Take a moment to reflect on your career and find examples of people who have guided you, given you structure or inspiration, or brought clarity when there seemed to be none. These are the people to think about when you have an opportunity to mentor another professional.
Mentors can take on a variety of forms, but are especially critical for helping young professionals or new employees succeed. Guidance can be as simple as assisting the mentee as they navigate the unwritten workplace rules or connecting them with other supportive members of the organization.
At IBM, structured mentorship is encouraged at all levels. It is something that we start on a practitioner’s first day at the company. As the supply chain practice continues to grow, I make an effort to get to know every new entry-level practitioner. It’s a small gesture to show my new hires that they are entering a space that serves to support them. Those first few years in the field are when foundations are built and paths are paved for the future. Having a mentor during that time to help navigate uncertainties and serve as an advocate is so important.
In other cases, the mentorship relationship can be cultivated between people who know each other through a professional organization, such as ASCM, or even former coworkers who can offer career advice or fresh perspectives on workplace challenges.
Great mentors provide an ear to listen to challenges and a guiding hand to solve them. They do not solve the problem for the mentee; rather, they help mentees find their own resolutions. This sparks creative thought and provides a foundation for growth. In addition, great mentors have both the experience and the empathy to understand how and when to step in and offer counsel. They know just the right amount of support to give, which will vary for each mentee.
I have often found that a great mentor will even present a challenge, knowing the mentee will gain valuable insights from the experience. I’ve learned from my own mentors that they did not immediately feel that they were necessarily helping me by doing this. And that’s okay — because I did benefit from these teachable moments. By learning to look at an issue from a different perspective, I gained insights that I did not have before. This iterative process of exploring different ways to find a viable solution often enabled me to overcome a challenge that I faced at that specific moment and provided me with the resilient mindset I needed to cross similar hurdles in the future.
MANAGING THE MYTHS
There are a few myths or misunderstandings about the mentorship relationship that I’d like to address. First, mentees are not the only ones who benefit. Mentors increase their understanding of human perspectives and are often reinvigorated by the excitement and passion of the young professional.
In addition, mentors and mentees may not always feel an instant connection. My mentors and I did not always share similarities. But this disparity in our characters did not hinder our relationship. Instead, it helped me gain an appreciation of the variety of experiences people bring to business and showed me that there is more than one way to solve a challenge.
Lastly, mentorship is not just for helping young professionals. It is something that should be sustained throughout careers. It strengthens professional networks and invigorates progress with new ideas. It is imperative that we continue this cyclical process and pay it forward by passing on knowledge and supporting peoples’ lives and careers. This is how we can all leave an indelible mark on the supply chain field.
The ASCM Mentoring Program offers supply chain professionals an easy way to connect online and establish mentor or mentee relationships that foster personal and professional growth and development. Take advantage of the wide network of supply chain professionals that are actively involved with ASCM. Learn more today.