Mentorship has been one of the greatest gifts I’ve received in my career and personal life and has either come from someone I’ve worked with, someone I’ve just met and even from someone I’ve never physically met but have connected with through social media. These individuals have made a significant impact in my life and have shown me that learning does not only come from taking a course or reading a textbook, but from a conversation over coffee or a message via email. What I’ve also discovered is that different types of mentors are needed when you reach certain levels within your career or are facing different types of situations in your life.
What is mentorship?
Mentorship can be a systematic organized union between two people through an organization/association or can be as simple as two people re-connecting and meeting over coffee. When you think of mentorship, you usually think of it as someone older teaching someone younger but this is not always the case. Reverse Mentoring where someone younger teaches someone older is equally valuable and one would assume is on the rise as the younger generation teaches the older about this new digital world we live in. These young ‘Digital Natives’ are most certainly teaching ‘Digital Immigrants’ about this new frontier in cyberspace.
The benefits of mentorship are limitless but here are a key few points:
- Learning from someone’s experience, good or bad, may help you deal with a similar situation when you go through it.
- Bouncing ideas, situations and difficulties with a mentor can get you an outsider’s unbiased view on something you are thinking about doing or currently facing
- Information exchange with a mentor adds to your knowledge databank
- A mentor can introduce you to their network and can connect you with someone you would have never met
- A mentor can turn into a really great friend
I’ve been blessed with some great mentors that I’d like to introduce you to and each has provided a specific type of mentorship to my career and life:
The Coaching Mentor: About 8 years ago I was interviewing at an advertising agency named MacLaren McCann for my first full-time position out of school. I remember the interview like it was yesterday, sitting in the waiting area, palms sweating and leg shaking, hearing the words from the receptionist “Jonathan, Aileen Virola will see you now.” As I walked in her office I was confronted with a woman with a form fitting business suit, black rimmed glasses and a handshake that told me she meant business. I was hired for the position and that day Aileen not only became my first boss but my life long mentor. What I love about Aileen is that she doesn’t hold back and tells me the honest truth no matter how hard it can sting. You need someone like this in your life, who can put you in your place when your ego is inflated or when you need someone to pick you up and tell you how much you have to offer when you are down. I’ve always admired the strong independent woman she is and how she has climbed the corporate ladder. Aileen is an Account Director at Nurun, one of Toronto’s leading digital agencies, and she has most recently attained her Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) accreditation. I like to chat with her from time to time and I’m hoping to squeeze in a couple more meetings before she starts charging me for them. ; ) Tip: Re-connect with an old boss and ask them if you can take them out for coffee to chat about your career and what advice they can give you. They are a good source of info as they worked with you and evaluated your performance.
The Career Path Mentor: Kevin Marcotte, Director of Marketing for BMW Canada is someone that I got connected with through the American Marketing Association’s Mentor Exchange program. We were paired up together back in September of 2012 and have been having coffee meetings over the past couple months. I joined this mentorship program because I really wanted to get advice from a senior marketing leader that I have had no previous relationship with. Kevin’s words of wisdom and insight on everything from leadership to agency relationships have been amazing to listen to. Just hearing about his career journey was truly inspiring and something I took a lot from. Tip: Search for organizations/associations that have mentorship programs. If you don’t know many people in your industry, it can be a great way to be paired up with someone that you would have normally never have met.
The Corporate Mentor: The Home Depot, my current place of employment, has an internal mentorship program that runs ever year. When I heard about it I was excited to join. The program paired me up with a senior leader within the organization named Jamal Hamad, Director of Pro and Tool Rental Services. Jamal can really be summed up in one word, charasmatic. This man has more energy than the Energizer Bunny and can motivate you to do anything. Over the past couple months in our meetings he has taught me everything from presentation skills to office politics to leadership. Joining the mentorship program has been one of the smartest things I’ve ever done as I’ve learned more about my organization’s corporate culture through a senior leader’s eyes. Tip: If your company has a program like this, sign up for it and if it doesn’t, suggest it to HR and volunteer to help in leading it or be part of the committee in putting it together.
The Specialized Mentor: You’ve probably heard me rant about this next gentleman for quite a bit if you’ve been reading my posts since September but here we go again. Dr. Nick Morgan is an author and master technician when it comes to the art of presenting. He has a great site called Public Words that you really need to bookmark and follow as it has great articles on everything with regards to communicating to an audience. Through the wonderful world of social media, I was able to connect with Dr. Morgan and he has given me some great advice and tips. I look forward to reading more of his work and I truly have become a ‘Raving Fan’ of his and I know you will too. Tip: Find someone with a specialized skill set that you seek to emulate. Reach out to this person and see if they would be willing to mentor you and help you achieve what they possess.
The Virtual Mentor: Like the example with Dr. Morgan, the beautiful thing about social media is that you can connect with someone that you have never met and they can still provide mentorship digitally. A couple months ago Marketing Magazine released their ‘Top 30 Under 30’ and I was fascinated with reading all of the recipient’s bios. One in particular caught my attention, Marta Tryshak. Marta is the creator of ‘withlovegabrielle.com’ which is an amazing blog that speaks to a female audience from everything to fashion to beauty to travel. Although I do not fall within her blog’s target audience I was fascinated by how much passion she put in each post and really enjoyed the content as well. As I have been pushing forward with my own blog, I’ve reached out to Marta to get some advice and not only has she been gracious with her time in connecting with me, but she also blogged about the question I asked her which was in regards to, how do I grow my blog audience? Tip: If you admire someone’s work, tell them and reach out to them for help. You never know, they may actually respond and provide you with some great advice.
This year, please embark on the wonderful journey that is mentorship. Also, if you have received help from others, don’t forget to pay it forward and be a mentor to someone. I’ve had the privilege of being involved in Ryerson’s Tri-Mentoring program where I have been a mentor to a 4th year business student and it has been very rewarding to me as I have been able to share my experiences with someone who is just starting out. Good luck!