January marks National Mentoring Month – a time to emphasize the value of mentor relationships both personally and professionally. Given the events of the last year, the importance of this month could not be timelier.

Social distancing measures showed we all need personal and social interactions to thrive, and the importance of mentoring programs – opportunities for interaction – have become even more apparent.

Prior to 2020, the benefits of mentoring programs were clear. In July 2019, The World Health Organization classified corporate burnout as a disease.

Dr. Emma Seppala, author and leader at both Yale College and Stanford University, shared that “close to 50% of people say they are often or always exhausted due to work. What’s more, there is a significant correlation between feeling lonely and work exhaustion: The more people are exhausted, the lonelier they feel.

Human connection decreases burnout, and mentorship, when done right, breaks down the barriers that drive isolation and burnout.

Mentor Circle at Tyson Foods began in 2018 as a Women’s Business Resource Group (WBRG) initiative, driven by team member requests for development and networking opportunities outside of their daily roles and teams. A program that started with 9 mentors and 86 mentees soon grew to 62 mentors and more than 415 mentees by 2021. Tyson Foods team members made it clear they saw the value in those relationships.

Today, Mentor Circle is made up of groups of one mentor and 6 to 8 mentees with diverse backgrounds and expertise that meet 6 times a year to discuss topics that impact leadership development and career progression. Mentor Circle provides not only the opportunity for social interactions but to also:

  • gain practical advice, encouragement, and support
  • build knowledge and skills from the experiences of others
  • grow professional networks
  • increase exposure to additional areas and roles within Tyson Foods
  • enhance leadership and communication skills
  • assist emerging leaders in their professional development and career aspirations

My Mentor Circle Story

When I joined the Tyson Foods Tyson Talent and Acquisition team in 2018, I had just left a career in fashion to start a new chapter in the corporate world. I was unsure of where I wanted to go with my career or how to figure it out. But one thing was certain: I knew I wanted to make a career at Tyson Foods.

I jumped right in and signed up for the Women’s BRG Mentor Circle. It seemed like a great way to network and get involved – and I was right. As my one-year work anniversary approached, I knew it was time to start taking steps to figure out what I wanted to do with my career. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in my current department or if I wanted to branch out. I turned to my mentor, Jenn Maxwell, and set up time to connect one on one.

When we connected, we discussed my hobbies, my previous position, and why I enjoy Tyson Foods – all of which helped point me in a starting direction.

She then recommended I connect with the Foodservice department and some of their team members. Those team members then helped me connect with additional team members who connected me with even more team members.

All those connections lead to me shadowing and getting more involved in Foodservice projects and meetings. I knew this was the next step, and then a position was posted. Because of Jenn’s support and helping me make those connections, today I am part of the Foodservice Commercial Chain Accounts team.

Having a mentor, or mentors, is important. It is a two-way learning relationship, and we all can continue to learn and grow. My previous leaders are still my mentors, and I continue to build new relationships. I have such a passion for the Mentor Circle not only because of my own experience but because of the passion from our mentors and mentees each year.

Other Team Member Experiences

Below, some fellow mentees and members of Mentor Circle (many of whom are pictured above) share why they are so passionate about mentoring at Tyson Foods.

“I’ve always been interested in making connections and growing a community, even in the workplace. I joined the Women’s Business Resource Group as a member a few months after starting my first role at Tyson and participated as a mentee in the first Mentor Circle program in 2018. I jumped at the chance to support Mentor Circle in a planning role because I know the value of mentorship and its effect on my career. I’ve used mentor relationships (formal and informal) to brainstorm solutions for work situations, map out career changes, and grow my network.” – Victoria Sandoval, Associate Manager, Channel Marketing

“The incredible scale of Tyson Foods can be both impressive and overwhelming, particularly to new team members. One of the many ways team members can learn about our various business units, departments and teams is through Mentor Circles. These circles can provide personal context and connection that enable each of us to better understand our organization and perhaps better contribute to its success. After experiencing for myself the benefits of Mentor Circles as a mentee, I decided to get involved to help more team members feel more engaged, informed, and connected across our organization.” – Matt Earley, Senior Manager at Tyson Foods and Co-Chair of Women’s BRG

“I have been blessed with great mentors in my personal and professional life. Knowing the value mentoring had on my life, I want to make sure I pay that forward. I usually get more in return from my mentees than what I may provide to them. John Maxwell said, ‘The day I stop learning, that’s the day I stop leading.’ I believe a culture that encompasses strong mentoring helps create a great culture.” – Pete Louree, Team Leader, Retail Operations

“Mentors are crucial for anyone looking to grow in their role, are seeking a new role, or looking to learn more about the company. The Women’s BRG Mentor Circles are an incredible opportunity for those that want to grow professionally or personally. Small mentor groups can help you identify blind spots and gaps in your branding, knowledge, or experience. Mentors will stretch you, challenge you, and teach you. They could even lead you to future opportunities or connections. My experience with mentor groups has been exactly that – candid discussion, helping each other grow and navigate the changing world, and create lasting relationships.  The uniqueness of each group has offered its own learnings, like how to prepare for a mentor session, how to speak in front of a group, how to give and receive feedback, and how to develop your own brand.” – Emily Blumhardt, Manager, Organizational Development

Mentor Circle has kicked off for 2021, and we’re already planning for 2022. Our continued focus is on bringing a strong lineup of mentors from all departments with differing career and life experiences who represent the amazing diversity of Tyson Foods team members.

Manager Customer Development, Commercial Chain Accounts at Tyson Foods