Imagine sitting next to a career coach with 10 minutes of uninterrupted time to seek help for the most burning issues in your career. You know this will help you grow. In the third of a four-part series, questions millennial employees ask their managers or mentors were sent to Sanyin Siang, author and executive coach, and adviser to Google Ventures. Siang is professor with Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering. She tells millennials how a launch tribe, in which mentors play a key role, performs a crucial role whether one is launching a new business, project or next career. Edited excerpts:

Sanyin Siang, author and executive coach, and adviser to Google Ventures
Sanyin Siang, author and executive coach, and adviser to Google Ventures

How do I find meaning in my work and connect it to my life goals? What should I do if I don’t find myself passionate about the work I do?

A way of discovering the meaning in your work is to create an impact board. On this impact board, place things that you have been most proud of in your career. It can be a thank you note from someone whom you have helped, it can be a picture of a project that has made a positive difference. As you put up your items on the board, look for patterns in what you have found meaningful and energizing.

Something to keep in mind is that finding meaning in your work does not have to always be grand. It can be as simple as mentoring a teammate or praising someone for work well done. If we think about people as what brings meaning to our lives, then helping people can bring meaning into our work. It can be helping them on a grand scale— through the work of the organization—or individually. For instance, my mission in life is not to chase greatness but to enable greatness in others. Whether it is my coaching work with executives or mentoring work with students, or as a parent with my children—these all give me an opportunity and platform to realize my mission.

Who am I working for—the organization, the boss, the team or myself? How do I align with these three entities so I feel engaged?

To lead effectively, we must begin by leading ourselves. Understand your values and what you find meaningful, and be in an organization that aligns with those values, so that the job provides you with a platform for realizing your mission.

When you have that, it is easier to see the boss and your teammates as collaborators in achieving your goals. It makes it so much easier to engage and drive forward the mission of the organization when that happens. Also, communications is important. We are disengaged when we feel that our work does not matter, when we stop learning or when we feel that we do not belong. In the daily demands on our time and attention, we can easily become siloed in our work. Take the time to meet with your teammates for coffee, to learn about their work and their motivations, and to share yours.

Millennials are still judged on the number of years of experience as a metric for performance. Should it not be on the basis of actual learning rather than years of experience?

Experience and wisdom take time and hard work. Mentors can help us leapfrog the gaps in our experiences and learn a lot faster. But you will have to put in that hard work. By engaging with others and learning from them and then applying the learnings to your work, you can build not only a portfolio of experiences but also a team of champions who can vouch for your performance and capabilities.

I want a mentor who helps in my professional and personal journey. How and where do I get started?

Whether you are launching a new business, project or next career, remember that no success is an individual endeavour. Hence, it is best to do so with a launch tribe, in which mentors play a key role. So, how do you go about identifying a mentor? First, start by realizing that you do not have to have one single mentor. Rather, think about having a team of diverse mentors. For example, if you have an idea for a start-up, there may be different insights that you need—ranging from how to structure your start-up, to prototyping, to understanding the market opportunities for your start-up idea.

Second, think about the type of advice you might need and where the gap is between your aspirations and reality. From there, start identifying those whom you think may have a perspective to offer. How do you find them? You could do so by asking friends for recommendations of people who can help you answer a particular question or searching your current network on LinkedIn for those who may have insights.

Before reaching out, research their background first and seek their time for advice. And listen. A mistake I have seen others (including myself) fall into is trying to impress rather than authentically seeking to learn. Listening and asking questions are key aspects of learning.

Not everyone whom you seek advice from will be a mentor. Mentorship is a relationship. Think also how you can add value to the engagement. A way of knowing how to be an effective mentee is to be a mentor to others. Always pay it forward.

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