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The Mentor’s Tap on the Shoulder | Career Angles


One of the responsibilities of leadership is the tap on the shoulder of recognition.


I thought I would do a video today about Career Angles and talk with you about the mentor’s tap on the shoulder. I’m going to speak to those of you who are in senior roles and the importance of that tap because, when you think about it, how do people know that they’re seen and recognized, and that someone sees them as being more senior or advancing and stepping into new roles. Now, I’m not saying that you have to tell them, “We’re going to get you into this in two weeks. Now, we’re moving up really fast.”

No, of course, not. But the opportunity to look at someone and have a quick conversation with them out of the blue, not in a formal review, but out of the blue and just simply say, “I’ve been watching you for a while and I see a lot of potential and you’ve got work to do. But I see a lot of potential in you. And if you continue being hungry and dedicated to your profession, I can see you moving up fast.” Or “I see you moving into a role like such and such,” is such a great ego booster to the individual.

Now you have to continue it by saying, “I want you to understand you’re not ready yet. But start looking at these kind of things. Start looking at getting a coach. Hiring a mentor, or getting a mentor for yourself. Doing something to move yourself along. Because the things you’re going to need to learn in order to be in this kind of role” and, then, shut up and listen. Shut up and listen and also . . .  Let’s start with the listening part of this.

The listening part is hearing them respond to this because, most of the time they’re going to go, “uh, I don’t know,” because their nerves are going to get in the way. But it doesn’t make a difference. Your tap on the shoulder, as metaphorically,, of course, is a big boost for that, because they’ve been seen by a more senior person and noticed and see that they have potential and if they work at it, they can move ahead.

I know I’ve got an 18 year old son who got that tap from someone in two organizations he was working for and how it made a difference for him. Now, you’re not 18, I presume you’re older and, in doing this, I’m encouraging you to do that tap. Here’s the extra part.

Most mentors, most leaders tend to give that tap on the shoulder to people who are just like them and it’s important to not only do the tap on people who are (I’ll use myself as an example) male, white, and you know, with a certain type of professional background, but to do it with people different than you. That’s because your job as a leader is as being someone who spots talent and moves at along. In doing so, sometimes people are so in the weeds doing their job, they don’t look up around them at their potential and in effect what the tap does is gives you that window. It allows you to look in, to open the window up, look in, tell them what you see, and then move on.

It can be done in a review, but it’s much more powerful if it’s done outside of the review where it’s a an extemporaneous message that you give. You just bring them into an office or have a chat with them over coffee (and coffee is not ideal. you’re still trapped there for a while) but, again, the idea is a quick conversation that tells them “I see you.”

Again, always look for people who are different than you because, otherwise, all you’re doing is feeding one demographic, giving them input, giving them ideas and encouragement, not others. People will start to notice and it will hurt you. The intention’s good but you have to get outside of your own comfort zone and notice people different.



Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1200 episodes and his newest show, “No BS Coaching Advice” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.

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