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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 December 10, 2019

7 Strategies to Keep Employee Motivation High

7 Strategies to Keep Employee Motivation High

Highly motivated employees are essential to the success of any business. Most people spend a third of their lives at work.[1] That’s a significant amount of time away from home, apart from the people who make us happy and the things we love to do. So keeping employee motivation high is essential for creating an office environment that gets the best out of our people.

But do you know what motivates your people?

It’s simple:

  • Is their work stimulating?
  • Does it challenge them?
  • Is there room to grow, a promotion perhaps?
  • Do you encourage creativity?
  • Can they speak openly and honestly with you?
  • Do you praise them?
  • Do you trust your staff to take ownership of their work?
  • Do they feel safe in their work environment?
  • And more importantly, do you pay them properly?

Every one of these factors contributes to the general happiness of your employees. It’s what motivates them to come into the office each day and work hard, hit goals, and get results.

In contrast, an unmotivated employee is typically unhappy. They take more sick days, they’re not invested in seeing your business succeed, and they’re always on the lookout for something better.

Stats show that 81 percent of employees would consider leaving their jobs today if the right opportunity presented itself.[2] So it’s up to you to set aside time and energy to create a work environment that benefits every one of your employees.

These seven strategies will help you motivate your people to consistently deliver quality work and, more importantly, to stick around for the long term.

1. Be Someone They Can Rely On

You rely on your people to turn up to work each day, to come to you when they have a problem they can’t solve, to be honest, and to always engage professionally with customers.

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But this is not a one-way street. You, too, need to be someone your team can rely on. They trust you to have their backs when a client is unreasonable, to know that the decisions they make are in your best interest, and to make good on your promises.

If you say you’ll attend an important meeting, be there. If your company makes a profit and you’ve said you’ll pay a bonus, pay it. The goodwill of your people is something you never want to test, let alone lose.

Be reliable; it’s astounding how much this motivates your people.

2. Create an Awesome Company Culture

There’s no denying that company culture trickles down from the top. Your leadership and attitude massively influences the attitudes, work ethic, and happiness of your staff. If you’re always stressed-out, overly demanding, and unreasonable, it’ll create tension in your office which will adversely affect your employees’ motivation levels.

In fact, the HAYS “US What People Want Survey” found that 47 percent of staff who are actively looking for a new job, pinpoint company culture as the driving force behind their reason to leave.

So if you have high staff turnover, you need to determine whether your company culture might be the motivating factor behind your churn rate.

Here are four ways to build a culture that keeps your employees highly motivated.

  • Be conscious of the image you present. Your body language and attitude can positively or negatively impact your employees. So come to work energized. Be optimistic, friendly, and engaging—this enthusiasm will spill over to your people and motivate them to be more productive and efficient.
  • Appreciate your people and be reasonable. Celebrate your team’s achievements. If they’re doing a good job, tell them. Encourage them to challenge themselves and try new things. And reward when deserved. If they’re struggling, help them. Work together to find solutions and be a sounding board for their ideas.
  • Be flexible. Give your people opportunities to work remotely—this is highly motivating to staff, particularly millennials. They don’t want to be battling traffic each day on their way to work. They don’t want to miss their kids’ baseball games or ballet rehearsals. Stats show that companies that offer flextime and the ability to work from home or a coffee shop have happier and more productive employees.
  • Create employee-friendly work environments. These are spaces that inspire and ignite the imagination. Have you ever been to Google’s offices? No headquarter is the same. From indoor slides and food trucks, to hammocks, and funky work pods on the wall, gaming rooms, and tranquil interior gardens, there’s something for everyone. It’s a space where people want to be, catering to their need for creativity, quiet, or team building; you name it.

So take a look at your company culture and ask yourself, Is my business an attractive workplace for talented professionals? Does it inspire commitment and motivate my people? What could I do to improve my company culture?

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3. Touch Base with Your Team Weekly

Make time for your people, whether you run a remote business or work in an office, set aside time each week to talk to your people one-on-one. It’s non-negotiable.

When there’s an open line of communication between staff members, work gets done. Don’t believe me? A study by Gallup found that 26 percent of employees said feedback from their leaders helps them to do a better job.[3]

Your people want to feel trusted. They want to take ownership of their work, but they also need to know that when they have a question, they can reach out and get answers. If you’re unwilling to make yourself available, your team will quickly become unmotivated, work will stagnate, and your business will stop growing.

So block off time on your calendar each week to touch base with your people, even if only to let them know that what they’re working on matters.

4. Give Them the Tools They Need to Do Their Jobs Well

Imagine trying to run your business without electricity. How would you contact your clients? What would happen when your phone or computer battery died?

Technology is super critical to the success of your businesses. It allows you to work more efficiently, to be more productive, and to handle matters on-the-go. That’s why you need to give your people tools that will make their jobs easier.

Make sure their equipment is in good working condition. There’s nothing more frustrating than a laptop that takes ages to boot up. It’s got to go. Replace outdated software with new software. Don’t make your designer work in Coreldraw; give them access to the most up-to-date version of Adobe Creative Suite. Take it a step further and buy them a subscription to Shutterstock or Getty Images.

Make working for you a pleasure, not a pain; and watch your employees’ motivation levels rise.

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5. Provide Opportunities to Learn and Upskill

Would you believe me if I told you that 33 percent of people cite boredom and a need for new challenges as the top reason for leaving their job?[4] If you want to retain your talent, you need to upskill.

Thanks to technology, we live in a rapidly evolving world that demands we change with it. A copywriter is no longer just a writer; they now need to be experts in SEO, Google Adwords, CRMs, and so much more.

A pastry chef needs to be a food stylist, photographer, and social media manager. An entrepreneur needs to be a marketer—or at least take ownership of the marketing message for their business—if they hope to scale.

Technology makes all of this possible. No matter your location, your people can continuously expand their knowledge and gain new skill sets—something that’s highly motivating to employees. They want to know that there are opportunities to grow and develop themselves.

If you won’t invest in your people, then your business becomes just another job to tide them over until they find where they truly belong. So be the company that sees value in developing its people.

6. Monitor Their Workload

Overworked employees tend to be unproductive and unhappy. Your people cannot be at full capacity every day, month to month. Something’s got to give. They’ll become deflated and their work will eventually suffer, which will negatively impact your business.

What I like to do is implement a traffic light system. It helps me to keep a finger on the pulse of my business. So there’s red, yellow, and green:

  • Red means they’re fully loaded.
  • Yellow means they’re busy, but they can potentially take on more.
  • Green means they haven’t got enough to do.

I use this traffic light system because I don’t want my team members to be stressed out of their brains all the time. If they are, they won’t make good decisions and they won’t do good work.

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If my people are regularly overloaded, I have things to think about. Perhaps I need to hire a new person to help ease the load or take a closer look at what projects are good to go, and which can take a back seat.

And this is why #3 is essential. If I’m regularly engaging with my people, I’ll know that while they’re coping with their workload, it is impacting their performance and health, and I’ll take action.

7. Don’t Mess Around with Your Employees’ Pay

Never mess around with your people’s salary. As a business owner or high-level manager, it’s easy to forget that most people live from paycheck to paycheck. Delayed compensation can mean a missed bill payment, which could result in costly penalties they can’t afford or hits to their credit score.

So it’s your job to ensure that you pay your people on time.

The Bottom Line

A motivated team is an asset to any business. These people never give up. They get excited about coming to work each day and can’t wait to test a new theory or tackle a particularly tricky challenge. They’re proud of the work they do. And more importantly, they have no reason to leave.

Wouldn’t you rather be part of their success story than the business that drove them away?

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Featured photo credit: Emma Dau via unsplash.com

Reference

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