You’ve landed a job in your chosen field – Construction – but you’re overwhelmed by the expectations and responsibilities that lie before you. Can you meet them? Do you have what it takes?
If this is your situation, you may want to consider finding a mentor. Regardless of whether you’ve been through an internship and/or an apprenticeship, both of which are doubtlessly learning experiences, the learning doesn’t stop there, nor do the challenges.
What is Mentorship?
When we hear the word “mentorship” we often picture banking, office work or professions like law. Construction doesn’t typically come to mind. Yet there is a very real need for mentorships in the construction industry, and it’s growing fast. The “elders” in the business, construction and project managers, as well as experienced tradespeople, represent a significant group. As they near retirement, it’s critical that they pass on the knowledge and wisdom gained by their years of experience to the younger set entering the field and taking their places.
For this reason, the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) now requires that trainees participate in a mentor-protégé relationship as part of the Construction Manager-in-Training (CMIT) Program. “One purpose of our CMIT mentorship program,” said CMAA Chief Executive Officer Andrea Rutledge, “is to identify goals, mark progress toward those goals and ensure managers in training are getting an opportunity to practice the full range of functions in the construction industry.” Similarly, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) has a well-known and long-standing voluntary mentorship program, offered through local chapters with guidance from the top levels.
Some construction businesses, too, have formal mentorship programs in place. However, many do not, as mentoring is a process which takes time, busy managers may be less inclined to want to participate, especially when they are under pressure from clients to finish projects on time and within budget. It’s easy for them to succumb to the old adage, if you want the job done right, do it yourself, particularly in an industry where incompetence and negligence can lead to disastrous consequences.
Getting an Informal Mentor
So what can you do if your company doesn’t have a formal mentorship program for you to draw on? Here are some tips you can use for finding, establishing and benefiting from a mentorship.
- Be prepared to initiate the mentorship. Begin the process by observing your colleagues, particularly those who have been there for some time and are doing the kind of work you will be expected to do.
- Look for someone who has both expertise and wisdom. This doesn’t necessarily mean someone with one foot into retirement. Wisdom comes from years on the job, not age. As such, you can learn from someone who has been in your position for several years, as long as they are doing the kinds of tasks that you will be expected to do, and doing them well.
- Choose someone with an open and inviting attitude toward newcomers. Ask around to try and ascertain what someone’s reputation is. Do others speak of this person as being honest, patient and capable?
- Be sure they see the mentorship process as valuable, so they’ll be more likely to make time for you; then make it easy for them by being flexible and accommodating to the best of your ability.
- Seek out someone with a similar personality and to a lesser extent, communication style. You should also look for a mentor in the same line of work. It won’t be very useful, for instance, to find a mentor on Wall Street.
- Once you’ve found someone who is willing to serve as your mentor, be proactive and transparent. Communicate clearly and regularly what your goals are, both short term and long term if that applies, and share problems you are experiencing as they present themselves. Run potential solutions past your mentor for their feedback, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Commit yourself to regular meetings, and ask them to do the same. How often you meet isn’t as important as meeting regularly and discussing freely and thoroughly any issues you are facing that would benefit from a more experienced perspective.
- Ask questions, take notes, and keep an open mind when it comes to their suggestions.
- Listen well and put the solutions into action as soon as opportunity allows.
- It may sound obvious, but the niceties are sometimes overlooked in a hectic, fast-paced industry like construction, especially when you’re running behind or have a tight schedule. Be sure and thank them, and often, for their ideas, their feedback, and their time.
- Lastly, don’t limit yourself to one mentor. If your career goals include promotions into upper management or another department, someone already working in the position you hope to acquire down the road can be a good source of information and role modeling.
It can be tough to get started in a demanding and changing field like construction. A good mentorship can not only help you get a running start, it can provide a buffer to stress, give you an edge, and help with obstacles and transitions for years to come. We think it’s something everyone can benefit from. We hope you have found this article helpful.