Nurturing People to Get Better

Columns - Beyond the Plant Floor

Being a positive influence for someone as they start or develop a career can benefit us all, writes Bruce Ferree, independent consultant/trainer at Eurofins Laboratories.

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October 12, 2021

Well friends, I’ve done it. I’ve reached the ripe age of 65. I’m officially a senior. I might retire. I can get Medicare. I can receive all the discounts seniors qualify for. It’s an exciting and angst-filled time, trying to make all the decisions needed, complete all the applications and deal with all the suppliers. On the other hand, maybe I should start emptying the garage, the attic and other storage places so that the kids won’t have to do it when I can’t.

The reality is that I’ve not been thinking much about how I got to this point in life. I’ve been thinking more about the future and how it depends on those of you who are younger than me. In my last column (bit.ly/3yu0Zwz), I wrote about returning to better instead of returning to normal. I’m going to expand on that a bit this time.

Many of you have completed your formal education and are mid-career. Some of you are just starting a career. Careers take a long time to put together and most times, the plan we have in our head is not where we end up. Most folks don’t stay in their first job with their first employer. We all feel the need to be promoted, to show our value and be recognized.

Now that I’m late in my career, I’d suggest that we all have had some level of support, mentoring and nurturing in life and work. The best class I had during my education was in high school — critical thinking — and the teacher made it interesting, appropriate to the times and fun. My college advisor truly encouraged me to get the best education possible and to take classes that would benefit a career (even though I didn’t know it). My first employer and manager taught me so much about applying what I learned in school to real life business situations. My wife of more than 36 years has taught me things useful in business as well as at home. Each of these folks mentored and supported me in their own way.

In addition, there were negative influences. Folks that harmed my psyche but still had influence on me. Lessons from those negative influences are still lessons though. I learned what I don’t want to be, how not to interact with people and how not to say things to people. I still keep my list of people I don’t want to be when I grow up.

In July and August, I did my (small) part to help food science students by participating in a fundraiser for Feeding Tomorrow, the Foundation of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). I want deserving students to worry more about their schoolwork than how they will be paying for it. I challenged friends and IFT members to contribute in some small way to helping me with the fundraising part, while I tried to earn their support by challenging myself to run 300 miles in six weeks. We had success. I completed my 300 miles (ouch!) and we collected more than $13,000 for student scholarships.

As we work to get better, now is the time to think about how we influence others and the world in general. There are many different ways we can have a positive, mentoring, supportive and nurturing influence on those who are starting or building their careers. Take a young learner under your wings as a mentor. Have discussions with co-workers about their influence. Find a way to help someone be better mentally and physically.

There are so many ways to create these positive influences. For me, it has been fundraising for what I consider a good cause. I encourage each of you to participate in making the world a better place — each in your own way. As you do get involved, Quality Assurance & Food Safety magazine would like to learn more about what you’re doing. Feel free to contact me (insightfoodsafety@gmail.com) or editor Jason Brill (jbrill@gie.net), and let us know how you’re helping us all be better.