Jacqueline Cooley spends her days coaching manufacturing employees and helping them build better lives. So when she was looking to improve her professional skills and career trajectory, she knew it would be valuable to find her own coach or mentor.
Cooley found a great match through the Women MAKE Mentorship Program, a free initiative run by the Manufacturing Institute (the NAM’s workforce development and education affiliate), which aims to strengthen women’s careers in the industry by connecting them with peer advisers.
She recently told us about her experience with the program and what it has meant for her career so far.
A better life: Cooley is a better life coach at JBM Packaging, an “eco-friendly, flexible packaging” manufacturer in Lebanon, Ohio, which prioritizes hiring and supporting those who have been involved with the justice system. These “fair chance” hires make up about half the company’s approximately 160-person workforce.
- “I haven’t really found anybody else who does what we do,” said Cooley, whose job entails management of the fair chance program and its participants. “We have life coaching, financial coaching, our Wheels [car leasing] program. We do parental coaching; there are loans [employees] can take out. It’s holistic.”
A coach finds a coach: “I saw [the mentorship program] on the MI’s website and was immediately interested because I’d been looking for a mentor,” Cooley told us.
- “It has been really good. My mentor and I both work in human resources. She’s someone I can bounce ideas off.”
- “I’m at a point in my career where I wanted somebody else’s guidance, wanted to get [the benefit of] their experience in the HR world and learn the steps they took to get to the next level,” she added.
How it works: The MI pairs its mentors—all of whom are volunteers—with mentees based on personal and professional goals and interests, communication style and a dozen other criteria provided through a self-assessment.
- Cooley’s mentor—who works in human resources for another manufacturer—has already helped Cooley fulfill one of her primary goals: to broaden her network in the industry and meet more people.
- “My mentor has been in HR for 20 years or so, and she has a lot of contacts in the [Cincinnati] area and is well-connected,” said Cooley. “She’s invited me to her [workplace], had me talk to other people there, invited me to other [events]. I’ve met a lot of people through her.”
What’s next: Cooley, who said she is considering becoming a mentor herself once she finishes the nine-month program, said more women in manufacturing should participate.
- “It’s a great way to make connections with other women,” she said. “Don’t sell yourself short by thinking you don’t have anything to offer. The mentor can learn from the mentee as well as vice versa. It will open up opportunities for you.”