S-e-x? Not this time, friends. The “S” is for “Systems Thinking”! Let’s talk about systems thinking! If you are unfamiliar with the concept of “systems thinking,” your first thought might be that the expression is scientific, probably has something to do with psychology, and surely does not relate to what you do in your world. The aim of this post is to demonstrate how systems thinking is most assuredly applicable to your world and has the potential to change aspects of your life! Read more
Posts By Dr. Helen Stiff-Williams
School leaders, teachers, superintendents, and school boards are under attack for the poor showing in student achievement in America. A few decades ago, America was the leader in education among industrialized nations in the world. Today among industrialized nations, America has fallen far down in the rankings.
To improve educational systems and America’s ranking, visionaries like Hargreaves and Shirley (2009) advise that our approach to change requires working together to solve problems and make improvements instead of engaging in competition that results in winners and losers. Read more
Mentoring is a practice that is used in many different settings, such as for students in K-12 schools, professional classroom teaching, community service projects and business enterprises. When initiated by a sponsoring group, the practice involves pairing an inexperienced person, known as the mentee, with an experienced person, known as the mentor. The mentor works directly with the mentee to help the person to develop skills and attitudes and to engage in professional experiences for personal and career growth.
For an aspiring professional or a young professional, a successful mentoring relationship can yield incredible benefits to boost a career. This discussion offers five practical suggestions to those desiring to establish a mentoring relationship to accelerate their career opportunities. The tips offered are designed to hone in on some nuanced aspects of selecting a mentor and establishing the mentoring relationship to maximize career success for the young professional. By applying the recommended strategies, a young professional can boost his career trajectory in remarkable ways.
Five Tips for Establishing a Successful Mentoring Relationship
1.) Apply a strategic process in the selection of the best person to become your mentor. When considering who will make an effective mentor, research the background of the experienced professional under consideration. Know where the person has been in terms of career experiences, and have a sense of where the prospective mentor seems to be advancing. To what extent does the career path of this professional match your aspirations?
2.) Identify specific skills, attributes, relationships and experiences of the prospective mentor to determine their compatibility with your own, those behaviors you wish to acquire and the practices that you wish to experience. This step involves taking a closer look at the possible mentor – at such characteristics as personality traits, willingness to share, patience, openness, team-work behaviors, etc.
3.) Apply all rules for effective communication. In a world where multi-tasking is the practice, be mindful of the demands in your mentor’s life and your own busy life. It will be very important to establish a communication pattern that is compatible with your mentor. A mentee should, by design, aim to avoid interference with the mentor’s routine work activities so as not to be perceived as a drag on the relationship.
4.) Be available and willing to step into the world of your mentor. A strong mentoring relationship will yield opportunities for the mentee to engage in professional experiences alongside the mentor. There is no better opportunity to boost your career trajectory as through exposure to real-world and real-time, high-end professional activities. As a mentee, you should strategically plan and position yourself for invitations to step into the real world of your mentor.
5.) Convey a professional attitude and demonstrate maturity. Know and regard the unspoken rules that undergird a positive professional relationship. Such “unspoken rules” might include dressing in a professional manner, active listening when ideas and information are shared, being known for discretion and maintaining confidentiality, and taking on responsibilities that demonstrate your capabilities and desire to advance to the next level.
Strong, positive mentoring relationships can boost the career trajectory of a beginning professional in several ways. First, the mentee has access to the experiences of a seasoned professional who knows where pitfalls are and will share strategies for avoiding trouble-spots that can derail a career. Second, mentors know the pathways to successful career outcomes that mentees can use to accelerate their way forward. A third consideration is the personal contacts of the mentor that can be provided to the mentee. Through the mentor’s professional relationships with leaders in a career field, mentees have the opportunity to be introduced and to establish relationships with others in the field. Aspiring and beginning professionals should make the search for a mentor one of their primary objectives for career advancement.
Here is a testimony that might inspire some young professionals to take the first step towards selecting a mentor and establishing a successful mentoring relationship:
“I have been inspired and encouraged by my relationship with my mentor, as she helped me find my voice in the field of character education. I was timid and unsure at first, but after being invited to speak with her at the 2011 National Character Education Partnership (CEP) training last year, I was much more confident. She encouraged me to apply alone this year with her as a co-speaker –and the proposal was accepted! I am so thankful for the opportunities allowed to me and her encouragement to do my best and really reach for the stars!”
-Kalyn Mace-Guilloux, Doctoral Fellow with Dr. Stiff-Williams, Regent University School of Education
We are more than a decade into the 21st century, but one core area of worker development has been slow to evolve – acquiring and demonstrating 21st century skills. I believe that 21st century skills are important, and everyone entering the marketplace should know the extent of his or her preparation for demonstrating these skills.
The 21st century skills constitute the new “smart” – exceeding and differing markedly from the former standards of literacy related to one’s ability to read, write, complete mathematical calculations and perform manual activities.
In a New York Times article, “Where Jobs Are,” Cox, Alms and Holmes (2004), identified a hierarchy of six categories of job growth in America. At the top of the hierarchy with the highest rate of job growth is the category of work involving people skills and emotional intelligence. Workers in this top category include financial services salespersons, recreational workers, registered nurses, lawyers, and educational and vocational counselors. The category with the second highest rate of job growth involves imagination and creativity. Workers in this category are employed as actors and directors, architects, designers, photographers, hair stylists and cosmetologists.
At the bottom of the hierarchy of job changes, the writers identified areas of sharp job decline. Jobs in the category of muscle power had the sharpest rate of decline with the grouping involving manual dexterity being the second sharpest rate of decline. Muscle power jobs include timber cutters, fishing workers, farm workers, stevedores and garbage collectors. Manual dexterity workers included typesetters, sewing machine operators, lathe operators, butchers and tool and die makers.
The extent to which persons entering the workplace can become employed in the jobs of rapid growth is directly related to the extent to which these people can demonstrate 21st century skills. This chart illustrates the difference between traditional workplace expectations and the current demands for the 21st century workplace.
Comparison of Traditional Workplace Skills and Contemporary 21st Century Skills
Traditional Workplace Still Demands
21st Century Workplace Proficiencies*
Adherence to workplace rules
Respect/cooperation with supervisors
Use systems thinking
Make judgment and decisions
Collaborate with others
Adapt to change
Manage goals and time
Be self-directed learners
Interact effectively with others
Work effectively in Diverse teams
Guide and lead others
Be responsible to others
Work creatively with others
*Source: Partnership for 21st Century Skills
Note that the fastest growing job classification involves people skills and emotional intelligence, with the second fastest growing job category involving imagination and creativity. The proficiencies required for these two job growth categories are distinctly identifiable as 21st century skills. The American economic system will thrive only if workers and entrants to the workforce are prepared in the 21st century skills.