Several seasoned commercial real estate professionals were recently asked to meet with a group of emerging young leaders within CoreNet, TREC, and NTCAR for a “speed mentoring” session. Most of these young leaders were either just starting their careers or thinking about commercial real estate as a profession.
Speed mentoring is sort of like speed dating (where one’s quest for love is reduced to 5-minute interval meetings with someone of the opposite sex), but with less pressure, no awkward silent moments, and no one asking weird questions like, “Why aren’t there bulletproof pants?” “Why don’t sheep shrink in the rain?” or “What’s your take on cannibalism?”
If speed dating is like a job interview, then speed mentoring is like a job fair. You get about 10-15 minutes to explain your résumé.
The idea is to give these young leaders an opportunity to interact with successful members of the real estate community in a relaxed, fun atmosphere. There were six industry professionals and about 30 young leaders. During the event, there were stations set up where the young leaders would sit and relax, while rotating groups of mentors came in every 15 minutes.
Speed mentoring probably sounds a lot easier than it is. Asking questions about a mentor’s path to success that has typically taken more than 20+ years to accomplish can be somewhat overwhelming to these young leaders.
Besides me, the mentors included Jeff Staubach and Evan Stone, both managing directors at Jones Lang LaSalle; Sandra Paret, senior vice president of HOK; Robert Fitzgerald, global director of process technology solutions for Nokia, and Chris Mach, associate director of real estate for AT&T.
Setting up speed mentoring sessions can be especially helpful for companies with new brokers who often don’t have opportunity to meet one-on-one with the senior brokers within their organizations. The practice is also a good way for young brokers to meet a number of professionals and to test out their communication skills.
The format allows for quick-hit information from another professional to assist with the goal of finding a potential mentor. Speed mentoring allows you to test out the process before beginning a search for a formal mentoring relationship, and provides an opportunity to gain confidence by offering an ice-breaker meeting with a potential mentor at the company.
Although the goal is career-building, not courtship, the underlying philosophy remains the same: Rather than waste hours with a mentor who’s just not that into you, spend a few minutes with a variety of people in hopes of finding that special someone who truly understands your career aspirations.
The young leaders at this event were thankfully given a list of acceptable questions; otherwise, you could be subject to random questions quickly offered to disguise the silence as these young leaders were clearly trying to get comfortable asking personal questions.
If you are thinking about a speed mentoring program at your company, here’s a list of ideas gleaned from the session for prospective mentees:
• Think up some basic questions (silence isn’t golden)
• Laugh at the mentors’ jokes
• Try and remember the mentors’ names (especially if you like them)
• Ask reasonable questions. Here are some examples:
—Who has been the most influential person in your professional career?
—Why do you do what you do?
—When is breaking the rules okay?
—What is the one thing that has accounted for most of your success?
—What books have influenced your ideas and thoughts the most?
—What have you found to be the most effective way of handling rejection?
—Where do you see the largest area of growth in our industry?
• Desperately try to find something in common
• Mention concentration camps or your interest in comic book conventions
• Tell the mentors that you were in grade school (or not yet born!) when they began their careers
• Go off on a rant about anything at all
• Talk about your ex/divorce/kids/dead cats
• Give your mentor a fist-bump, instead of a handshake
Susan Arledge is president of Arledge Partners Real Estate. Contact her at email@example.com.