Wednesday, January 13th, 2016
The traditional mentor-mentee (teacher-pupil, coach-player, etc.) relationship can often be thought of as a one-way street; knowledge, experience and wisdom flows from the former party to the latter, and not the other way around.
Ask anyone who’s taken the time to be a mentor though and you might find that things aren’t so linear. Just ask Jessica Bursack, communications manager for Jarden Process Solutions and leader of SPI’s Future Leaders in Plastics (FLiP) Mentorship Task Group. “I was nominated for the task group because I had experience working with mentor programs before,” she said. “I’ve been a mentee a number of times through careers and professional aspects, with people who took me under their wing and made sure to connect me with other people and taught me about the way trade shows work.”
Bursack has also been on the other side of the transaction too, coaching young adults in debate teams and mentoring them informally in the art of rhetoric. One experience was just as fulfilling as the other, she noted. “As a mentor, you learn how to inform, instruct and educate in a way that’s not intrusive,” Bursack said. “You see things so simply because you’ve been doing them for so long, that when you step back and realize that people are learning things for the first time, it humbles you.”
“It puts things in perspective,” she added.
In honor of National Mentoring Month, in January FLiP, led by Bursack’s task group, will soft launch its own plastics-specific mentorship program, aimed at delivering the benefits that only a solid mentor can provide, and, as an added bonus, opening doors for seasoned plastics professionals to share their knowledge while expanding their own horizons.
“We’re trying to engage the younger generation and we also want to maintain and retain the younger people that are already in the industry,” Bursack said. “Not only is the mentee going to benefit from the program by strengthening their skills and their knowledge of the industry, but it’ll also provide perspective for the mentors: they’re hearing something they may not have heard before and it might help them look at things differently.”
Bursack noted that the program is specifically designed not only to benefit mentors and mentees, but also plastics companies that are struggling to reach new and existing millennial employees. “It’s helpful when it comes to not only recruitment but also engagement and education,” she said. “Participants will have a sense of belonging but also a sense of ownership when they’re invested in it.”
It doesn’t take an expert to see that in many ways, the millennial generation is different than those that preceded it. “Our generation is a lot different. Not ‘bad’ different, but different in the way that we look at how employers want to take care of us,” Bursack said, noting that getting involved with the FLiP mentorship program is one way to make it clear to millennial employees that their company cares about and is actively invested in their growth. “If younger people feel that sense of engagement, they’ll be easier to hire, and retain.”
A small pilot group of mentors and mentees has been selected for the first stage of the mentorship program rollout, but FLiP invites all companies, potential mentors and potential mentees to get involved today. Email Katie Masterson (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get involved.