Career Center Blog

January 2, 2013

Thaw out the 'Seattle freeze' with mentoring

Thaw out the 'Seattle freeze' with mentoring

(Microsoft Free Clip Art)

January is National Mentoring Month, so I decided to look at how mentoring others could help us thaw the "Seattle freeze" reputation we've so infamously earned.

Julia Sommerfeld gave examples of our not-so-nice freeze-out attitude toward people who weren't born and raised in the Puget Sound area in an article published several years ago in The Seattle Times' Pacific NW magazine. More recently, Matt Youngquist tackled the subject in two blog posts, "5 theories behind Seattle's chilly networking reputation" and "The 'Seattle freeze': change, adapt or surrender?"

It's an interesting dichotomy. Seattle was rated the second-best city in which to live (out of the 100 largest U.S. cities) by's second America's 50 Best Cities ranking. That analysis, however, focused on characteristics such as the number of restaurants, libraries and museums, educational attributes, economic factors and crime rates. What it didn't take into consideration is the helpfulness of the population. If it did, word on the street is that we'd have scored at the bottom of the list. Ouch!

How do we melt this notorious reputation? One way is through mentoring. Because really, Seattleites aren't a bunch of highly educated techies and coffee snobs trying to keep others from moving to our pristine outdoor wonderland. We're just busy trying to make the world a better place. But no matter how busy we are, I think it's about time we gave more of a helping hand to people new to the area.

Here are two examples of how mentors can help others make the transition to Seattle less painful.

"Moving to Seattle for work made building relationships with colleagues easy, but creating social connections was much harder," says Jennifer K., a local business owner and transplant from the East Coast. "I was lucky to have a resource in my office building who personally introduced me to her friends in social situations, creating friendships that still exist for me today. Having someone who will personally vouch for you, whether it's a mentor, vendor or office mate, was crucial to breaking down initial barriers."

"When I first came to Seattle, it was important for me to not just meet individuals, but to get introduced to organizations, too," says Kelly H., a communications professional who moved here from Boulder, Colo. "Connecting with neighborhood chambers of commerce and non-profits gave me a sense of the city's values, which helped me figure out where I fit in. Plus, the individuals I met at these organizations also led to more connections in the community."

So Seattleites, maybe it's time to embrace mentoring as one way to help thaw out our chilly reputation.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., a career-coaching and business-consulting company. Email her at

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"Because really, Seattleites aren't a bunch of highly educated techies and coffee snobs trying to keep others from moving to our pristine outdoor wonderland." Starting in the mid-90s Seattle became highly educated, expensive, snobby, unfriendly, ...


When discussing the so called Seattle freeze, please consider your own behavior in the equation.

This meme is exhausted. You'll receive a reflection, most of the time, per the energy you invest in your interaction with another. Work at taking a few seconds to make a difference. You'll usually get a positive result.

I agree that finding a mentor can be helpful for integrating into a new geography. That's what I did when I moved to Seattle. Interestingly, I found people in Seattle to be incredibly helpful. But I think people have to realize that they need to actually ask for help - don't expect people to be mind readers.

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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