Ask a Mentor with George Krafcisin

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When is the right time to have a conversation about perks or flexibility at a new job (such as flexible hours or working from home)? How would you begin that conversation?

First, wait until you’ve established a trusting relationship with your boss — s/he needs to know you as a reliable professional before you ask for something special.Then, take the time to prepare your case. What is it you want? How will you answer objections? What are the positives: how might this help the organization? How does it help you get your job done better? What compromises are you willing to accept?

Only after this preparation should you ask for a time to discuss your request. Look for a time when you won’t be interrupted and you know your boss will not be stressed over other issues. When you request the meeting, avoid the dreaded “We need to talk” email. Be forthright and ask in person. I’d like to talk to you about my working from home one day a week. I think it would help me get more work done. When are you available? That’s non-threatening and gives your boss time to think about it.

What are some practical steps for young professionals who want to grow and develop professionally?

In Alice in Wonderland, Alice asked the Cheshire Cat which of two roads to take.

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat. ‘I don’t much care where,’ said Alice. ?’Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.”

So, first decide where you want to go. A coach or a good friend (someone who has no agenda of their own, preferably) can help you explore what really turns you on, what you will be happiest doing. It might be a management position, a career that maximizes income, a professional position that best uses your talents or a job that helps others and makes a difference in society.

Once you’ve narrowed your possible destination options, network and interview people in the sector or job you’re interested in. You might want to try jobs in different organizations, or work as a volunteer or intern to see what it’s really like. Read up on the literature. Attend professional conferences to make contacts and get the feel of the profession. Do research on organizations that match your goals.

Only then can you decide if you need special training or a degree in a specific discipline. Once you know where you’re going, it’s a lot easier to pick the right road.

What are some sure-fire signs that it’s time to leave your current position?

We humans don’t change until the pain outweighs the benefits. Your decision depends on your feelings. How bad does it hurt? What do you get by staying? What options do you have? How well do you handle change? Is the grass really greener, or will you bring problems with you?

I stayed in one job for many years in spite of smothering bureaucracy and a good old boy culture that blocked my advancement. But the pay kept me there. However, when they offered me an early retirement package, the balance changed. I eagerly accepted. (I landed a consulting engagement before I left, which turned into a full time job offer.)

If you are unhappy in your current position, ask yourself:

  • What is bad about the job? How bad is it?
  • What is good? How good?
  • How do these two balance?
  • How much of the above is inherent in the job, and how much do you control? Is part of the problem your personal baggage?
  • What are the options? What are the likely consequences for both staying and leaving?
  • Are your answers true? Do a reality check with a good friend or coach.
  • Based on the above, what actions will you commit to? Tell your friend or coach what you will do by when. Ask them to hold you accountable.

Good luck!

What resources (blogs/periodicals/websites/etc) do you find invaluable to your professional life?

Since I work with non-profit professionals early in their management careers, I rely a lot on my experience as a manager and business owner for illutrations. But I always find it useful to have a couple of books to recommend that give a good basis for a budding manager. These include:

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. A very helpful book on how to figure out what’s really important, so you can focus your time and effort on those things that will get you or your organization where you want to be.

For beginning supervisors and managers, I recommend the unfortunately titled, Complete Idiot’s Guide to Team Building. More than just about teams, it covers the basics of how to get things done through the efforts of others– the definition of management.

Because I do a lot of work with nonprofit boards, I regularly use the publications and information from Boardsource. Another source of good articles on nonprofits is

And before you meet with someone be sure to check their profile on LinkedIn. (Make sure your own profile is up to date, as well!)

George Krafcisin is a consultant with the Executive Service Corps of Chicago, where he provides leadership coaching and mentoring, strategic planning, board development, and team development for nonprofit organizations. He has held officer-level positions in the insurance and in the nonprofit sector, taught college courses at Northwestern University and Columbia College, and ran his own consulting and training firm. George holds a BA in Physics from the University of Chicago and a Master’s in Liberal Studies from Northwestern University.