Why Recruiting and Mentoring Young Construction Professionals Shapes the Future of Construction
Many professionals working in construction (and frankly, most any industry) feel that finding a good mentor early in their career was instrumental to their later success. A good mentor has enough experience to help guide a mentee through challenges they encounter in their career while offering guidance on what steps they should take to grow as a professional. A mentorship formally set up by a company may also consider bigger picture company goals and not only individual career growth.
The Value of Internships in Construction
Mentorship is most often first established in the form of an internship. Many people often think of an internship as inexpensive labor to handle menial tasks and labor, but this is an incorrect assumption.
Internships are a chance to bring young construction talent into your company with an opportunity to groom and evaluate them as future candidates when they graduate from university. This is both a ‘trial’ of the potential future employee and a chance to teach aspiring full-time employees how your company operates. An internship program is also a chance to spend more time showing the young talent that your company is a great place to work. If their internship is a success, an offer for employment is often made upon their graduation.
Many employers take internships to the next level and attend career fairs across the globe in search of eager young talent. Having a booth or other presence at career fairs with top-tier construction programs is a chance to attract young talent as they enter a competitive job market.
Building Mentorship in Construction Post Internship
Once the internship is over and former interns have been hired in entry-level construction jobs, many companies find structured mentorship opportunities falling by the wayside. So, how do construction companies continue to kindle the careers of their brightest talents once internships have ended?
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Formalize your Mentorship and Recruitment Program
Construction firms that formalize their internships and mentorship programs are more successful in training capable young construction professionals. Creating a thoughtful mentorship environment can positively influence your interns, causing them to accept formal job offers should you extend one when the internship is complete.
Identify the right mentors
It’s important to take time to identify who at your company is best suited to being a mentor. Choose experienced professionals that will have valuable skills to share with your interns or mentees. Be mindful of if these team members will have enough time to provide thoughtful mentorship. Your most experienced professional may have great wisdom to share, but if there isn’t enough time for them to prepare for a weekly meeting (or answer other questions as they arise) it may be wise to choose someone else.
Mentor your mentors
Not all managers are created equal, nor are all managers suited to mentor interns. But that doesn’t have to be the case if you provide training for your mentors. Mentors need to truly understand the person they are guiding. Teach them to set expectations around what the mentorship should mean to both the mentor and the mentee. The mentee should be given a safe space to ask questions without judgment, allowing them the chance to privately have conversations that may be awkward out at a jobsite. Finally, celebrate their achievements together. This is a chance to emphasize the great things the mentee is doing and really highlight the career growth they’ve made.
Not Hired Yet? This is How to Choose a Mentor
For those of you reading this who may not be employed yet, there’s still plenty of opportunities to find a mentor to help you hone your skills to get that first construction job.
Seek out the right people
If you’re still in university, ask your advisors and professors that you trust if they know someone willing to mentor you. This may end up being someone on the faculty, or a connection they have in the industry you’re looking to work in.
Make sure you approach the mentorship with some preparation. Before you meet your new mentor, take some time to figure out some questions you may have for them. Do some research on the types of jobs that you might want so you can ask for advice on how to get one. Your mentor is likely busy, so coming prepared to use their time wisely will benefit you both.
Find someone that challenges you
This won’t be obvious on the first meeting, but it’s important to find a mentor that challenges you to grow. You can get all the advice in the world, but if they aren’t pushing you to take that next big step–they may not be the right fit for you.
“When I was looking to get out of engineering, I had somebody who’s a mentor to me say, ‘I think you should look at being a project manager in construction.’ Even though I didn’t know construction, he told me, ‘Don’t worry. They’ll teach you.’”
– Kara Hermann, Project Manager at Sprig Electric
Mentoring the Future of Construction
Young professionals are the future of the construction industry. Establishing an internship or mentorship program at your company is an important way to be part of that conversation. For tips on helping your project engineers and other young professionals kickstart their careers, download our new ebook titled “The Project Engineer’s Guide to Becoming a Project Executive.”