One of the most valuable assets your career can have is a good mentor. A mentor is defined as an individual who helps and guides another individual’s development by sharing his or her experience. This guidance is not done for personal gain.
At the Ted Berry Company, we have a long history of mentorship. In the early 1970s, Ted Berry mentored a young Jim Timberlake, teaching him about general industry best business practices and practical skills. That set Jim up for a career of success and accomplishment. Jim later mentored me as I came into the business in the early 1990s, and once again set me up for an accomplished and successful career.
Many of us at the Ted Berry Company have relied on a single mentor or a series of mentors over the years, and we must continue this tradition, as it is one of the best ways to educate and promote from within our co-workers.
Finding a mentor
Here are a few tips for finding a mentor:
The best place to look for a mentor is right in front of you. Look around at work. Is there an individual who you admire and respect? Someone who has always impressed you with insight and perspective?
Maybe your boss or your boss’s boss. Maybe it’s a manager in another service group or work team. It could even be an individual who doesn’t currently work for the company, but has lots of experience.
Approach that individual and ask if they would consider being your mentor. Depending on the individual, and your current relationship, your proposal will vary in the amount of detail and how it is delivered. At the very least, let them know why you selected them and what you hope to learn from the association. If appropriate for the specific individual, you can also discuss amounts of time to be committed and what you will contribute.
Don’t put it off. What can you lose? Even if they decline to be your mentor, and few will, they will be flattered that you asked.
Being a mentor
How about if you are asked to mentor an employee? What does it take? It takes the same level of interest, commitment and confidence in your own abilities that it takes to mentor a student. It requires that you be sincerely interested in someone else’s growth. You won’t win any awards, but you will have the satisfaction of having done an important job.
Who becomes a mentor? Why do they do it? The answers are as varied as the people involved. Some of us were lucky enough to have had a mentor and want to repay that. Others just want to help out, be a positive influence, and help to continuously improve the company from within.
Whatever your reason for being a mentor, you will find it a special experience. Nothing can quite match the self-satisfaction you get from sharing your experience to help others.
The way I see it, you learn your life experiences from a number of people as you grow up and as you mature through your professional career. From family to co-workers and even friends, we learn our habits and develop our values as we grow.
A dedicated mentor can teach you the correct way to do things and the safest practices for accomplishing your work. Remember the high school shop teacher who had one finger and always said: “Do as I say not as I do.” Most of us will remember these small moments in life when someone took the time to share life lessons with us.
Work safe everyone!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matt Timberlake is the president of Ted Berry Company, located in Livermore, Maine.