Thanks, but No “Thanks.”

You’ve given your precious time to a Millennial. Waiting for a “Thank You”? Good luck.

Thanks

 

 

It’s time to take matters into your own hands.

 

 

 

I learned the hard way. “Go to school” on me! You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

True story: a few years ago my mom casually mentioned to me a year after the fact that one of my children (plus a few friends) never really thanked her for some substantial time she had invested in them. She wasn’t being rude – but clearly my mom was bothered.

On SO many levels I had missed the “teachable moment” that we all desire as parents, bosses, mentors, etc. Furthermore, the millennial offenders are just fantastic kids! (After all, 3/5 of my kids are millennials). They are our future.

So, here’s how I have solved the problem:

I ask.

That’s it.

“I’ve given my time to you. This is what I expect in exchange.”

From now on, each time I help someone (particularly a millennial!) whether it is in a job search, a resume review, college recruiting support, etc. I use it as an opportunity to explain my expectations. Crystal clear. I am no longer waiting. I do not want to be disappointed. I do not ever want to have the feeling my mom did. Rather, I have chosen to take the matter into my own hands and use it as a chance to “shape” someone in a positive way.

Here’s what I asked of a very capable young woman recently for whom I offered to write a college letter of support:

1) Please alert me as to when I need to complete my letter. (Note: timelines need to be her responsibility, not mine.)

2) Please follow-up with the school to be certain they have received my letter and it is appropriately in your file. (Note: I am asking her to “own” the process.)

3) Please write me a handwritten thank you note. (Note: while it seems so obvious, it’s not. These kids have SO many means of communication. They need to understand that the world is noisy. Stand out with a handwritten note. Period.)

4) Please let me know as soon as you hear of an acceptance, denial or deferral (Note: I am asking her to keep me in the loop; I have invested my time and merit inclusion of information.)

5) Please keep me posted over the next few years. I have taken my time. I care about you, your school career and probably even your post-college career. (Note: while she probably does not even realize it, I am “coaching” her for how to interact when she begins job prospecting. Further, to the extent that she really does keep me posted – it is likely that I will somehow help her!)

6) Lastly, please remember that “in life” there will be people who help you get where you are going. Please treat those people as “people in your life” and stay in touch. Drop them a line every so often. Send a Christmas card. Whatever. (Note: The important thing is that the gift of time comes with a responsibility. I gave her my time. If she plays her cards right, we can have an amazing relationship.)

Postscript: The young lady was denied admission (early admission) to the college she so desperately sought to attend. Not even a deferral. She and I have communicated a few times since her deeply disappointing news. It is my hope that she takes my “advice” and stays in touch. Trust me: if she does just that I would be thrilled to help point her in a direction, introduce her to possible internships, and even help her land a job after college, etc. [After all, she already successfully completed steps 1-4 with terrific success!]

Invest in yourself. Invest in others. Say thanks.

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Dear Women: Do What You Do and Do Not Ask for Permission, Ask for Forgiveness

Dear Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Anne-Marie Slaughter and even Susan Patton:

Thank you.

Each of you is “right.” Whether it’s: “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” (Slaughter, who returned to a manageable professor life at Princeton after a stint in foreign policy at the State Department); the importance of “leaning in” to your career and taking a seat at the table (Sandberg, COO of Facebook on the importance of speaking up); eliminating tele-commuters (Mayer, CEO of Yahoo and new mother, who recognized that innovation occurs at a central location; productivity works for telecommuting, but less so for innovation); or encouraging Princeton women students to find a husband while in college (Patton, professional, mother and Princeton grad). Perhaps each of you is trying to say something similar? Let me sum it up the way my mom does: YOU DO WHAT YOU DO. Yes. Just like that. YOU DO WHAT YOU DO. In other words, we all make choices.

Over the last few years I have really tried to grasp the whole working mom thing. Every mother – parent for that matter – is trying his or her best. Make your decisions and make them with confidence!  Perhaps I am an anomaly? I have played sports my entire life. I competed with boys and men at a time when many girls and women weren’t into sports..so perhaps I had a confidence that most women didn’t have? I have never felt slighted by men. I’ve always chosen to speak up when I thought it necessary, lean in at the table when I wanted to lean in, and request a promotion/raise when I deemed it earned. I’ve never had a problem rolling up my sleeves to make cold calls, knock on doors to sell, or simply “put myself out there”..because I believe in myself. Moreover, I’ll do whatever it takes to go the extra mile.

I struggle with the same balance that every mother struggles with: what is the right blend of work and family? I’ve worked full-time, part-time, corporate HQ, telecommute, Fortune 1000, ecommerce Kleiner-Perkins funded digital-startup, WAHM, etc. I had my first child ten days after being graduated from business school, worked full-time until my fourth, left for a while and had a fifth. I returned a few years ago to a job that on paper was “below” my qualifications. Why? Because it was a fast growing company in ecommerce and the potential for personal and professional growth in a rapidly scaling industry and the company was amazing (my employer was competing against Groupon.) I chose not to worry about career level but rather focus  on potential experience to be gained and value to be added. As Eric Schmidt had told Sheryl before she took the Google job,”When companies grow quickly there are more things to do than there are people to do them.” Very true. And today? I’ve shifted, and  have founded my own small start-up which I’ll manage on my own schedule. I am on the “career jungle gym”, not the linear  corporate ladder (a reference to Fortune’s Patricia Sellers who said, “Think of your career as a jungle gym, sharpen your peripheral vision, and look for opportunities all around.”);  With five kids (all athletes) in four schools – I am just like any other mom in the world: trying to figure it out.

Let’s take it one step further: How about we women DO WHAT WE DO and then take a line from  most men’s playbook: DO NOT ASK FOR PERMISSION rather ASK FOR FORGIVENESS. Perhaps that’s what each of the aforementioned formidable women is trying to say? DO WHAT YOU DO..WITH CONFIDENCE! It’s what Marissa Mayer did when she changed the option of a remote workforce for Yahoo: she’s doing what she’s doing with confidence. She thinks it’s the right thing for Yahoo. (For what it’s worth, I must agree with her: she is trying to turn around a sinking ship and needs innovation.) It’s what Sheryl Sandberg is doing by speaking up and encouraging women to “lean in” to career advancement and not “leave before you leave.” She’s doing what she thinks is the right thing and using her power with confidence to remind women to speak up and lean into their careers. (For what it’s worth, I think it is brave of Sheryl to speak up; I reluctantly read her book and was pleasantly surprised by the nuggets of raw truths she was willing to share with the reader.) It’s what Anne-Marie Slaughter did by going back to Princeton as a professor of politics and international affairs: she’s doing what she’s doing with confidence – doing it HER way. (For what it’s worth, I have two daughters, one of whom happens to be at Princeton; I found Anne-Marie’s article to be brave and spot-on: we make choices in life.) And lastly, Susan Patton is doing what she’s doing: speaking up to the young women at Princeton. Maybe I do not agree with her but I commend her for DOING WHAT SHE’S DOING and NOT ASKING FOR PERMISSION..but forgiveness. (For the record, I do not agree at all with Patton but commend her for speaking up.  With CONFIDENCE!)