicts.
  • Help employees get to know each other. People who know each other socially are more likely to collaborate. Invest time in networking and social events to build a sense of community.
  • Model collaborative behavior. Employees emulate what they see at the top. Leaders should visibly work together and even fill in for each other on occasion.

Source: Harvard Business Review – Management Tips of the Day

You can’t just create the culture you want in your organization. Culture is not a goal, but the outcome of a collective set of behaviors. Instead of mandating behavior, influence it to shape your company’s culture with these three steps:

  • Convey your vision. Define your aspirations. What are the most critical behaviors that characterize the culture you want to create?
  • Demonstrate how new behaviors can help the business. Nothing reinforces behaviors more than success. Work with your team to apply your ideal behaviors to a specific project that needs improving.
  • Integrate the behaviors into HR processes. People tend to do what’s measured and rewarded. Use the desired behaviors as criteria for hiring and promoting.

Source: Harvard Business Review – Management Tips of the Day

Bullying in the workplace is repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether
verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or  others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual‘s right to dignity at work.

Examples of behaviour that may constitute bullying are as follows:

  • Purposely undermining someone
  • Targeting individuals for special negative treatment
  • Manipulation of an individual‘s reputation
  • Social exclusion or isolation
  • Intimidation
  • Physical abuse or threats of abuse
  • Aggressive or obscene language
  • Jokes that are obviously offensive to one individual by spoken word or email
  • Intrusion by pestering, spying and stalking
  • Unreasonable assignments to duties which are obviously unfavourable to one individual
  • Repeated requests with impossible deadlines or impossible tasks

All employers have a responsibility, as far as is reasonably practical, to provide a workplace where accident, disease and impairment of physical and mental health are prevented. The (2005) Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act states that the employer’s duty includes in particular the provision of systems of work that are planned, organised, performed and maintained so as to be, as far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health.

Where a bullying culture has been identified, employers must take reasonable measures to prevent incidents of bullying occurring and also when and if they do occur, prevent the risk of injury to the health of employees worsening by providing and implementing transparent and just anti bullying policies and procedures. Employees have a responsibility to ensure that they are not contributing to abullying culture and it is the duty of every employee to take reasonable care for his own safety, health and welfare and that of any other person who may be affected by his acts or omissions while at work.

Managers and supervisors have a particular responsibility to promote dignity in the workplace for all. They should be alert to the possibility of bullying behaviour and be familiar with the policies and procedures for dealing with allegations of bullying, as bullying has been identified as a workplace hazard.

Effects on the organisation

The tell tale signs of workplace bullying in any organised setting include:

  • Reduced efficiency
  • Reduced quality and quality control
  • Low morale among staff
  • Atmosphere of tension
  • High rates of absenteeism
  • Drop in productivity and profits
  • Depression
  • Increase in cases taken to court

There are now many studies quantifying the effects of workplace bullying on those people who experience workplace bullying (often-labeled victims). Researchers in workplace bullying generally describe many different health effects caused by workplace bullying. They include:

Psychological effects

  • Severe stress symptoms or anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Mistakes and accidents at work
  • Smoking
  • Excessive drinking and overeating

Physiological effects

  • Raised blood pressure and heart disease
  • Reduced resistance to infection
  • Stomach and bowel problems
  • Skin problems
  • Fear or anxiety or depression leading to suicide, and severe loss of confidence and selfesteem.

Behavioural Changes

  • Becoming aggressive
  • Becoming irritable
  • Becoming vengeful
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Obsessive dwelling on the aggressor
  • Becoming hypersensitive to criticism
  • Becoming emotionally drained

The impact of bullying is not confined to the person who is on the receiving end. Other workers are also affected. In international research, co-workers witnessing workplace bullying also experience bullying related consequences even though they were not themselves directly subjected to bullying actions.

People also report that their relationship with their partner or family worsened because of the bullying. Victims of bullying often report feelings of intense anxiety, shame and guilt. These feelings were in part due to their professional status and subsequent failure to deal with what was happening to them. Unfortunately, the symptoms of bullying tend to persist over long periods. Individuals who are bullied may develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D) and/or Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder (P.D.S.D). The growing recognition that bullying at work is a cause of illhealth, absenteeism and even death makes it a Health & Safety issue.

Bullying and harassment cases are not often clear cut and sometimes people are unsure whether or not the way they are being treated is acceptable. If you are sure you are being bullied or harassed, then there are a number of options to consider, and these are set out below. You should take any action you decide upon as quickly as possible.

  • Let your union or staff representative know of the problem.
  • Try to talk to colleagues to find out if anyone else is suffering, or if anyone has witnessed what has happened to you – avoid being alone with the bully.
  • If you are reluctant to make a complaint, go to see someone with whom you feel comfortable to discuss the problem. This may be your manager, or someone in personnel (particularly if there is someone who specifically deals with equality issues), your trade union representative, or your Employee Assistance Service.
  • Keep a diary of all incidents – records of dates, times, any witnesses, your feelings, etc. Keep copies of anything that is relevant, for instance annual reports, letters, memos, notes of any meetings that relate to your ability to do your job. Bullying and harassment often reveal themselves through patterns of behaviour and frequency of incidents. Keep records and inform your employer of any medical help you seek.
  • Tell the person to stop whatever it is they are doing that is causing youdistress, otherwise they may be unaware of the effect of their actions. If you find it difficult to tell the person yourself, you may wish to get someone else – a colleague, or a trade union official – to act on your behalf.
  • If you cannot confront the bully, consider writing a memo to them to make it clear what it is you object to in their behaviour. Keep copies of this and any reply.
  • Be firm, not aggressive. Be positive and calm. Stick to the facts. Describe what happened.
  • If you do decide to make a formal complaint, follow your employer’s procedures, which should give you information about whom to complain to and how your complaint will be dealt with.
  • Writing the complaint will seem a daunting task, especially if you are afraid of confrontation, or suffering from depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. Keep the following in mind when drafting your complaint:

– keep it factual; do not try to guess the bully’s motives or ascribe intentto any actions
(that is up to the investigators);
– don’t use insulting language
– don’t generalise
– don’t use absolutes (e.g. “he always” or “he never”) because one exception breaks
the rule; use rarely or often instead
– include as much as you can about your feelings (e.g. “I felt excluded /rejected” is
more effective than “he excluded / rejected me”).
– Ask someone you trust (a colleague, union rep, solicitor, friend,doctor, therapist) to
read your complaint – you are far too involved a) to read it with calm detachment; b)
be sure that it is complete and understandable by someone outside the workplace
situation; c) not too specific about trivialities.

  • Disciplinary procedures may also be used for disciplinary action against someone who makes an unfounded allegation of bullying or harassment.

Source: Vhi Healthcare

As politicians and economists puzzle over America’s jobless recovery, managers who have started to hire again face another problem: how to handle all the overqualified candidates coming through their doors. The prevailing wisdom is to avoid such applicants. But the unprecedented availability of top talent created by this recession and new research on the success of these candidates may be changing that.

What the Experts Say
Recruiters have traditionally hesitated to place overqualified candidates because of several presumed risks, says Berrin Erdogan, a professor of management at Portland State University and the lead author of a recent study on the subject. “The assumption is that the person will be bored and not motivated, so they will underperform or leave.” However, her research shows that these risks may be more perceived than real. In fact, sales associates in her study who were thought to be overqualified actually performed better. And rarely do people move on simply because they feel they’re too talented for the job. “People don’t stay or leave a company because of their skills. They stay or leave because of working conditions” she says.

Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, a senior adviser at Egon Zehnder International and the author of Great People Decisions and “The Definitive Guide to Recruiting in Good Times and Bad,” agrees that there are more benefits to hiring an overqualified employee than there are risks.”When making hiring decisions, visionary leaders don’t just focus on the current needs, but on the future,” he says.

Here are several things to consider next time you are looking at a stack of overly impressive resumes.

Overqualified or over-experienced?
Don’t assume someone is overqualified based on a quick screen of their credentials. “There is a lot of misunderstanding over what overqualified is,” says Ergodan. “We define it as meeting and exceeding the skill requirements of the job. So having a lot of education doesn’t over-qualify you.” Nor does experience, if the person’s prior positions are not directly related to the job in question. Get to know the candidate before you decide to pass. There may be reasons why he is interested in this specific position. He may want to shift industries, move to a new location, or achieve greater work/life balance. And there may be ways that you can make use of his “extra” experience.

Think bigger than the job in question
When considering a candidate who is, in fact, overqualified for the job opening, ask yourself if there is room to expand the role and make use of the skills he brings. “While the old paradigm for hiring was to determine that a job was vacant and look for the right candidate, in today’s world one should also consider the talent opportunities at hand, and try to find the jobs that may be created or open in the near future for them, in the larger organization,” says Fernández-Aráoz.

“Hiring overqualified candidates can help you achieve much higher productivity, grow, and achieve opportunities that you may not even be thinking about pursuing right now.” There are other less obvious benefits too: these employees can mentor others, challenge peers to exceed current expectations, and bring in areas of expertise that are not represented at the company.

Bring them on carefully
“Effective onboarding is essential, especially for the overqualified,” says Erdogan. “Unmet expectations are one of the more common reasons for turnover,” so you should be clear with yourself, the new hire, and the rest of the organization about what the job entails, as well as what it could become. Adds Fernández-Aráoz: “You need a clear and explicit plan for the future, whether you are thinking of a promotion, a lateral move, or a new project altogether. You need to think and discuss beyond the initial stage where he or she may be temporarily underutilized.”

Both he and Erdogan caution that recruiters need to manage an additional risk: a boss who feels threatened. “Managers often worry, ‘Can I supervise the person effectively?'” says Erdogan. A superior with less experience than the new hire might be concerned that the person will take her job, make her look bad, or be too challenging to manage. This is not reason enough to say no. Instead, focus on the future for that candidate. In cases where the boss is insecure, “you should not bring that new hire in without a plan to promote him in the near term,” says Fernández-Aráoz.

Pay what they are worth
Although it’s tempting in a bad job market to buy top talent on the cheap, Fernández-Aráoz disapproves of the strategy. “While my experience shows that you can get candidates for up to 25% less in the middle of a big recession, I would not recommend underpaying an overqualified candidate,” he says. “We all have the expectation to be rewarded in a way which is reasonably proportional to our effort and contribution, and fair.” And if the candidate is as strong as you think, you are likely competing with other employers for her. If you can’t afford her, Fernández-Aráoz says it’s better to pass than to underpay. If she wants the job anyway, simply have a frank conversation about her future prospects in terms of promotion and compensation so that she fully understands what she’s getting into.

Principles to Remember


  • Think broadly about your organization and its overall talent needs now and in the future
  • Consider how you could accommodate a promising candidate’s skill set by shaping the job
  • Onboard carefully and be clear about your plans for the new employee


  • Narrowly define the hiring process as finding one person for one role
  • Confuse education and experience with skills; a candidate with lots of experience still may not have the capabilities to do the job
  • Try to pay an overqualified candidate less than he’s worth

Case Study: The hiring risk pays off
In 2009 Lara Galinsky, senior vice president at Echoing Green, needed to hire a finance director for the young, but growing, global non-profit. She thought the ideal applicant would be someone relatively young but with a few years of non-profit finance experience. She was not expecting a candidate like John Walker.

John had most recently worked for a venture capital fund that was forced to lay people off because of the economy. Prior to that, he had spent over ten years in the defense industry in a variety of senior design and management roles. “I didn’t have a background in social enterprise or non-profit. I didn’t know anything about 501(c)(3)s,” he says. But he did have deep experience in running, buying, and selling companies.

This was not an unusual situation for Echoing Green. “We get a lot of resumes from people who want to do a sector switch,” Lara explains. They have a lot of work experience but not necessarily a lot of experience in the sector.” She had previously ruled out candidates who were overqualified for certain positions or who didn’t bring enough relevant experience.

But John had been referred by a friend of the organization, and since Echoing Green straddles the world of for-profit business and non-profit organizations, she thought his experience might be applicable.

Lara and her team talk about the risks and the opportunities of hiring each candidate. They knew that there were risks with John because he had never worked in the sector. But they saw many upsides too. “We didn’t have anyone on staff with private equity experience and yet we work in that space. We knew we could use a for-profit lens,” explains Lara.

In the end, Lara thought the benefits outweighed the risks. They had been impressed with John’s willingness to learn what he didn’t know. “Hunger and potential are the most important factors we look for in candidates,” she explains. “We hire for talent, not necessarily for acumen. I look for people who can grow, mesh, and evolve.”

John came on board in early 2009. Lara encouraged and incented him to network with finance directors from other organizations, so that he could gain insight from experts in the field. The learning curve was steep but he was able to come up to speed quickly and is now thriving in the position. As Echoing Green moves into impact investing they have also been able to tap directly into his previous VC experience. While John wasn’t the person Lara initially envisioned hiring, she hadn’t imagined what someone like him could do in the position. “We have evolved with him — and used his skills in ways we didn’t anticipate.”

Source: Harvard Business Review

When people think of mentoring, they often think of an older executive counseling a young upstart. The senior leader advises the junior employee on his career, how to navigate the world of work, and what he needs to do to get ahead. But mentoring has changed a lot in the last few decades. Just as the notion of a 50-year linear career with a single company or in one industry is outdated, so is the idea that career advice must come from a wise old sage. The traditional mentor-mentee relationship is not necessarily a thing of the past, but it’s no longer the standard. Now, there are many ways to get the information and guidance you need.

What the Experts Say
While the concept of mentoring has changed, the need for career counseling has not. In fact, because most careers take numerous twists and turns in today’s world, it’s required more than ever. “When I first started studying mentoring in the 1970s it was a much more stable world. There is a lot of chaos in the world of work,” says Kathy E. Kram, the Shipley Professor in Management at the Boston University School of Management and author of Mentoring at Work. While mentoring has morphed, our collective thinking on it has not and many held-over myths still prevail. “There are many ways to define mentoring,” says Jeanne Meister, a Founding Partner of Future Workplace and co-author of The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today. If you are working with the old definition, you may be confused about how to get the advice you need. Below are four myths: knowing the truth about them can help you figure out who to turn to and how.

Myth #1: You have to find one perfect mentor
It’s actually quite rare these days that people get through their career with only one mentor. In fact, many people have several advisors they turn to. “In all likelihood, you’d benefit from having more than one developer,” says Kram, who prefers the term “developmental network” to mentor. “It’s that handful of people who you can go to for advice and who you trust to have your best interests in mind,” she explains. This network can be as large or small as you want, and it may even include your spouse or partner. Sometimes it can be helpful to get a variety of perspectives on an issue you are facing. Meister and her co-author Karie Willyerd agree with Kram. “It’s not uncommon for people to have many, many mentors,” says Willyerd, former CLO of Sun Microsystems and co-founder of Future Workplace.

Myth #2: Mentoring is a formal long-term relationship
Because the world moves fast and people change jobs and careers more often, a long-term advising relationship may be unrealistic and unnecessary. “Mentoring can be a one-hour mentoring session. We don’t have to escalate it to a six-month or year-long event,” says Willyerd. Instead of focusing on the long term, think of mentoring as something you access when you need it. “It may not be big agenda items that you’re grappling with. You don’t need to wait until you have some big thing in your career,” says Meister. In today’s world, she says, mentoring is “more like Twitter and less like having a psychotherapy session.”

Of course, the advice and guidance may be richer and more relevant if it comes from someone who knows you well and understands your goals. You still need to build relationships so that when you require advice, you have the connections in place. However, there may be times when you look to people who don’t know you as well or at all to get one-off counsel from an outsider’s perspective. And in these cases, Willyerd suggests you may want to avoid using the word “mentor” altogether. “You can simply say, ‘I’d really like to get your advice on something’,” she says.

Myth #3: Mentoring is for junior people
Many people assume that they only need a mentor when they are first starting out in their careers. “We used to think it was people at early stages of their career who needed mentoring, those just out of MBA programs. Now we understand that people at every stage benefit from this kind of assistance,” says Kram. In their book, The 2020 Workplace, Meister and Willyerd talk about reverse mentoring in which a more junior person advises a senior person on things like new technology.

The reality is “There are lots of points in a corporate career when you need a mentor,” says Meister. Though you shouldn’t wait for them to come up, transitions are a particularly good time to seek out a mentor. Whether you are making a career change, taking on a new role, or contemplating leaving a job, advice from someone who has done it before can be helpful. “You may need a mentor when the environment around you is changing rapidly and you haven’t had a chance to keep up with the changes,” says Meister. “Or as you try to navigate the complexities of your organization,” adds Willyerd.

Myth #4: Mentoring is something more experienced people do out of the goodness of their hearts
“It can be an honor to ask someone to be a mentor,” says Willyerd. But the respect isn’t the only reason people agree to help. Mentoring should be useful to both parties involved. Before seeking out a mentor, think about what you have to offer him. Can you provide a unique perspective on the organization or his role? Do you bring valuable outside information that might help him be successful in his job? Whatever it is, be sure that you are clear with your prospective advisor about what’s in it for him. This does not have to be a direct barter. Even the promise of future help, if and when it’s needed, can be enough to convince a mentor to give up his time and energy.

So, do you need mentoring?
Now that you have a better understanding of what mentoring can be, do you need it? “The place to start is with self-assessment and find out what are the challenges in front of you right now and why. Then ask yourself, do you have the relational resources to handle those challenges?” says Kram. If the answer is no, it may be time to seek out a mentor or several. Remember that mentoring can take many shapes and forms — the key is to find the right kind of advice from the right person at the right time.

Principles to Remember


  • Build a cadre of people you can turn to for advice when you need it
  • Nurture relationships with people whose perspectives you respect
  • Think of mentoring as both a long-term and short-term arrangement


  • Assume that because you are successful or experienced in your field that you don’t need a mentor
  • Rely on one person to help guide you in your career
  • Expect to receive mentoring without providing anything in return

Case Study #1: Using multiple mentors
In January 2000, Soki Choi left Accenture Sweden to start her own company developing applications for mobile phones. A mere four years later, the company was acquired and Soki was left with a large decision about what to do next. Should she take a job with another Swedish telecom company? Should she start another business? “Suddenly I didn’t have a natural “next step” in my career,” she explains. Since she was a child, she had dreamed of doing medical research, but felt it was too late in life to pursue that path, especially without an MD. However, the desire nagged her. One day that spring, she read a story about Sweden’s prestigious research hospital, the Karolinska Institute, merging with the university hospital in Huddinge and decided she had to explore the possibility of a medical PhD. She wanted multiple perspectives on this potential career change, so she sought the advice of three different people.

Her first thought was of Ewa Ställdal, the CEO of a major medical research foundation that she had met several years previously on a delegation trip to the US with the Swedish Ministry of Industry. “She listened and took my thoughts seriously. She then connected me to her research and medical network, and in particular to an entrepreneurial professor in medical management,” she says.

Soki also contacted Bjorn Svedberg, the former CEO of Ericsson. She first met Bjorn in her role as a board member of PTS, the National Post & Telecom Agency which advises the Swedish government on telecom and infrastructure planning. Soki respected him and wanted to know what he thought of this potential career shift. “I specifically asked him if he thought it was a good idea to take on PhD studies in the midst of a critical time of my professional career,” she says. Bjorn, who was in his 80s, revealed to Soki that he wished he had done what she was considering and he strongly urged her to pursue her dream.

Soki’s third advisor was Martin Lorentzon. Martin is only 5 years older than Soki and had a similar career trajectory in that he also left a steady job to start his own company. He had served as a “go-to” person for Soki while she was building her business. “Martin was much more of a direct, operational, and continuous mentor,” she said. He also encouraged her to do what she thought would make her most happy.

Soki is about to complete her PhD at the Karolinska Institute. Without the advice and help of her mentors, Soki thinks she would’ve taken one of the many job offers she had in 2004 and would still be in the telecom field, rather than pursuing her dream.

Case Study #2: When you think you don’t need it
After twenty years in the search business, Stephen Wachter founded his own recruiting firm, Osprey One. Two years ago, he felt he was on top of his game: he had some of the largest clients in Silicon Valley, including Google, Yahoo, and Facebook. On a plane headed to the East Coast, he sat next to Susan Robertson, a leadership development consultant. He immediately noticed her because, as he says, they both had “devices falling out of their pockets.” They started talking about what they did. Stephen proudly shared his successes, to which Susan asked him, “So, what’s your next step?” The question blew Stephen away — he didn’t know there was anyplace else to go. He thought he had reached the top of his career ladder and simply had to keep doing what he was doing. “She was very good at getting me to explore my own story,” he says of Susan. Talking to her, he realized that there was a next level: both in how he conducted his business and how he interacted with his clients. “I thought about times when I had friction points with my clients and how I would’ve handled those situations differently in retrospect,” he says. Besides, if he stopped developing, the industry would grow without him. “You’ve got to be part of the newness or the newness will pass you,” he explains. Susan and he agreed to be in touch and talk about how Susan could help him stay focused on growing and learning. They continue to have a mentoring relationship today. She has helped him to reflect on who he is and how he is with others. “When you’re young, you need someone to show you the ropes. The danger is when you think you’ve got it figured out.”

Case Study #3: Getting help through a transition
As the Managing Director of People Insights, a coaching and consulting firm based in Belgium, Sunita Malhotra helps global companies design and implement mentoring programs. “The only reason I can do that is because of my experience with being mentored,” she says. Midway in her career, she took a job working in HR for a fast moving consumer goods company. She had already held several positions in both consulting and sales and marketing, so she wasn’t a junior upstart. However, HR was new to her and she knew she was going to need support through the transition. As she saw it, she would need help with three specific things: understanding how HR worked, figuring out how to work in a European office of a global company, and navigating being a women in a male-dominated company.

Sunita looked both inside and outside the company for potential mentors. She asked around and several people recommended a male leader who was the second in command in HR. She approached him and asked if he would support her. “I was pretty direct. I knew he was busy. I was new. I prepared the conversation well.” After listening to her request, he agreed. The two met regularly discussing what Sunita was learning but he also shared his experiences, both successes and failures. “He was a very good developer of people,” she says. Sunita has since had several other mentors and believes the guidance she’s gotten has shaped her career. “If you want a mentor, and one hasn’t been allocated to you, do your homework. Know what you want. Know what you don’t want,” she advises.

Source: Harvard Business Review