Tone:  Transparency, Uplifting, Persuasive, Passionate, Encouraging

THANK GOD! There was a light at the end of that dark tunnel of depression. I walked right through, earned my rightful place working in my dream career. I’m accomplishing goals, doing everything right. I’m the man, I’ve got it all together–Yeah, that didn’t last very long. Initially, I believed that any major goal I’d set for myself, I could accomplish by myself. Yet, my attempt to get things done on my own, gradually exposed my weaknesses in certain areas. We all want to be successful, and assume that our way is the only way. Guess what? It’s not. Once you can recognize your flaws and shortcomings, then allow a supportive, prosperous professional to offer you a different approach, you’re one step closer to your success. 

Have YOU Already Reached the Ceiling of YOUR Potential?

What does success look like to you? Is it a person or an idol? The POTUS perhaps? I mean our POTUS, Barack Obama, of course. Or do you not envision a public figure at all, maybe it’s your dream office or future business. Either way, if you have any vision of success, you’re off to a great start to attaining it. Now, do you have a plan? It’s okay if you don’t, this is only the beginning of a long journey to discovery for you. I had a plan starting out, and I could’ve sworn it was going to get me far.

I’ve finessed my way through internships, college, and successfully landed a job. What more is there to be gained when you’ve already made it, right? 

 Only 2 months into the new gig, and that answer was already starting to reveal itself. There is so much more criteria to be learned than I considered. Already becoming comfortable with where I was in my career, I started feeling as if I’ve reached a ceiling. I only thought I knew how to maneuver through corporate on my own, but I can’t just go around asking for help either. Honestly, I’d never really understood the significance of a mentor. I didn’t have one in college, or sports, and didn’t take mentors seriously during previous internships. I hadn’t recognized the impact of their support until my full-time corporate position. When your level of production and progression are being heavily monitored, you start to realize “I can’t mess this up”, and identify your options for a solution. Placed on a project, using a tool I lacked experience with, on a team I lacked experience leading, in front of a group of top executives, that I lacked experience presenting to. “I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO ANYTHING!” Stress and anxiety were all I knew. Uncertainty in the workplace, is a scary situation. Especially when you feel unprepared or unfit to execute the work that’s expected. I was feeling like I’ve walked right into a brick wall! But giving up, is never an option, I’ve come way too far. The solution? Speak up and reach out. My desire to be a better professional outweighed my pride, I needed help and I wasn’t afraid to ask. Don’t just take my word for it, other professionals in the engineering field have also seeked guidance throughout their career. 

“Mentors are critical to elevate you in whatever your business is whether it’s a corporate 9 to 5, or your hobby. During internships I was assigned someone one that they considered the ‘best fit’. Though, I met someone that I wanted to work with, who’s technical skills impressed and inspired me, she wasn’t exactly within my ethnic group, so my request for this mentor was denied. It’s important to know how to pick the right mentor at the right stage in your life.”

 -Tiffany N. Davis, Aerospace Engineer, Boeing 

Of course, not everyone will be appointed a mentor. However, if you have the resources, the drive, and properly utilize your network, you’ll definitely be capable of connecting with the right mentor when you’re ready. 

You Don’t Have It All Figured Out: The Gray Areas

Imagine you have the ability to know it all. Walking through the doors of your new job, thinking “This finna be a breeze!” When in reality, sooner or later you’ll realize that you don’t have it all figured out. You need someone who’s been in your situation, and has a system that works. When you’ve reached a certain level of success and you’re feeling stagnant, mentors can help you break through that ceiling. A lot of young professionals think that they’ve already got it, just as I did. I thought, “Why would I need help, when I can just figure things out on my own like I’ve always done?” What’s ironic is that having this mentality, is exactly what will hinder you from reaching your full potential in your career. Establishing a professional relationship with someone you can learn from, who seeks your growth, is hard to find but a great resource to have. Another engineer professional has found his own concept for enhancing skills throughout his career.

“I had an unofficial mentor, my frat brother. Although I hear great things from people who have mentors, I don’t have one. I do reach out and network with coworkers. But you can’t just reach out to anyone. They may be great at what they do, but if you don’t have that connection, the mentorship is not going to be a healthy one, career wise.”

-Amiri Fanning, Electrical Engineer, Northrop Grumman

Seek a leader who will put you in the front seat, to learn and excel through experience, and demand no less of you. Someone who will place you in uncomfortable positions to help you grow. Bragging about your skills and accomplishments to management, while preparing you for complications to come.

A mentor will critique you and guide you through their previous downfalls, because they’ve been through the fire and they want to show you how to avoid those obstacles.

I know, this seems way too good to be true, how could you find a mentor like this out there? For me, it happened naturally. Derrick, another black engineer in my office, was passionate about minorities excelling in the workplace. Being the new kid in the office, and coming from similar backgrounds, he sensed my “too cool” demeanor. He knew I’d get eaten alive in this field, so he reached out to mentor me. Knowing that I had the potential, he wanted to make sure that I was put in the best position to make an immediate impact within the company. Through him, I gained the courage to present in front of the board of executives and advance in my career at every level imaginable. Obviously, the luxury of a leader reaching out to mentor you is not always an option, if that’s the case, try finding someone in your field who you admire

Steps to Deciding the Best Mentor for You: 

  1. Identify the way they operate, their effectiveness and ability to execute tasks.

  2. Recognize their passion for their craft and ability to lead. 

  3. Understanding your flaws and what areas need improvement.

  4. Initiate the approach and your request of mentorship from that professional. 

  5. Choose wisely

LIFT AS YOU CLIMB: Be the Support You Wish You Had

It’s a lot easier to gain assistance and support with your career, but not as easy to give it. Mentorship should not stop at the receiving end. Once you’ve reached that expert level in your profession and transcended through the hardships, share your learnings with the next generation. Be a blessing, set an example and be passionate about their personal development. They will appreciate you for a lifetime. The experiences of a mentor from another engineering professional, illustrate the importance that they hold in other’s lives.

“Get mentored by someone who knows what the company is looking for, someone to tell you that you may be doing something wrong, and give you advice on how to tweak it. My first mentor was a champion to me and pushed me to be my very best self. A mentor is a role model that you can physically communicate with. Someone who takes a genuine interest in you.”

-Evan Tyler, Industrial & Systems Engineer, Altria

It is a terrible thing to make it to the top and not pass on the knowledge obtained along your journey.  Take the time to instill that same mindset into those who come after you. If you notice the capacity in someone, save them the trouble, reach out to them first because they may not have the confidence to do so. Through mentorship I was able to see the value in myself and ultimately had a great desire to have mentors in other areas of my life for overall growth. I began to have a sense of confidence and was driven to become the best version of myself. Recognizing the power of mentorship has influenced my dedication to passing along the gems I’ve discovered, to other professionals who are passionate about their future.

After you’ve reached your goals, I challenge you to do the same, because no one is looking out for us, like us.