Salvador Bentolila did a great job outlining the benefits of having a mentor in his Career By Design article “Mentoring: You Might Already Be One and Not Even Know It.” If you haven’t already, I recommend that you open a new tab and read that piece now.
But maybe the issue facing young engineers isn’t getting on board with the idea of having a mentor. They are already convinced of that part. The difficult thing can be identifying a more experienced professional to develop a mentoring relationship with.
Potential mentors must not only possess knowledge to be passed on, but also have the time and willingness to devote to helping a younger professional grow their career. Finally, there needs to be a mechanism for potential mentees and mentors to connect.
This is the situation I found myself in. My direct supervisor had done a great job of outlining my career path and providing feedback on my performance. At the same time, I was interested in hearing about the experiences of a professional from outside my organization to supplement this career guidance. Since I’ve been lucky enough to be employed at the same company since entering the workforce, I don’t yet have many professional contacts outside of my organization. I found the perfect tool to solve this “last mile problem” in ASCE’s Mentor Match.
If you’re not familiar with it, the last-mile problem in transportation refers to how to get people or goods from a major transportation hub or line to their final destination. For example, if a commuter lives more than the quarter- to half-mile that most people are statistically willing to walk to get to a public-transit stop, one solution would be for them to use a bike from a bike share program to travel this last “mile” home during their commute.
My experience with Mentor Match has been overwhelmingly positive. Between the easy-to-use interface and the one-on-one support from ASCE staff, I quickly matched with a mentor. Something that is unique about ASCE’s Mentor Match program is that the mentor and mentee get to decide the structure of their relationship. My favorite thing about my relationship with my mentor is that our main mode of communication is texting!
This relationship has changed my idea of what a mentorship looks like and has become an invaluable tool in my career development toolbox.
Melissa Fickel, P.E., A.M.ASCE, is a transportation engineer with Parsons Corporation specializing in geometric design and project management support. She earned a BS in Civil Engineering from Cornell University, where she was an active member in the ASCE student chapter. She enjoys gawking at construction sites, advocating for public transit, and spending time with her dog.
Learn more about ASCE's virtual Mentor Match program.