“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
― Benjamin Franklin
There is value in mentoring relationships both for mentees and mentors. Throughout your career, you will be faced with tough decisions. It can be reassuring to get feedback and thoughts from those who are more experienced. Mentors can also help you avoid major pitfalls by providing guidance through a litany pf professional and career decisions. But how do you find a mentor?
Sometimes early in a career, you may feel unsure where to turn for help or advice. Luckily, there is a system to help you identify and find potential mentor/mentee matches. If you have networked in professional organizations for a while and have not managed to locate the confidant and mentor you want, ASCE’s program may be able to help you get on the right track. Similarly, if you are an experienced professional looking to give back to the world by helping the next generation of engineers, eCareerMentoring might be for you! Access is open to current paid members of ASCE.
Though there are many people around whom I can turn to for professional advice, about 6 months ago I was strongly drawn to ASCE’s program. I registered my profile and went looking for a potential mentor match. I was particularly attracted by the idea of getting connected to someone who is either in an industry I do not have access to locally, or getting connected to someone more senior than those in my current company who would spend consistent time with me. My search yielded several matches, and I queried the person I thought would be the best fit. Kris accepted and has been working with me regularly via telephone appointments ever since.
My experience as a protégé has opened up my eyes to better perspectives and helped me gain hold of techniques to accomplish goals. I feel that I am connected to an impartial person who can offer me real advice and feedback on career pursuits and decision-making. Recently, Kris helped me through a rough patch. There was a certain professional endeavor I pursued above and beyond my regular work; I was not selected. While it was a total bummer, Kris helped guide me through seeing the situation in a completely different light. The perspective and encouragement she offered helped me quickly get over a stumble and move on to success in new endeavors.
As a mentor, Kris has been very open about her experience as a budding engineer. When I asked her about some of these experiences, she told me this story…
Early in her career, Kris worked at building credibility working with regulatory agencies. In fact, the former deputy commissioner for the State where she formerly resided was (and continues to be) a valued mentor for her. She became known within the industry for her collaborative ability, particularly with the regulatory agencies. Over twenty years ago, a new career opportunity emerged for her; one which she most likely would not have accepted. She was offered a management position with an industrial company that had a less than stellar reputation with both the regulatory agencies as well as the community. The company had made headline news often regarding its environmental performance for a number of years previously. Although it was an attractive offer, she was concerned about the cultural aspects of the company and questioned whether she could ultimately be successful in taking on such a broad responsibility and shift the company culture to improve both regulatory and community relationships. Enter her mentor. Her mentor provided strong encouragement by reinforcing her strengths she had with building the constructive relationships with the regulatory communities involved. Further, the mentor emphasized his confidence in her by explaining that she would have both the technical capacity and leadership necessary to make the required changes. In the end, Kris was very successful in her role and the reputation of the company was significantly improved.
That was great mentoring. She took the position and was able to accomplish everything (and more) that her mentor predicted she would. Without this valuable feedback, her career track could have followed a very different path.
Today, Kris has been volunteering as a mentor through the ASCE eCareerMentor program for over 2 years now and had 4 different protégés. She has been able to help early career engineers with first position decision-making, advanced degree pursuit questions, and career path guidance.
Based on her own professional values and experiences (both as mentee and mentor), Kris shared the following encouragement for experienced professionals:
Mentoring is not just time on your calendar. It really is helping folks with their career and academic path. You get so much out of it. The breadth of what the next generation has to offer is truly impressive. Mentoring is very satisfying and rewarding. If you haven’t done it, try it.
If you’re wondering what you might have to offer protégés, consider the following:
- Honest feedback on how to position yourself as a young engineer for future goals
- How to communicate with a nontechnical audience
- Guidance on navigating positions, especially positions that may be perceived as less desirable
- Talk through career decision making
- Offering positive encouragement and being an advocate that your protégé can lean on
So to the young professionals, step out and give the eCareerMentor program a try. Put yourself out there!
To seasoned professionals, we need you! Consider volunteering some of your time to engage and cultivate up-and-coming engineers through mentorship.