Your Career

The art of self-mentoring

One way to help accelerate your advancement is by applying the concept of a “selfie” to your career. How? By actively self-mentoring, which involves independently improving your skills by yourself, through your own devices, without structured guidance from others.

Some ways to self-mentor:

  • Increase your observational prowess on and off the job. Identify interpersonal techniques used by inspiring, dignified, warm people and emulate them.
  • Observe how managers you respect prioritize, stoke creativity, provide feedback and tailor their approaches to the needs of particular staffers. Consider adopting similar approaches, as appropriate.
  • Ask yourself questions to help identify successful management techniques, such as, was this meeting productive, engaging or even fun, and why? Does this team have esprit-de-corps and why? Is this manager revered, creative, productive and admired by his staff and why? Is a particular work product outstanding and why?
  • Glean the lessons of everyday teachable moments. For example, did a presenter deftly glide through a PowerPoint glitch without “letting them see him sweat.” Did a manager deflect an inappropriate public attack with a calm, courteous substantive response instead of with an emotional response that would probably have inflamed tensions? Did a meeting leader gently but effectively reign in long-winded participants?
  • Identify particularly well-written passages in professional publications and news articles and analyze why they are compelling. Maintain a collection of your favorite reader-friendly articles and occasionally reread them to remind yourself of effective writing techniques.
  • Analyze how articulate “talking heads” on TV generate smooth, pithy statements and use clever phrases to summarize their viewpoints. Analyze what makes articulate live speakers attention-grabbing and impactful. Is it their earnestness, speaking cadence, ability to simplify technical material with devices such as analogies, dramatic buildup of ideas or body language? Incorporate similar techniques into your presentations.
  • Engage managers in conversation and ask them about their management styles and experiences.
  • Prepare for job interviews by crafting answers to common interview questions, and then record and critique your delivery. Likewise, record and critique presentations before delivering them.
  • Seize opportunities to serve in “acting” positions even for short periods, lead meetings and gain supervisory experience, even if doing so requires recruiting interns. Doing so will help you gauge your suitability for management positions, as well as enhance your credentials.

Lily Whiteman is the author of “How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job.” Her web site is Ask your career questions at

Recommended for you
Around The Web