Many entry-level professionals expect their supervisor to be their mentor. They think that because this person is put in charge they are going to help them advance their career. However, in many STEM professions, supervisors are put into that role because of their technical capabilities, not because they are great at teaching others. Many STEM professionals are stereotyped as cold and impersonable. However, there are plenty of Engirlneers who enjoy mentoring others and are a valuable resource for those hoping to advance their careers. It’s important to find the right person/people who can help you become the professional you want to be.
As a young Engirlneer just beginning to explore STEM careers, it may be hard to find committed mentor. However, as a parent, if you have connections to professionals, reach out and see if they would be willing to provide advice or answer questions as they come up. Maybe it’s something as simple as meeting over lunch or responding to emails every now and then. Reach out to professional organizations to see if they have any mentorship opportunities available.
As a young professional, remember that a good mentor doesn’t have to be someone with more experience or someone who has the position you want, although those people often provide great insight. A good mentor needs to have the skills you want and needs to be open to teaching others. You may find out that your peer or even someone younger than you is really talented at something you want to learn. Be open-minded and willing to learn from them. You will likely be able to teach them something new as well.
A good mentor doesn’t need to be someone you have an official connection to, nor do they need to keep a formal commitment to providing you advice. They DO need to be someone you feel comfortable talking with. A mentor/mentee relationship doesn’t work if one person isn’t open with the other person. You need to be open about your strengths, weaknesses, and goals.
When choosing mentors, also be aware of their limitations. Maybe you feel extremely comfortable going to a higher-level manager for questions, but she may not be available every day to answer questions as they arise. If something is a question out of curiosity and not necessity, keep a list and ask to schedule a set time to discuss them. Be respectful of your mentor’s schedule and she will be more likely to find time for you. If one day you find yourself in a position to mentor others, relish in the opportunity; remember that someone you mentor will likely be able to teach you something as well. Additionally, it’s important to pay it forward and help future Engirlneers develop. Without quality mentors, the quality of the next generation will quickly fade.