The Importance of Finding a Mentor in Construction
August 26, 2021
Let’s talk about mentors.
They matter: Academic studies have shown that folks who are mentored in the workplace tend to make more money, receive more promotions and have higher overall job satisfaction. For some people, seeking out mentors and developing those relationships is second nature. For many, though, mentorship feels more elusive.
In an industry like construction, mentorship is a growing necessity. (More on that later; keep reading.) Learning how to find a good professional mentor, and how to continually cultivate that relationship, goes a long way — and yes, it can be learned!
Why to find a mentor
Simply put, finding good mentors helps you succeed. Their advice can reorient your efforts and help your secure opportunities you may not ever attain if you’re going it alone. Having frequent contact with a more experienced coworker — especially one who has your best interest in mind — can also do wonders for your confidence and help clarify your own career goals. This makes you a better employee.
Indeed, the mentor-mentee relationship strengthens all parties — including the company where the employees work, as well as its corresponding industry. And the construction industry needs that type of fortifying.
“With the shortage of both skilled laborers and managers in construction — and growing project backlogs — mentorships are needed now more than ever,” Amy Bourne, a content supervisor at ExakTime, wrote for Construction Business Owner.
According to Associated General Contractors, 86% of employers have a hard time filling hourly craft jobs or salaried professional positions. And by December 2024, Arizona will need 228,000 craft professionals. As more construction workers retire, the industry’s next generation will need to fill the gap. That means learning from the previous generation of workers before they retire.
A good mentor can transform your career — and a widespread commitment to mentorship could transform the entire construction industry.
How to find a mentor
Soliciting mentorship opportunities can be tricky. Workplaces are often hectic and stressful; asking for guidance is a vulnerable act. Preparation is key.
Before reaching out to a potential mentor, start by mapping out your own career goals, as well as your expectations of the mentor-mentee relationship. If you can, consider the coworkers you look up to, and who has the job(s) you’d like to eventually have.
For high schoolers interested in construction, the ACE Mentor Program of America is a valuable resource. ACE’s mission is “to engage, excite and enlighten students to pursue careers in architecture, engineering, and construction through mentoring and supporting their continued advancement in the industry.” Through sponsors and volunteer mentors, the organization exposes students to real-world opportunities, and offers scholarships and grants. More than 9,000 students from 1,000 American high schools participate in ACE annually.
The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) is also worth mentioning. NAWIC has long prioritized mentorships and utilizes a robust voluntary mentorship program. The group has outlined various roles, responsibilities and guidelines for mentors and mentees. Proactivity is a central trait.
“It is your responsibility to make it happen,” the NAWIC’s mentee guidelines state. “Take the lead. Be proactive in establishing goals and researching solutions on your own; discuss your findings with the mentor.”
It’s a fine line between proactive and pushy, though. Psychology Today suggests that when soliciting a potential mentor, avoid using the word “mentor.”
“The ‘M’ word shouldn’t even come up in the initial conversation,” they advise. “Most mentoring relationships grow organically and over time. Time, effort, and patience are critical if quality mentoring relationships are to flourish.”
For example, ask for help/guidance on something specific. Over time, these small interactions can add up to significant, extended mentorship.
A final word
Construction careers are vast — this kind of work takes lots of different people with unique skill sets and experience. To get a better idea of the career path you want to take, visit Build Your Future Arizona’s Career Path resource. This map will help you see how different construction jobs relate to one another, and how to navigate your professional path.
The mentor-mentee relationship might feel uncomfortable at first — it’s hard to be in a position of needing — but that awkwardness will recede, giving way to mutual appreciation. You’re in the construction business, after all, so be a builder — in this case, of a strong mentor-mentee relationship. You’ll be glad you did.