Influence, Passion, Connection: What You Need in a Mentor

If you’re looking for a mentor, you need to identify people who are real influences in your field of business, passionate about what they do, and easy to connect with. This is according to a panel at the Institute for Supply Management annual conference in Texas, made up of mentors and mentees in purchasing and supply, who gave advice on the best ways to boost wellness in a mentoring relationship.

Bill Dempsey was one such panel member. As the vice president of global procurement at Shire Pharmaceuticals, Dempsey has been both mentored, and a mentor in his career and he noted that, most importantly of all, you have to find someone you can make a connection with. ‘One thing I say is find people who are influential in the business,’ he said. ‘I don’t necessarily mean chief-level or senior vice presidents – there are influential people who are managers, specialists, directors and vice presidents. Find people who have a passion for the company and where it is headed.’

When it comes to approaching your prospective mentor, make sure to keep it informal. Dempsey explained, ‘I tell my team not to approach them by saying “I want to establish a mentor/mentee relationship with you”. If it is someone who is influential, see if they will meet you for a coffee or lunch and spend half an hour talking about career development and then see if you connect. If you just don’t connect at the end of the half an hour, it’s easy to say “I really appreciate it” and you can walk away. To me, to “connect” means you have some mutual interests and the conversation flows pretty easily. Maybe it is a similar “outside of work” activity or passion for your area. You sort of know when you have it.’

When asked if mentors should try to get something out of the relationship as well, Ron Schnur, vice president dairy supply and operations at WhiteWave Foods and Dempsey’s mentor, answered, ‘I don’t go into it with goals. I have enjoyed a great career in supply chain over the past 25 years and part of it is giving back to the profession, organisation and young people. Back in the day when I started at Chrysler, I stood on the shoulders of a lot of people, and one of the things I have to do today is allow people to stand on my shoulders.’

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