Mentorship: Shaping the True Path to Success

Do you remember the first time you found yourself passionate about something?  It could have been a sport or hobby.  It could have been fishing or cheer, music or working on cars, or thousands of other possibilities.  Now think about the person or people who helped increase your interest and expertise in your particular field of exploration.  Chances are you had a coach, teacher, or other key mentor to help you along.

Now let’s apply the same concept to the workplace.  It has been said “find a job that you love, and you will never work another day in your life”.  Shouldn’t this be the goal of all of us?  Another old saying:  you shouldn’t “live to work” but rather “work to live”.  I disagree with this world view, because it implies that work is some sort of necessary evil just to put food on the table.  I certainly don’t believe that anyone should “live to work” either, but rather strive to find their passion so that they can have the best of both worlds – a great career that allows them to live to their fullest inside and outside of work.

So how do we get there?  How do we explore and assess in search of our goal of that “dream job”?  Let’s go back to the idea of our first passions and who helped us channel them.  I feel strongly that mentorships and the like are a key element.  Our world is full of great teachers, coaches, advisors, and similar leaders as we move from preschool all the way through primary, secondary, and university education. 

Sadly, though, once most of us enter the world beyond these institutions, the notion of mentors and advisors gets largely forgotten.  In addition, as many younger people – from high school through university and technical training – are trying to attenuate the alignment of their likes and skills, they are too often left too much on their own in the private workplace.

This is a big problem, but it is also a tremendous opportunity.  And small businesses such as ours can have an outsized role in this endeavor.  I am proud of our organization’s commitment to internships and similar opportunities for the next generation.  For many years, we have partnered with local colleges and universities to offer paid internships for students in the fields of mechanical and electrical engineering.  We have also been engaged with programs to couple on-the-job experience with technical training of high school students.  But let’s not forget about those who may be several years from entering higher education and/or a vocation.  We also help mentor upper elementary school students in local engineering and robotics programs.  After all, some of us find our passions sooner than later.

Another great thing about mentorships is that they convey the “human” side of work and life.  The mentor is not just a co-worker, they are another real person who has seen the ups and downs.  Not only can they share technical and job information, they can be someone who supports the mentee and coaches them through the “bad days”.

Stealing another saying from an educator friend of mine, “you can’t be what you can’t see”.  So many of us in my generation and older were fortunate enough to have friends or family in a field of study or work where we could be exposed to know what we liked and what we did not (or what we were or were not good at).  But so many of today’s youth do not have this option.  That does not mean they don’t have interests to explore.  It just means that they need some help.  I hope that our organization, and others small and large will continue to see this opportunity and take every chance to help those leaders, innovators, and mentors of tomorrow.  Being a mentor is a great way to give back, and you might just find that you get more out of it than you put into it!

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