by Michael Riscica, Founder of Young Architect
Mentors, Mentoring, and Mentorship
These words get thrown around pretty loosely in the architecture and construction industry. But what do they really mean?
Our friend Wikipedia defines Mentorship as:
A relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but she or he must have a certain area of expertise.
And I agree. But I also don’t believe mentorship has to be, or always sound, so formal.
Sometimes, I think that people view mentorship as such a formal process of “setting up two people to connect and learn from each other”. It could feel contrived and awkward or even sound scary depending on the people.
My personal definition of mentorship is:
Learning from anyone that is farther along the path then I am.
Often, many of my best mentors had no idea that they were even fulfilling this role for me.
Thanks to technology, I also believe that some of the most powerful mentors you could have are the people you’ve connected with—but may have never even met in real life.
Right now, more than ever before, the architecture and construction industry are heavily reliant on ensuring that the next generation makes good decisions and moves things in the right direction.
Everyone needs good mentors, and you need to know how to find them.
Anyone who is successful in architecture or construction has gotten there with the help of many, many people along the way. No one can succeed alone. It takes a village.
Which brings me to my next point:
No One Cares About Your Career…
…as much as you do. It sounds harsh, but it’s true.
Great mentors are never going to seek you out, or be assigned to you by the gods of architecture and construction. Quite frankly, everyone is too busy worrying about themselves.
That’s why its 150% YOUR responsibility to find good mentors—people you can learn from and who support you and what you believe in. If you are not actively seeking out these people, NO ONE is going find them for you.
Here are 4 tips for finding the great mentors who will make all the difference in helping you grow and finding success in your career.
1. Hire for the Role, NOT the Job
One day in architecture school, one of my most beloved professors started to dish out lots of relationship advice to another student (who also looked up to him). While I knew he was trying to help with the best of intentions, his advice wasn’t really the best.
We all learned a great deal about architecture and design from this Professor, but relationships weren’t his strong point. He’d been divorced 3 times, had terrible relationships with his children, and had a lot of tension in his personal and professional life.
His gift to offer the world was being a brilliant architecture professor, and he shined in that arena. He significantly helped me grow. He was my Architecture and design mentor, but I politely wrote off most advice this person offered me outside the realm of architecture and design.
I don’t believe that one person will ever satisfy all the roles in our lives that require mentorship. Which is why you need many, many mentors throughout your career.
Career, entrepreneurship, relationships, design, practicing architecture, marketing, parenting, finances, politics, health and fitness all have nothing to do with each other. Just because someone is an expert in one of these areas, that doesn’t mean they know anything about another area.
Just because a contractor has a lot of construction experience building roads, that doesn’t mean they know how to build a building properly, and vice versa. It’s the same logic.
2. Bad Mentors Are Just as Powerful as Good Ones
A harsh reality of architecture and construction is that everyone who has found success has been burned at least once. Projects get messed up, and relationships go sour. People get lied to, not paid, and sued.
Unfortunately, getting burned is part of the risk involved with this type of work. There are too many moving parts and variables for it not to happen. It’s the nature of this work: everyone is vulnerable.
I believe that what’s most important is how someone picks themselves up and moves forward—after they’ve been through a bad situation. Some people never move past it, and they allow these situations to ruin the rest of their lives, literally. Meanwhile, others can deal with their problems, move past them, and keep going.
The most powerful attributes of every successful person is always their mindset and attitude.
Sometimes acknowledging and understanding why people develop negative traits (and very clearly see the mindsets and attitudes that we hope we never adopt), can be just as powerful as having great mentors.