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5 Ways Mentors Can Help Your Engineering Career

5 Ways Mentors Can Help Your Engineering Career

Mentoring seems to be an under appreciated practice in the business world. But for busy professionals, there’s much to gain by having a coach at your side. You can improve your technical proficiency and get sound advice on human relations and development of soft skills.

This article discusses the benefits of having a mentor at work.

The key benefits of mentorship

It’s both tactically and strategically important to have a mentor before you begin a crucial project or key phase of your career. It can be intimidating to be thrown into “sink or swim” waters without any support. Consider that if you work for a company where cutthroat peers are swinging sharp elbows, you may not get the timely help you need when an emergency suddenly beckons for your quick-fix, troubleshooting talent.

There are a couple of short-term benefits of having a mentor and these can add a ton of value if you work in a technical profession such as engineering, database administration and software development, to name a few.

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1. Become better at your job

An experienced coach helps you to reduce the time it takes to solve a technical problem. In short, mentorship is an effective way of boosting your performance. For example, you can learn shortcuts when designing a webpage; get tips on searching a database; or understand better ways of creating a mobile app.

“Good mentors won’t, and shouldn’t, solve everything for you, but having a tested veteran at your side lets you do your job faster and more effectively,” says Weiting Liu, CEO of Codementor, in an interview with LifeHack. “The extra time you gain can be spent learning something new (such as leadership skills) or getting a professional certification. Young engineers and programmers should sidestep being stuck on a technical problem that otherwise could have — and should have — been solved in minutes, not hours,” says Liu, whose firm provides “code mentors” to engineers and programmers.

2. Know what you need to know

Mentorship is also a great feedback loop — so long as there’s mutual trust and candor. To improve your skills, it’d be prudent to ask your mentor what he thinks of your strengths and weaknesses.

Companies are hiring candidates across a global labor pool, therefore, technical workers are facing more competition than ever. Don’t rest on your laurels and avoid thinking too highly of your contributions. In the United States, software developers earn close to $50 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. When getting billed at this rate, most clients will expect to work with highly-capable professionals who can deliver milestones at faster turnarounds.

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“Mentoring gives young developers the opportunity to improve their managerial and other ‘soft’ skills. Also, mentoring can transform engineers into great communicators and future leaders of the organization,” says Liu.

Global competition has pushed clients to demand more out of engineers, software developers and web programmers. To get a competitive edge, you’ll need to constantly adapt and learn. By staying abreast of emerging trends, you can hone the competencies that you’ll need.

Aside from gaining technical proficiency, there are long-term benefits of having a mentor.

3. Get a fresh perspective

Technical disciplines such as engineering, software programming and web development are youth-dominated professions. A 2015 survey by Stack Overflow finds that nearly half of developers have five years of experience or less.

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A good mentor will offer honest feedback of your actual performance. You want an unbiased individual to act as a side mirror and cover your blind spots. After earning a comfortable living, recent grads often fall into the trap of being arrogant. But as legendary basketball coach John Wooden said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Inflated egos have torpedoed young careers almost as much as incompetency has. Consider that many clients and coworkers won’t tolerate having to put up with difficult personalities. An experienced mentor — who perhaps has gone down the same road — can temper a bad attitude and save you from a pink slip.

4. Read between the lines of office politics and personal motivations

When you work for a company, there can be hidden power structures and secret agendas. Not having been employed long enough in your organization, you’d be walking through political landmines you may not realize exists.

Here are a few examples.

A marketing executive, though lower on the organizational chart, may hold the true reins of power — because unknown to everyone else, he or she is a significant shareholder of the company. Or an internal rivalry may cause your proposal to get sabotaged at a big meeting. In another example, a project manager, who plans to quit her job, may not cooperate with your requests.

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Career progression involves not just the science of performance but also the art of human relations. Find an experienced mentor who knows the ins and outs of how your firm really works. Because success goes beyond having technical proficiency — it also requires cooperation with others.

5. Gain credibility through association

George Washington famously said to “Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation.” There’s an aspect of social engineering with mentorship: You can improve your credibility by associating with a strong ally.

When colleagues know you’re getting sound advice, they’ll be inclined to treat you more seriously. Finally, a good mentor can open doors for you — by introducing you to influential people; by alerting you to job opportunities; and by vouching for you when you’re considered for promotion.

“When you start your career, you may not know what’s to be expected or you may have unknowingly developed bad habits,” says Liu. “Having an experienced mentor can make sure you start your career the right way by showing you the ropes on how to achieve the highest standards in the industry.”

Featured photo credit: Stokpic.com via stokpic.com

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Marvin Dumont

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

10 Huge Differences Between A Boss And A Leader

10 Huge Differences Between A Boss And A Leader

When you try to think of a leader at your place of work, you might think of your boss – you know, the supervisor in the tasteful office down the hall.

However, bosses are not the only leaders in the office, and not every boss has mastered the art of excellent leadership. Maybe the best leader you know is the co-worker sitting at the desk next to yours who is always willing to loan out her stapler and help you problem solve.

You see, a boss’ main priority is to efficiently cross items off of the corporate to-do list, while a true leader both completes tasks and works to empower and motivate the people he or she interacts with on a daily basis.

A leader is someone who works to improve things instead of focusing on the negatives. People acknowledge the authority of a boss, but people cherish a true leader.

Puzzled about what it takes to be a great leader? Let’s take a look at the difference between a boss and a leader, and why cultivating quality leadership skills is essential for people who really want to make a positive impact.

1. Leaders are compassionate human beings; bosses are cold.

It can be easy to equate professionalism with robot-like impersonal behavior. Many bosses stay holed up in their offices and barely ever interact with staff.

Even if your schedule is packed, you should always make time to reach out to the people around you. Remember that when you ask someone to share how they are feeling, you should be prepared to be vulnerable and open in your communication as well.

Does acting human at the office sound silly? It’s not.

A lack of compassion in the office leads to psychological turmoil, whereas positive connection leads to healthier staff.[1]

If people feel that you are being open, honest and compassionate with them, they will feel able to approach your office with what is on their minds, leading to a more productive and stress-free work environment.

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2. Leaders say “we”; bosses say “I”.

Practice developing a team-first mentality when thinking and speaking. In meetings, talk about trying to meet deadlines as a team instead of using accusatory “you” phrases. This makes it clear that you are a part of the team, too, and that you are willing to work hard and support your team members.

Let me explain:

A “we” mentality shifts the office dynamic from “trying to make the boss happy” to a spirit of teamwork, goal-setting, and accomplishment.

A “we” mentality allows for the accountability and community that is essential in the modern day workplace.

3. Leaders develop and invest in people; bosses use people.

Unfortunately, many office climates involve people using others to get what they want or to climb the corporate ladder. This is another example of the “me first” mentality that is so toxic in both office environments and personal relationships.

Instead of using others or focusing on your needs, think about how you can help other people grow.

Use your building blocks of compassion and team-mentality to stay attuned to the needs of others note the areas in which you can help them develop. A great leader wants to see his or her people flourish.

Make a list of ways you can invest in your team members to help them develop personally and professionally, and then take action!

4. Leaders respect people; bosses are fear-mongering.

Earning respect from everyone on your team will take time and commitment, but the rewards are worth every ounce of effort.

A boss who is a poor leader may try to control the office through fear and bully-like behavior. Employees who are petrified about their performance or who feel overwhelmed and stressed by unfair deadlines are probably working for a boss who uses a fear system instead of a respect system.

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What’s the bottom line?

Work to build respect among your team by treating everyone with fairness and kindness. Maintain a positive tone and stay reliable for those who approach you for help.

5. Leaders give credit where it’s due; bosses only take credits.

Looking for specific ways to gain respect from your colleagues and employees? There is no better place to start than with the simple act of giving credit where it is due.

Don’t be tempted to take credit for things you didn’t do, and always go above and beyond to generously acknowledge those who worked on a project and performed well.

You might be wondering how you can get started:

  • Begin by simply noticing which team member contributes what during your next project at work.
  • If possible, make mental notes. Remember that these notes should not be about ways in which team members are failing, but about ways in which they are excelling.
  • Depending on your leadership style, let people know how well they are doing either in private one-on-one meetings or in a group setting. Be honest and generous in your communication about a person’s performance.

6. Leaders see delegation as their best friend; bosses see it as an enemy.

If delegation is a leader’s best friend, then micromanagement is the enemy.

Delegation equates to trust and micromanagement equates to distrust. Nothing is more frustrating for an employee than feeling that his or her every movement is being critically observed.

Encourage trust in your office by delegating important tasks and acknowledging that your people are capable, smart individuals who can succeed!

Delegation is a great way to cash in on the positive benefits of a psychological phenomenon called a self-fulfilling prophecy. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, a person’s expectations of another person can cause the expectations to be fulfilled.[2]

In other words, if you truly believe that your team member can handle a project or task, he or she is more likely to deliver.

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Learn how to delegate in my other article:

How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

7. Leaders work hard; bosses let others do the work.

Delegation is not an excuse to get out of hard work. Instead of telling people to go accomplish the hardest work alone, make it clear that you are willing to pitch in and help with the hardest work of all when the need arises.

Here’s the deal:

Showing others that you work hard sets the tone for your whole team and will spur them on to greatness.

The next time you catch yourself telling someone to “go”, a.k.a accomplish a difficult task alone, change your phrasing to “let’s go”, showing that you are totally willing to help and support.

8. Leaders think long-term; bosses think short-term.

A leader who only utilizes short-term thinking is someone who cannot be prepared or organized for the future. Your colleagues or staff members need to know that they can trust you to have a handle on things not just this week, but next month or even next year.

Display your long-term thinking skills in group talks and meetings by sharing long-term hopes or concerns. Create plans for possible scenarios and be prepared for emergencies.

For example, if you know that you are losing someone on your team in a few months, be prepared to share a clear plan of how you and the remaining team members can best handle the change and workload until someone new is hired.

9. Leaders are like your colleagues; bosses are just bosses.

Another word for colleague is collaborator. Make sure your team knows that you are “one of them” and that you want to collaborate or work side by side.

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Not getting involved in the going ons of the office is a mistake because you will miss out on development and connection opportunities.

As our regular readers know, I love to remind people of the importance of building routines into each day. Create a routine that encourages you to leave your isolated office and collaborate with others. Spark healthy habits that benefit both you and your co-workers.

10. Leaders put people first; bosses put results first.

Bosses without crucial leadership training may focus on process and results instead of people. They may stick to a pre-set systems playbook even when employees voice new ideas or concerns.

Ignoring people’s opinions for the sake of company tradition like this is never truly beneficial to an organization.

Here’s what I mean by process over people:

Some organizations focus on proper structures or systems as their greatest assets instead of people. I believe that people lend real value to an organization, and that focusing on the development of people is a key ingredient for success in leadership.

Learning to be a leader is an ongoing adventure.

This list of differences makes it clear that, unlike an ordinary boss, a leader is able to be compassionate, inclusive, generous, and hard-working for the good of the team.

Instead of being a stereotypical scary or micromanaging-obsessed boss, a quality leader is able to establish an atmosphere of respect and collaboration.

Whether you are new to your work environment or a seasoned administrator, these leadership traits will help you get a jump start so that you can excel as a leader and positively impact the people around you.

For more inspiration and guidance, you can even start keeping tabs on some of the world’s top leadership experts. With an adventurous and positive attitude, anyone can learn good leadership.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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