I do not consider myself to be a traditional mentor. In my view, mentoring develops over time through an established relationship.
A mentoring relationship cannot be achieved without mutual trust. Trust is accomplished through sharing ideas, building confidence and maintaining a connection. It is crucial to have trust, especially when constructive criticism needs to be provided to help people along their career paths. Mentoring is essential to a person’s professional growth because, while accomplishments get you “to the door,” relationships help you get “through the door.”
A mentor can become extremely important, particularly as challenges occur. While mentors cannot predict what lies ahead, they can provide guidance to turn challenges into opportunities. I have had opportunities that presented themselves at inopportune times. For example, I have relocated several times. It is never easy, but you must go where the opportunities are – opportunities do not come to you.
One of the best pieces of advice I can offer is to take a big-picture approach. My career started at General Electric (GE), where I had to do rotational assignments before I could be placed in one specific job. While this is not a traditional way of getting placed into a job, the program allowed me to better understand my division. Because of that program, my curiosity has led me to many roles with my employers. Grasping the larger view provides improved perspectives and helps avoid becoming complacent.
I spent 11 years with the American Airlines Maintenance and Engineering organization, where I held leadership roles in purchasing, inventory control, engineering, component maintenance and production control. In 2001, I left American to become the Director of Technical Services at Midwest Airlines. I then went to Independence Air to be Vice President of Maintenance.
Each role was challenging, but it kept me constantly learning new things. My positions at other airlines helped me hone my skills and eventually led me back to American Eagle. If I had not been willing to move, I would have missed out on some great learning experiences. I am thankful that my mentors taught me to move out of my comfort zone, embrace obstacles and follow my passion. I hope someone in your life challenges you to do the same.