This past year year, I was selected to participate in the American Marketing Association Toronto chapter’s Mentor Exchange Program as a mentee. Now in its fourth season, AMA’s Mentor Exchange brings Canada’s top marketing and business executives together to provide a one on one nine-month mentoring relationship for senior marketers.
When I was invited to apply for the Mentor Exchange program last summer, I jumped at the opportunity because I’d never really had a mentor and this was a chance for me to be partnered with a business leader from one of Canada’s leading organizations. A few months later I received an email saying I was one of the chosen few for the 2013/14 program.
My mentor was a seasoned senior executive who’d worked for two of Canada’s leading banks and several other financial institutions in top-tier roles While I found my mentor’s CV incredibly impressive, our backgrounds were very different. I even wondered why we had been paired since she wasn’t one of my top three choices. I later learned that there is a method to AMA’s madness.
After our initial meeting at Aroma on Avenue Road, I understood why we had been matched. While our backgrounds were very different, we had a good rapport. The ease and flow of our conversation made for a very comfortable exchange. I felt like I could talk to my mentor about pretty much anything and she would listen without judgement. I also believe she felt comfortable enough to discuss what was going on in her career.
Over the course of nine months and lots of lattes at Aroma, both of us made major changes in our professional lives. When we started, I was freelancing for PR companies while she was working as an independent consultant. At the end of the program, my mentor had taken a position as a chair and senior executive of a national business association and I started Storia PR with my sister Karen. Big changes indeed!
I learned so much from my mentor exchange and am incredibly grateful I had someone as insightful, objective and empowering as my mentor. Although the program has ended, I still plan on keeping in touch.
While it’s difficult to capture all of my learnings, in one post, I’ve highlighted some of the key takeaways from my experience.
1. Don’t judge a mentor by their resume – Some people look fantastic on paper, but as I recently found out at a focus group led by the AMA, not all mentors and mentees are meant to be. Like a first date or a job interview, chemistry is important. It’s not the defining factor, but does carry a lot of weight, especially when you’re committed to spending that much time together.
2. Mentorship is a two-way relationship - This applies to those looking for mentors at a mid-career level. Mentors are there to help guide and realize your goals, however they might also be going through their own professional changes and may look to you for some ideas and insight.
3. Think about what you want and make a list - You’ve found a mentor, now what? This is an opportunity for you to receive advice and direction from someone whose time is very valuable. Make a list of what you’re hoping to get from them. You should be able to tell them your goals from the get-go and how you think they can help.
4. Tap into their networks - This mostly applies to those whose mentors are outside of the workplace. If you’re looking to switch jobs, learn about new industries, acquire new clients or expand your own network, I couldn’t think of a better way to do this than to leverage your mentor’s contacts.
5. Commit, Commit, Commit - This is a business relationship. People are busy and it’s okay to reschedule meetings every once-in-a-while, but in order for the relationship to work, it’s imperative that appointments be kept.
6. Pay it Forward - Mentorship is a wonderful thing. I’ve had the privilege of mentoring many young and aspiring PR practitioners throughout my 12+ years in this industry. There’s nothing like hearing how much you helped someone when they first started out and what they learned or achieved through your guidance. It’s very rewarding!
For more information on the AMA’s Mentor Exchange program visit http://www.ama-toronto.com/.