Learning from a Mentor

Published On: September 18, 2023By Categories: Business Management, Drilling

By Thad Plumley

I remember when I got my first professional job. Just out of college, I snagged a position at a newspaper in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

I still recall driving to the office that first day and thinking, “Man, this newspaper is lucky to have me. I am so talented. I can’t wait to share my awesomeness with the world.”

As I’m sure you have guessed, it took less than a day for me to get smacked across the face with a cold dose of reality.

My welcome to the real world was my no-nonsense boss. A long-time veteran publisher, he was more than happy to show me I still had a few things to learn.

He went on to another job two years later, but man, what a time those two years were for me. I learned so much. Sometimes the lessons were hard and sometimes they came loudly with four-letter words sprinkled in, but I pushed on and I learned.

There may not be a fancy certificate saying so, but I view that time as getting a Master’s degree. After all, there is no question I was learning from a master those two years.

They’ve shaped the rest of my career. Less than five years later, I came to the National Ground Water Association. Four years after that, I became the editor of Water Well Journal.

I’m constantly reminded of that time as I look at the landscape of the groundwater industry. Nearly every company is doing all it can to bring in the next generation of employees as countless veterans who built successful companies prepare for retirement.

If you’re at a company like that, make a conscious effort to partner those new employees with your veteran experts. Force the rookies to learn on the job as I did. Most importantly, force the veterans to share their wisdom.

It won’t all go smoothly and there will be growing pains. But our industry is seeing a wealth of industry knowledge walk out the door with every retirement party thrown, so it’s critical this knowledge is transferred.

The National Ground Water Association is doing what it can to get the next generation ready. Along with creating and providing multiple e-learning options, it joined the Tomorrow’s Workforce Coalition this year.

The Coalition is an alliance trying to get a federal bill passed that would expand qualifying expenses for 529 college savings accounts to include postsecondary training and credentialing programs such as continuing education credits, certificate classes, and testing materials.

There is no doubt this could help train tomorrow’s workforce. But in the meantime, there is nothing like learning from a mentor in my eyes.

So, make sure young crewmembers are talking with veterans and learning from them. If you’re a veteran, pass on your knowledge. Chances are you learned from an old-timer back in the day, so pay it forward by helping your company’s next generation.

You may not realize it, but take it from me, you’ll impact that young person and their career forever.


Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and the director of publications for the National Ground Water Association. He is currently the secretary for the AM&P Network Associations Council Advisory Board. The AM&P Network is a national association for publishing professionals.. He can be reached at tplumley@ngwa.org, or (800) 551-7379, ext. 1594.

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