Last week’s post reviewed ways student transportation professionals can share their expertise by mentoring newer colleagues. This week, we’re discussing another important aspect of mentorship in student transportation: choosing a mentor. Working with a mentor can be a valuable step toward greater professional development and a more rewarding career in student transportation.
What is a mentor?
As we shared in last week’s post, a mentor is an experienced professional who provides guidance, support, and insights at work. Sounds simple, of course, but a skilled mentor’s impact on your career trajectory can be profound. This is especially true in student transportation, where many roles require a highly specialized technical skill set, interpersonal dynamics, and a deep understanding of your local community.
How do you choose a mentor?
There’s no magic formula to choosing the right mentor. Some organizations have formal mentorship programs that help match you with a coworker who has expressed interest in being a mentor. In other workplaces, the process is informal, meaning you’ll connect with a team member on your own and build a working relationship with that person. Regardless of the process, choosing a mentor is equal parts personal connection and professional growth.
Here are some steps to consider when selecting a mentor in the student transportation industry:
Identify your career goals
Before seeking a mentor, think through your career objectives and what you hope to achieve through the mentoring relationship. Be clear, and write down meaningful, achievable goals. Do you want to prepare for a leadership role, transition to a different area of the business, or simply gain a broader understanding of the student transportation industry? This clarity will help you find a mentor who can provide relevant guidance.
Build industry connections
Connect with likeminded student transportation professionals wherever you can. This might include your local school bus contractor, industry conferences, training and safety workshops, professional associations, and even social media groups. These activities and organizations can help put you in the orbit of potential mentors, all while growing your network.
Shortlist potential mentors
Before approaching anyone, compile a private “short list” of coworkers or industry contacts who have great experience in student transportation. This might include transportation directors, trainers, longtime drivers, skilled mechanics, or other team members who have a strong track record of success.
As you think about each one, ask yourself if their experience and attitude aligns with your professional goals; essentially, is this a person whose work you respect and whose advice you would seek out?
Make an introduction
If you’ve identified a potential mentor, reach out to them. This can be an informal in-person conversation, a brief email, or even an introduction through a mutual connection. Be respectful, clear, and concise, sharing your primary career goal and explaining why you believe their experience could help you achieve it. Ask if they would be willing to share some of their time and knowledge with you.
A successful mentor-mentee connection requires mutual respect and compatibility. You should feel comfortable asking questions and discussing your career aspirations. Ideally, your personalities, communication styles, and values will align.
You also want to be respectful of a mentor’s time. If a colleague expresses interest in being your mentor, chat with them about schedules and personal commitments – yours and theirs. Clear communication up front can help build a more productive relationship down the road.
Plan ahead! This is a learning experience, so prepare for each interaction by thinking of specific topics or challenges you’d like to discuss. Be proactive in managing the time you have together, staying focused on your career goals and the knowledge you want to gain.
Stay open to feedback
Mentors are there to help you grow and develop. Part of their support should include constructive feedback and the identification of areas where you can improve. Be open to receiving this feedback and be willing to put it into practice as you hone or expand your skills.
It’s always nice to be appreciated. As you learn and grow with your mentor, don’t forget to show appreciation for their guidance and support. A simple thank-you note or public acknowledgment can go a long way in expressing your gratitude.
Mentorship starts with teamwork
Finding the right mentor and making a connection might take time, but it’s worth the effort. Ultimately, you’re investing in yourself, building a long-term, successful career in student transportation and becoming a more valuable part of your team.
If you’re seeking a career in student transportation, reach out to us. We’d love to learn more about you.
American Student Transportation Partners (ASTP) is a national network of reliable student transportation providers. We’re driving the future of student transportation by providing access to education through safe, dependable student transportation programs. Exceptional bus operators choose ASTP because of our innovative approach to partnership, as well as the resources we provide to help “future-proof” their operations.
To learn more about partnering with ASTP, contact Tod Eskra, President, at [email protected] or call (314) 560-5946.