Starting a successful career with mentoring

Weinheim, October 18, 2013. In Greek mythology, Odysseus entrusted his son to his friend Mentor, giving rise to a concept that has proved itself in practice up to this day – “mentoring”. For 15 years, Freudenberg Sealing Technologies, a Freudenberg Business Group, has already offered young people at the start of their career a possibility of familiarizing themselves intensively with the company through mentoring. During an 18-month trainee program, all trainees are assigned an experienced mentor to serve as their contact and their trusted partner.

Anja Schwöbel studied industrial engineering at Mannheim University of Applied Sciences and wrote her diploma thesis with Freudenberg. On October 20, 2010, she joined the Freudenberg Sealing Technologies trainee program. Following the completion of the program, she was offered permanent employment and is now a process engineer. “It is just a good feeling to have somebody you can approach for help or just ask a question if you have one. At the beginning, it is very difficult to understand the structures of a company,” the 27-year-old reports. She says that mentoring helped her a great deal at the beginning and made her career start with the Group much easier. In the 2012/2013 training year, 44 trainees are taking part in the tried and tested program.

Schwöbel’s mentor Kerstin Zeeb, Global Head of IT Service and Governance, has worked for Freudenberg Sealing Technologies for more than 15 years and is responsible for IT processes and structures as well as controlling in this field. Anja Schwöbel is not the first mentee she has supported. “I have now mentored a total of six trainees. It was never the same experience because everyone is different and needs a different type of support,” the 40-year-old reports. She says that she very much enjoys observing the young people’s development, although this involves a considerable amount of work. She adds that she always learns something new. For Zeeb, the key characteristics of a mentor include openness, enjoyment of cooperation with other people and a certain experience with the structures and processes of the company.

Win-win situation for mentor and mentee
The main objective of the mentor program is to assist trainees in their search for projects that they can process independently. An experienced employee has a better overview of topical issues and an appropriate network of contacts. “It is easier for me to decide on the relevance of individual projects and to find the appropriate contact,” says Zeeb. In addition, the mentor provides regular feedback and is available to the mentee if problems of any kind should arise. This may range from answering simple questions to adopting the neutral position of an impartial third party if problems arise within the department. “Of course, this does call for a certain relationship of trust. To date, everything has worked very well,” Zeeb explains. If the right chemistry is established between the mentor and the mentee, both of them benefit from cooperation.

Individual support by a personal mentor is a special feature of a company and more than just a normal trainee program. For 15 years, Freudenberg Sealing Technologies has made skilful use of its employees’ potential and expertise and promoted networking between experienced colleagues and career entrants. This way, it is possible to foster trainees at a very early stage and to establish ties between them and the company.