The importance of industry mentors

Shane Woodman, Generation Next Vice Chair
OnSpot of North America

This article was originally published in the September 2018 issue of Generation Next Edition

If you are reading this article, you most likely are early on in your work truck industry career. This also means you have probably taken the initiative to get involved with NTEA Generation Next. Great start! Odds are someone may have nudged you in Generation Next’s direction. Maybe this person was a friend, colleague, or better yet - a mentor.

Mentors have your best interest at heart and will push you to succeed personally and professionally. As a noun, mentor means an experienced and trusted adviser. As a verb, it means to advise or to train. Either way, I am fairly confident you understand its meaning. You can understand why it is important to find someone who will help guide you through this industry.

The question I pose is: Why are mentors important? You may have graduated from college or trade school to develop the knowledge for your professional role. Why would you need a mentor then? One reason is called “tribal knowledge.” You will not receive this  type of knowledge unless you spend years in your role or build a relationship with someone willing to teach you. Tribal knowledge is the unwritten information that is not commonly known.

Find someone who is eager to share this unwritten knowledge with you. A mentor is not just going to appear in front of you. Just like you took the initiative to join Generation Next, take the initiative to seek out a mentor. This is someone you admire, look up to, and most importantly, trust. When engaging with them, make the best use of their valuable time.

Forbes Young Entrepreneur Council published an article in 2014 titled, 10 Killer Questions to Make the Most of Your Mentor Meeting. These questions are:

  • How do you spend most of your time?
  • What would you do if you were me?
  • How can I help you?
  • Is this where you thought you would end up?
  • What used to be your biggest weaknesses?
  • Who else would you recommend I connect with?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What professional organizations are you associated with and in what ways?
  • Anything FORM. (Form is an acronym for family, occupation, recreation, and motivation)
  • If a specific question comes up, can I follow up with you?

These are a good start to conduct a successful first meeting with your mentor. As mentors guide you, your job is to put that advice into action. At each meeting, be prepared to show your progress on each action you took away from the previous meeting. This industry has so much to offer; go out and find the opportunities.