Looking to advance your supply chain career? Perhaps you’re seeking to sharpen up your leadership skills in efforts to advance into an executive leadership role? Having a mentor throughout your supply chain career can truly provide insight and leadership development for both the mentee and mentor.
I’ve kept track of many of the 1,000+ supply chain professionals that I’ve placed in the last two decades and the most successful of the group have used mentors and served as a mentor. The best mentor for you might not be your coworker down the hall, but could be an experienced professional from another company, career stage, culture, or even industry. Here are some key steps to follow to help with identifying and engaging the right mentor to advance your supply chain career:
Establish What is Important to You in a Mentor
Make a list of what you are looking for in the relationship. Some important questions to ask yourself are:
What are my long-term career goals and where do I see myself at the height of my career?
What do I expect from the mentor relationship?
What am I looking for from a mentor?
How can a mentor help me achieve my top career goals and aspirations?
Use Your Network: Ask for Referrals
Let people know, from your coworkers to your LinkedIn network to family and friends, that you are looking for a mentor. A great place to get started is your existing supply chain network as there’s nothing better than receiving a strong referral from those that you know and trust. You can also send out messages to other supply chain professionals on LinkedIn and post in Supply Chain centric groups asking for referrals. If your primary network doesn’t produce the right results, check out these networking resources to expand your reach into other channels.
Determine Your Preferred Functional Area & Industry
If you are happy in your current functional area or industry, then it probably makes sense to look for someone already working within your current space, perhaps at a higher job level that you desire to achieve one day. If you’re looking to transition into a different function or industry, finding a mentor that already works in these areas would be wise as he or she might be able to help you with the transition, especially if you are brand new to the field.
Keep an Open Mind
As you conduct research to identify potential mentor candidates, don’t close off the idea of a mentor that is from a different background, culture or generation than your own. A great mentor can expose you to new and alternative ways of thinking and significantly improve your ability to engage and lead across different cultures that span multiple generations. For example, if your current supply chain role or company only exposes you to the United States but you wish to move into a global supply chain role, it would benefit you to have a mentor that has traveled abroad and understands the proper way to do business with other countries and cultures.
Use Supply Chain Associations to Your Advantage
Attending supply chain association events, conferences and chapter meetings can be a great way to find potential mentor candidates and advance your supply chain career. Attend as many events as possible, bring some business cards, and let members that you connect with know what you’re seeking in a mentor. Some supply chain associations like ASCM have established a mentor portal for the purpose of connecting mentors with mentees.
Company Mentorship Programs
Some organizations sponsor their own mentorship programs, offering a very convenient way to find a great mentor. If your company doesn’t offer a formal program, consider suggesting the idea to HR and senior management. Be sure to highlight the many benefits to the employer and mentee alike.
Engage in a Professional Manner
Once you find someone that matches up with your ideal mentor profile, make sure to start off on the right foot. Communicate your intentions clearly to your potential mentor, and use tools like agendas and progress updates to keep the relationship and one-on-one meetings moving the right direction. Treat your mentor with the utmost respect by arriving on time and being fully prepared for meetings and events. They are giving up their time to work with you, so be respectful and attentive.
We hope these tips help you find the best mentor to advance your supply chain career! If you’re an ASCM member and interested in learning more about supply chain mentorship, check out my past whitepaper and webinar titled “Fast Track Your Supply Chain Career Through Mentorship” as well as our infographic for more on mentoring in the supply chain discipline.