The best way to improve your skills in your chosen profession is to learn from those with a reputation; this is where networking with friends and mentors comes into play. Every potential apprentice can recall at least one person whose ethics or skills inspire him; a talented engineer or project manager may be the very reason you took up your profession. While you may consider these individuals untouchable, most are easily reached and able to foster a professional relationship with, if earnestly approached.
What Makes a Good Mentor?
The construction, engineering, and environmental industries offer several amazing individuals such as John Kenney of "Survivor," Keith Donahue, Rowan Atkinson, Bill Nye, Terry Tamminen, Elon Musk, etc. Each of these men are very different and approached matters in their own way. While any fool can teach how not to lay foundation or build a condenser; it is best to look to individuals whose approach complements your own.
A good mentor is someone with strong ties to your career goals, though not necessarily within your industry. In actuality, it may be best to apprentice under an individual who career lays within a separate industry; John Kenney is a construction worker who also learned interpersonal skills on reality television, Rowan Atkinson studied as an engineer but also excelled in comedy, etc. As long as you can connect your career with one walked by a potential mentor, you will do well.
Reach Out to a Helping Hand
It's important to bear in mind that you want to come across genuinely interested in guidance, but not to the point of appearing sycophantic. It's imperative that you gain the friendly respect of your peers. You want a potential mentor to perceive you as a comrade, not a leech.
You will likely run into obstacles, such as receptionists, answering machines and automated e-mail systems, on your quest. Show patience and commitment; don't lose your temper if a receptionist turns you away, use it as an excuse to network. Ask what she would do in your role and wanted to reach the mentor. Appeal to the receptionist's appreciation of control and superiority; asking for advice can warm them up to you. If this fails, try calling at a different time of day where that receptionist will be off the clock but the potential mentor is still accessible.
Once you've connected with a mentor, you should have a good read on how to interact with him; use that knowledge in future dealings. The ability to communicate from multiple approaches is a valuable skill for any career. Patience is also important; don't be discouraged if you hear nothing after only a few e-mail exchanges or calls.
Create bonds with genuine individuals and always look for new opportunities. You might not find the perfect master builder, engineer, conservationist, or problem solver on your first try, but that doesn't mean you should stop looking. Some of the best mentorships originate from mutual respect between a knowledgeable individual and someone eager to improve upon his craft.
About the Author:
Michael DeSafey is a leading executive recruiter for professionals in the construction, engineering and environmental industries. He is currently the President of Webuild Staffing http://www.webuildstaffing.com
. To learn more about Michael or to follow his Blog please visit http://www.michaeldesafey.com