We all have had informal mentors—people, in the course of our education and careers, who have taken us under their wings, guided us through different situations, and provided us with support and encouragement. Entering into a formal mentorship, however, is more structured and involves setting specific goals, meeting regularly, and committing to the success of the mentorship relationship.
In one of my recent posts, I wrote about setting up mentorship programs within your own company. Mentorship opportunities also are available outside of your current workplace and may be your best option depending on what you are trying to achieve for yourself or your company.
What do you want?
Your first step in working with any mentor is knowing what you want to get out of the relationship. Are you interested in honing a specific skill? Do you want to understand the ins and outs of advancing your construction career? Or is there a specific problem you need help solving?
Finding the right mentor
Perhaps the biggest component to a successful mentor-mentee connection is mutual trust and respect. Look for someone who will have open and honest conversations with you and who genuinely cares about helping you reach your goals. Like any good relationship, you and your mentor need to click.
Where to look
You may already have someone in mind from your own personal connections. If not, a great source for mentors are construction associations. For example, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) offers a structured mentoring program through its chapters. Special care is made to pair mentors and protégés based on profiles they complete outlining their skills and what they each want to accomplish from the program. Mentors are expected to meet with their protégés at least once a month and midway through the program an assessment is completed so that both parties can gauge whether the program is working for them. A final assessment also occurs at the end of the program to continually evaluate and improve the effectiveness of the program.
Mentorship to advance your company
We often think of mentorship in the context of our own professional development. But it can also help your business advance or overcome a specific obstacle. Various chapters of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America, for instance, offer programs to help small construction companies get off the ground and become successful contractors. In these programs, leaders of mature established AGC member construction companies share their knowledge with protégé companies to improve various business aspects, from strategic business planning to estimating, bidding, and accounting practices.
A successful mentorship relationship requires work, commitment, and follow-through from both parties. But in the end, it’s well worth the effort.