Does the word mentor scare you a bit? Maybe you think you’re not advanced enough in your career to have a mentor, or perhaps you have no idea what the word Mentorship even means!
These are all thoughts I had before signing up for a mentorship program at my Co-op workplace. But after a semester of bi-weekly meetings with my mentor, I have learned that you don’t need to be super outgoing, nor do you need to have crazy big goals. You just need to have an open mind and a desire to improve yourself.
A mentor is a trusted individual who will help guide and motivate you in your own professional goals which may be related to your career, academic success or life goals. They are usually someone you can look up to who is more advanced in their career. They can enable you to put your best foot forward in order to take the next steps you need to achieve your goals.
So, let's see the four things you can accomplish and learn from working with a mentor.
You’re in Charge
What you bring to your mentorship meetings are totally up to you! This means you are in the drivers' seat when it comes to conversations and topics you want to discuss, whether it is a problem you are facing at work, going over your resume, or just asking questions about their career. By taking initiative, you are already taking the first step towards becoming your best self!
A Different Perspective
Mentors are usually people who can inspire you to do better. In the virtual world we are in right now, many of us, especially young professionals, tend to overthink a work situation or read too much in between the lines of an email. A mentor will help guide your thought patterns, and will often have an interesting way of reframing the ideas you may have placed in your head.
Getting Rid of the Negative Narrative
Many young professionals will, at some point in their early career, feel like they have ‘imposter syndrome’: a pattern where someone internalizes and doubts their skills, talents and achievements. Through talking with my mentor, I was able to look inward and realize that instead of viewing it as a negative, I could flip the switch and think about the positive and new creative solutions that I could bring to the table as someone coming into a company with fresh eyes.
The Art of Conversation
Networking is essentially building relationships, and having a good conversation with someone. I usually met with my mentor on a bi-weekly basis throughout my Co-op term, which really allowed me to get to know them both professionally and personally. During one of our chats, we played ‘We’re Not Really Strangers’: a card game where we both ask each other meaningful questions on the cards to get to know each other better. Another time, we listened to an episode of “The Michelle Obama Show”, featuring Michelle Obama and her mentees discussing their time at the White House. These activities were a fun and low-stakes way to spark conversation and share our experiences with each other.
Thinking about questions to ask and discuss with your mentor might be challenging in the beginning. Here are some of my favourite questions to ask:
What does the word “career” mean to you?
How do you overcome failure, and how do you learn from it?
What are the top 3 qualities to have when working in a team?
What questions can I ask myself in order to continuously improve?
What do you value most in life? What are your core values?
Before settling on someone, make sure to also ask yourself what you want to achieve with your mentor - do I want someone within my own career path or am I looking for someone totally different? These answers are solely dependent on what your needs are and it may take a few mentors to find the right one!