Building Our Bench Strength: Why Mentoring Matters

By Phil Key, President

When I think back over my years with Ruppert, there are many people who have had a hand in shaping my career. These mentors listened, provided guidance, and shared their knowledge with me along the way. They were instrumental in shaping my work habits and enabled me to see a career path by showing me what was possible. There were times when that guidance came disguised in the form of a fun evening out with my manager, where I was introduced to community giving at event our company sponsored. And there were other times when it came in the form of a lecture from a co-worker only a few years older than me, reinforcing how a potential misstep could damage my career. In my case, this guidance and advice allowed me to take on career opportunities that I otherwise may not have. I found clarity with my goals and gained the confidence I needed to learn and grow. The level of investment and guidance that I received from my mentors deepened my commitment to the organization, which meant that I stayed longer and was able to contribute more.

Today I continue to see many great examples of mentoring in our organization and in our industry. In my mind, a good mentor is someone who is motivated and energized, cares about developing others, and is willing to commit their time to helping others. It’s someone who is just a little bit more than a manager or a friend and is willing to take a relationship to another level by caring, sharing some “real” stories, and providing their insight. And it certainly helps if the mentor and mentee have a few things in common like their background, skills, experiences, or are facing similar challenges.

For those of you who feel like you’d benefit from having a mentor but aren’t quite sure how to go about finding one—just keep building relationships with people both inside and outside of our organization. That may be a parent, a friend, a teacher, or someone at work that is willing to give advice that resonates with you. The more people you meet and get to know, the better opportunity you’ll have to really click with someone, which to me, feels like the key ingredient for success. Look for people who are good listeners, are enthusiastic about sharing what they’ve learned, and have the ability and time to provide constructive feedback that will help you grow and develop.

If you’re not already mentoring someone, I encourage you to give it a try! It’s a great way to strengthen your own communication skills and pass along the knowledge and experience you’re garnered as a means of “paying it forward.” Being a mentor provides an opportunity to look outside your usual network and potentially connect with someone who is different from you. That relationship might give you a fresh perspective, get you focused on new trends or practices, or even help you increase your skills (think about how much more a 20-year-old knows about computer technology!) Ultimately, it just feels good to know that you made a positive impact on someone’s life or career.

Wherever you find yourself in this conversation—in need of guidance or having advice and time to give—I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and make a connection. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that our team members are prepared with the skills and knowledge they need to grow and advance in their careers and in their lives. And what I know after having been the recipient of a lot of advice and great mentors over the years is that we stand a much better chance of advancing and growing our organization when we build leaders at all levels. So let’s all do our part!