Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the biggest names in career development, engagement and retention, and networking – Dr. Beverly Kaye. The founder and CEO of Career Systems International, and a best-selling author on workplace performance, Dr. Kaye has broken ground in so many ways for this important part of every professional’s life. Next Level Learning enjoys spotlighting thought leaders in areas that touch on what Blackboard focuses on – like learning and continuing education. That’s why I reached out to Dr. Kaye to get some sage advice for young professionals everywhere, and to learn more about how she coined “mentworking.”

Dr. Kaye’s 5 Steps to Successful Networking

  1. Know what you want
  2. Be very clear about what it is that you want
  3. Know who’s out there – precisely who you want to go to, and for what
  4. Know exactly how others can help you – what kind of help do you want/need?
  5. Be reciprocal – thank people for their help and extend a helping hand back to them

Interview with Dr. Beverly Kaye:

Q:  Dr. Kaye, you’ve been in the business of “people” for a few decades. What inspired you to invest so much time into the career endeavors of others? A:  In my earlier years, before I came into this field, I was a student activities Dean, and I worked at some very good schools. I noticed that kids in great schools thought that their careers were handed to them because they were “A” students going to “A” schools. Many of them found that that wasn’t the case – that, in fact, it takes more than just coming from a good school and getting good grades to launch a career.

As I moved into the corporate world, I was surprised by how little corporations did to educate their employees on how to plan their careers. They said things like “career development is up to you” but they never gave the people the wherewithal to plan their career, and they never really trained managers on how to be career coaches. I decided to look into this issue and come up with a methodology based on training managers how to coach their people around careers. It truly is an individual, managerial, and corporate responsibility.

Q:  Tell us about how you crafted “mentworking.” What was it about typical mentoring and networking that, separately, didn’t achieve the best results? A:  Around mentoring, I always thought it was meant to be something that was done by the “informal system.” In other words, you connect with a mentor casually, or you’re placed with a mentor like an arranged marriage.

I wanted to think about an easier way to teach mentoring so it wasn’t this planned, structured event. Plus, I believed that everyone deserved a mentor – not just high potentials. I believed that it needed to be for the massive middle. And no longer was it wise to just have one mentor; you really needed to have multiple mentors because they could coach you around different things. You should be able to mentor even if you’re lower in the hierarchy – a junior staff member. You could mentor upwards as well.

Combine the idea of mentoring with the idea of networking. People need to learn from many mentors. I, as an individual, need to find many people to mentor me – and, simultaneously, I have to give back by mentoring many others.

Q:  What qualifications determine who should be a mentor and who should be a mentee?

A:  It’s much broader than one would assume. Really, anyone could mentor. For instance, you could probably mentor me. Our company just got our GSA so we can deal with the government as a preferred vendor – I’ll bet you could tell me a thing or two about working with federal agencies. It’s really about learning about another person – what they need and what they have to offer. If you’re someone who’s willing to give, then people are willing to give back.

Q: How do people find out where to go to participate in a “mentworking” program?

A: Organizations need to offer people the chance to learn how to network and how to mentor. I think that it’s something that can be taught. When I think of the younger generation, they think they know everything about networking because they’re on Facebook and LinkedIn, but really that’s one kind of networking (that my generation never knew about). When I see these young people face-to-face in networking situations, they don’t always know how to handle it. They’re much more comfortable online than in-person; that’s why organizations need to teach our age group how to interact face-to-face.

Q:  How can young professionals leverage online tools to get their careers off to a strong start? Career Systems International has designed a web-enabled social learning way about teaching millennials about careers. We think that the younger generation treasures advice from their peers, in a way, more than from a manager. What we’re developing is a way for them to be in a career community and share what they’re learning with others in that community and learn from them.

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