If you are one of almost 2 million engineers in the United States looking for a mentor, then you have made a smart career decision. Studies show receiving mentoring from the right career mentor can make a measurable difference. So, what should you look for in career mentors? Here’s some suggestions.
1. Specific Industry Experience
A career mentor is someone who has already been where you want to go. Therefore, they already know what you need and the most efficient way to get it. However, engineering is a diverse discipline with over 30 specialties. An agricultural engineer is different from an aerospace engineer. Choose career mentors with the same background as you have.
Career success does not happen overnight. There will be obstacles, snafus and setbacks. So, make sure you choose someone who is in it for the long haul. The National Society for Professional Engineers states that a mentorship is “a formal agreement to an ongoing, planned partnership that focuses on helping the many…over a specific period of time.”
Good career mentors are hard to find. It doesn’t do you any good to choose someone who does not have time to fully commit to the partnership. Even if your highly sought-after mentor is someone you really admire, if he or she says they do not have time, search for someone else.
Mentoring is a deliberate undertaking. You and your mentor should meet regularly. A once-a-month schedule may be realistic. However, bi-monthly would be preferable.
3. Passion for the Project
Stephen Hawking said, “Science is not only a discipline of reason, but, also, one of romance and passion.” Your mentor should not only be honored that you asked him, but he should be thrilled about working with you and molding your career. The mentorship should be perceived as an opportunity for both of you.
4. Accountability Awareness
As a mentee, you should be prepared to be a productive contributor. Your dedication to the partnership should be apparent. Submit ideas and demonstrate initiative. Therefore, select a mentor who has high standards; he will hold you to your promises. After all, the mentor’s primary goal is to empower you to maximize your talents.
5. Type of Mentorship
Mentorships vary. It is up to the protege to know what kind of help he needs. Are you looking for sponsorship or entry into exclusive organizations? Do you need motivation or coaching? Do you need help with a problem? Many times the mentor’s role can develop and become more of a coach, helping to establish short- and long-term career goals.
6. Company-Sponsored Programs
An employee recognition program is a formal initiative for a company to demonstrate appreciation for their employees. Motivation can also be ignited by acknowledgement among peers, especially senior managers who can act as career mentors.
As said in a recent publication, the Journal of Vocational Behavior, and reported that “mentoring has been discussed as a strategy for positive youth development…and as a means to facilitate career development among employees.”
7. Workplace Navigation
Experts say that while engineers ace topics like heat transfer and statics, they can find it difficult to hone time management and communication skills. They struggle in five key areas. The daily on-the-job challenges of progress reports, support staff management, and even technical problems can be skills they need to master. Guidance from a senior engineer regarding workplace culture is invaluable.
In a mentorship, highly motivated engineers will find a chance to grow. A mentorship means not only professional advancement but personal development. When you find the right mentor, this kind of progression will happen naturally.
Carol Evenson is a process automation consultant who specializes in systems management. She has worked alongside Fortune 1000 companies and currently assists organizations within the US and UK.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions below that you may have in regards to choosing career mentors.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success