Why Construction Needs More Mentors
Author: Deborah Rowe Sheba Marketing
Content marketer and serial mentor, Deborah Rowe, takes a look at what mentoring is all about and why construction needs more mentors.
We’ve probably all had a moment in our career where we could have used some advice from someone a bit more experienced in the ways of the working world. If you were unsure about how to take that next step, or were in the middle of a difficult situation that needed an external perspective, a trusted advisor might have come in handy to get you back on track. If you’ve ‘been there and done that’ and you would like to help guide other people, going through something similar, you might like to consider becoming a mentor.
I’ve been mentoring people, at various stages in their lives, for years and it’s been a privilege to be able to help. From small business owners wanting a bit of support, to vulnerable people finding their way back into the workforce, one thing they all needed was someone to help them focus on their goals.
What is mentoring?
Generally, mentoring is described as a professional, or personal, goal-oriented relationship between two people – the mentor and the mentee. The experienced person, the mentor, provides the mentee with help and support in defining and achieving their goals, in an agreed timeframe.
Mentoring is not the same as counselling or coaching. Mentoring probably shares some skills in terms of listening, goal setting and agreeing boundaries, but it’s not the mentor’s job to reflect on past issues, define the mentee’s path or tell them what to do. The mentee has to make their own decisions, possibly with some prodding, and the mentor acts as a friendly facilitator. It’s fine to make suggestions, if it helps the process, but the mentee has to be fully invested to keep the momentum going.
Why construction needs more mentors
The construction industry is facing a growing crisis in the workforce. Not only is there a shortage of new people coming into the industry, but people are leaving. Added to that, established skilled professionals are retiring and taking their knowledge and experience with them. Mentors can help to nurture less experienced staff, encourage the next generation of construction professionals, and share the experiences that might get lost as senior staff retire.
Organisations should be looking at how they encourage staff to develop their careers and stay for the long haul. In an ideal world, more experienced workers could mentor apprentices and junior staff, as part of their professional development, and help bridge the widening gap between training and experience.
Being a mentor is a really satisfying way of supporting and empowering others and giving something back. As an added bonus, it’s not a bad way to develop your own management and leadership skills while you’re at it.
Who makes a good mentor?
Who better to inspire the next generation of construction professionals than those of us who have already travelled at least some of the road…? We know our way around the industry, we are connected, we have knowledge to share and we know where most of the ‘potholes’ are.
If you’re in a role, or at a particular level, in the industry, and have relevant experience that will benefit emerging talent, then you could be the best person to give them that support. Maybe someone you know is starting a new project that you’re familiar with, or they want to break into a new career… mentoring might be just what they need to give them the confidence to excel.
But, don’t think it’s all about ‘old timers’ bestowing knowledge on a ‘grateful youth’… (although there may be a bit of that going on…). Mentors can be of any age provided they have useful experience, and a level of insight, that they can share.
What is involved?
Mentoring programmes provide training on how to manage the mentor/mentee relationship and they offer mentors regular support. They also match mentors with mentees and make sure that each party knows what to expect from the process.
At your first meeting, you would get to know each other and agree the best way to work together, including how often you meet, whether face-to-face or remotely, and how long the mentoring relationship should last. Typically, you might expect to ‘meet’ for an hour, maybe weekly for the first month, and then monthly after that, with an agreement to review after 6 months or a year. Mentoring is usually done on a voluntary basis and, in terms of the mentor’s time, is not an arduous commitment.
Becoming a mentor
If you’re interested in becoming a mentor, your organisation may have an existing programme that you can join. Some professional associations have ready-made schemes for their members, so it’s worth looking at your own association to see what they offer. Also, Built By Us and the Chartered Institute of Marketing both have schemes that cater for businesses and marketers in construction.
27th October is National Mentoring Day and you can find out more about mentoring on their website http://nationalmentoringday.org/facts-and-faq/
Built by us – Shape mentoring programme: https://www.builtbyus.org.uk/shape/
Chartered Institute of Marketing mentoring programme: https://www.cim.co.uk/more/mentoring/