There’s nothing new under the sun, it’s said, and that’s certainly true when it comes to the “elder statesmen” of any industry grousing about the incompetence or inexperience of the greenhorns. We’ve all heard it, and we’ve all done it — that’s human nature. But when the air clears and any teasing has died down, it’s up to us—those tested through sheer experience—to ensure the continuity of our field by doing all we can to pass our hard-won knowledge on to the next generation.
It’s kind of ironic, really, that an industry such as ours—so profoundly dependent on the solutions promised by new technology—must acknowledge that the best way to pass on this know-how is still through personal, one-on-one mentoring relationships. It’s true, one-on-one mentoring helps industry newbies in many tangible and intangible ways in the development of their skill sets, thought disciplines and career development:
- Facilitates opportunities and connections
- Promotes mentee in and out of work situations
- Helps mentee understand promotion requirements and fiscal realities
- Helps navigate the system
- Models and instructs on ethical behavior
The great news is that we, as mentors, can leverage the power of modern communication technology in the course of our mentoring. Text messaging, Skype sessions, phone conversations can stand in for much of the face-to-face mentoring used to require. But don’t forget the power and efficiency inherent in being there to interpret the hidden meaning of facial expressions and body language.
If you’re really concerned about the state of our field, mentoring is something you can do that can make a real difference. Mentoring in our field fits perfectly with the emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) disciplines in today’s public and post-secondary school curricula. Best of all, you can control how much of your time and energy it takes up, while choosing the best of what to pass along. If you’re interested in mentoring but don’t really know how to get started, contact any of our many professional associations to let them know you’re open to the possibility. Someone there likely knows someone who needs the knowledge you have to offer.
You may be surprised at how mentoring brings back your love of the game, so to speak. Nothing to remind you of how much you’ve accomplished than trying to pass along what you’ve learned. And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a truly talented individual you can see as a big part of your company’s future when it’s time for succession planning.
To make it easier to set up a mentoring program—as formal or informal as you wish— we’re sharing here a guide to The Metrics of Mentoring, a resource from the Medical University of South Carolina. It’s intended for the academic community, but the majority of the main points could transfer across any field of study or endeavor.
Next time you’re tempted to complain about the lack of professionalism in younger people in our industry, instead ask yourself what you’re doing personally to build a stronger future for all of us.