Women in Trucking Commentary: Mentoring

Albert Einstein once said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.”   Experience allows us to use both our education and our observations to gain a greater understanding and become a more valuable resource for others.  When we choose to share our knowledge with others, we become teachers or mentors.

Ellen Voie, CAE

Women In Trucking, Inc.

The World Book Dictionary defines mentor as a “wise and trusted advisor.”  A mentor is usually someone who has the experience to offer advice and support to a less experienced person.  Usually, the person being mentored is younger or less knowledgeable in that area.  However, a mentor could potentially be younger or more recently trained.

The Women In Trucking association was formed in part to offer support and encouragement to women who wish to explore a career in trucking.  Many of our members are students who are attending driving schools to obtain their commercial driver’s license.  They are benefiting from the experience and wisdom of our more seasoned members who have been in the industry much longer.

A recent Logistics Quarterly issue asked female executives about their mentoring experience, and many of them cited a former co-worker, boss or teacher. Some of these prominent women in logistics roles suggested that young women looking at a career in the transportation industry should find a mentor to help them become more successful in this male-dominated industry.

As a newly hired manager at a large truckload carrier, I found the corporate culture to be overwhelming at first, and even finding my way to a meeting room at one of the six locations could be a challenge.  An understanding senior leader took me aside and invited me to come to his office to “kick the walls” when I became overly frustrated.  Although I never physically assaulted his office enclosure, I was thankful for the compassionate advice that accompanied my visits.  We remain friends to this day. 

How can we encourage more women to consider a career in trucking or logistics unless we provide an opportunity to help them succeed?  How can we offer ourselves as mentors to young women looking at roles in the truck, in the shop or in the corporate office?

The first step in becoming a mentor is to make yourself available.  Look around your workplace or training facility and reach out to someone you feel might be struggling.  Be accessible and pleasant.  Often, a friendly smile will be all it takes for an apprehensive new recruit needing an ally. 
A good mentor will have a passion for learning, and can share that excitement with others.  The best mentors are those whose values are similar or higher than the person they choose to mentor, and are viewed as people with high standards for themselves as well as those around them.  For those who volunteer to mentor others, they will find that the experience only enhances their own professional development.

A mentor has the responsibility to help his or her colleague thrive, but the duty should not be focused on making the job easier.  Instead, mentoring involves helping the person mentored to ask the right questions, consider options and learn from the advisor’s mistakes as well as successes.  

As professionals in the transportation and logistics industry, we should have a desire to help our less experienced colleagues succeed.  Consider becoming a mentor yourself.  Often, all that person needs is someone to listen and answer questions — or maybe just a place to kick the wall.

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