The Importance of a Mentor

Danny Frost – Managing Director, Quantity Surveying Services

As children, we all had ideas of what we wanted to become when we grew up. Remember Ray Liotta’s line in ‘Goodfellas’? ‘As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster’. Well, my childhood dream was to become a Horse Racing Commentator. Quantity Surveying was never on my radar.

The more I talk to people within the industry, the more I realise I am not alone. It seems there are many established Quantity Surveyors (QSs) who never set out to fill that role. Yet, after 30 years, I remain a QS and still enjoy it to this day. Why is that? The answer is simple. I had a great mentor.

I did not meet my mentor until 4 years into what would become my career. Up until that point, I could easily have changed course – and very nearly did. Then, in the late 1980s, I became involved in a large civil engineering project. The Project QS changed the shape of my career, pointing me in the right direction both short and long term. He motivated me to achieve both project and personal goals, supported me when I was struggling and provided guidance as to how I could develop both academically and professionally. He showed me the importance of attention to detail, perseverance and the value in challenging myself. This guidance enabled me to have confidence and develop the qualities of a good QS and how to demonstrate them. I respected him, I enjoyed working with him and I wanted to achieve all that he had achieved. At the time, I don’t think I fully appreciated the impact he would have on my career but, following the completion of that project, I knew I wanted to be a QS and I wanted to do it well.

If you are contemplating becoming a mentor…

  • Take the time to discuss and manage expectations and ensure that you are familiar with what your mentee wishes to get out of the process.
  • Focus on goal setting – short, medium and long term.
  • Provide guidance, encouragement and feedback but also be sure to listen.
  • Regularly review progress and reassess goals as necessary.
  • However busy you are, always make time.
  • Think carefully about whether it’s something you can fully commit to. The influence a mentor can have in shaping a young person’s career cannot be overstated and the role should not be treated as simply another management task. Dedication and a real desire for the growth and success of the mentee is a must.

If you are considering choosing a mentor…

  • Be clear on what you expect to achieve. As stated above, it is important that you are both on the same page right from the start.
  • Fully engage with the process; you will get out what you put in. You cannot fully benefit from your mentor if you are not putting in the effort yourself.
  • Your mentor should be a person you trust, respect, can be completely open and honest with, and desire to be like (at least to an extent).
  • Choose a person whose values align with your own.
  • Remember, the right mentor could have an invaluable impact on your career. Do not choose lightly.

As a result of my own experience as a mentee, I have now been in the industry for over 30 years. I have worked overseas for employers, contractors and Project QSs. I have achieved a First-Class degree, a professional membership with the RICS and am now the Managing Director of an international firm. Time has gone by and my career has moved on, yet I still remember the lessons I learned all those years ago. Not only have I been able to use them to further my own career, but I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to pay it forward – becoming a mentor in my own right and hopefully helping others to decide the course and shape of their own careers.

So, whether you’re considering becoming or choosing a mentor, think carefully. Is this person suited to you? Do you have the time or desire to really put in the effort that’s needed? In this digital age – with a huge amount of conflicting information and advice available at the click of a button – the role of the mentor is probably more important than it has ever been. Let’s make sure we’re doing it justice.