Not every curve needs flattening in a pandemic. There is one we can raise: the curve of mentorship. Staying connected in school and the workplace is more important than ever. Especially in the world of quarantine, it is easy to stay within your close circle of friends and miss out on being exposed to different perspectives whether that is in the same or different field of industry/career path that you want to take. A mentoring partnership is a perfect opportunity for both mentors and mentees to gain a new perspective and learn more about themselves and what they want to achieve with their careers.
As a pilot program, the Young Pipeliners Association of Canada (YPAC) started its first-ever mentorship program in 2020. The aim of this program is to partner students currently in university with young professionals, to help mentor them through their fast-paced lives and aid them in their transition from University to the Corporate world. Following the great success of the program in 2020, YPAC just announced YPAC Mentorship Program 2.0 which will be running from September 2021 to April 2022. To kick things off with this year’s re-launch of the YPAC Mentorship Program, Kshama and Tina shared their experience with the program and how successful their mentorship pairing was through responding to the questions below.
What was your first impression of your mentor/mentee after your first meeting?
Kshama: My first impression of Tina after our first meeting was ‘WOW! Tina is not only organized and focused but also enthusiastic and energetic. She has already achieved so much in her career at such an early stage.’ Tina was very well prepared and did her homework before the first meeting. I was very impressed when I figured out that Tina came to the first meeting with a list of topics that she wanted to discuss with me. Because of Tina’s efforts, right after the first meeting, I had a clear idea of which areas I could help her improve. I readily understood that I am going to get a perfect mentee that a mentor could ask for!
Tina: As qualified and accomplished as Kshama is, I could notice his efforts in communicating with me at the same eye level and how comfortable it was from our very first meeting. I was a little worried about feeling inadequate when talking to someone with so much more experience and knowledge but after the first meeting, I was left with so much excitement and gratitude to continue our mentoring journey. My tip for leaving a good first impression is to arrive prepared (do your research on your mentor’s background and prepare questions) and be contagiously enthusiastic, then your mentor will be excited to work with you!
What have you learned from your mentee/mentor? How will this relationship contribute to your future career goals?
Kshama: I love meeting new people and to get various perspectives. Participating in the YPAC Mentorship program opened up a new opportunity for me, e.g., meeting a community that shares similar values to you. I thank the YPAC Mentorship program for helping me to link with Tina who is different from myself so I can get a whole new perspective. It was great fun working with Tina. She was an energy donor rather than an energy recipient. After finishing chatting with Tina, I felt like what I’ve said matters, which makes me feel like I matter. I believe such mentoring opportunities have shaped me to become more empathic and emotionally intelligent.
Tina: From my conversations with Kshama, I gained valuable advice and knowledge – both professionally and personally and also explicitly and implicitly. Explicit knowledge including more codified and concrete skills such as how to build my own personal brand on LinkedIn and preparing my graduate school applications. I also gained implicit or tacit knowledge – knowledge that is difficult to express or extract. I’ve picked up new ways of thinking and interacting with others from listening to Kshama’s experience and observing his enthusiasm and behaviour.
The biggest thing that will stick with me into my future career is having confidence in myself and recognizing my own strengths and capability. My mentor has helped me by instilling a sense of reassurance that I am taking the right steps in my early career development. Once I gained the confidence to achieve what I wanted, I was able to gain a sense of purpose and direction for my career aspirations which I did not before, prior to the program.
What do you think the ‘secret’ is to a good mentoring relationship?
Kshama: A good mentoring relationship depends on the efforts of both mentor and mentee. I think one of the primary reasons why our mentoring pair was very successful is because we treated each other with respect and kindness. We were open, honest and had many relaxed and exploratory conversations. Instead of just correcting Tina’s resume and cover letter, I focused on building the credibility and confidence she needed to succeed in taking the next steps of her career.
Tina: The ‘secret’ to a good mentoring relationship is to have open lines of communication and to speak and listen with intention. It is important that as a mentee, I can speak about my strengths, challenges, and areas of development openly. Be honest with yourself so you can be as clear as possible to your mentor about your desires and needs. If you do not know, try to discover what you don’t want so that you and your mentor can use that to steer you in the right direction. After listening to their advice and tips, write it down and take some time to reflect on it to help retain the information.
What tips or advice would you like to share with incoming new mentees/ mentors?
Kshama: I believe mentoring can create a situation where everyone wins. Whether you are a mentor or a mentee, if you are honest with yourself and ready to take on feedback and improve yourself both personally and professionally, you can gain the most from a mentoring relationship. Regardless of age, position, and workplace we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of personal branding and a great mentorship relation can certainly help you in this. Some quick tips for a new incoming mentee:
- See the list of the mentors and try to learn more about them from google, LinkedIn, etc. Choose a mentor whom you can relate to and who shares your goals and understands your priorities.
- Before the first one-to-one meeting with your mentor, set aside one hour for self-reflection and make a list of the areas where you need improvement.
- Be open and honest in all your meetings.
- Define goals for meetings ahead of time by knowing what you want to discuss and accomplish during your meeting.
- Be enthusiastic, energetic, organized, and focused.
- Respect your mentor’s time.
- Irrespective of how accomplished or senior your mentor is, think about what you can offer to your mentor – It can be as simple as your perspectives, your positive energy, etc.
Tina: Mentoring is a two-way street. You get what you put in so make sure to be accountable and follow through with your tasks, it will only help both parties! A final tip I would like to share is to express gratitude. Finding a good mentor is not easy, so if you are lucky enough to be partnered with a fantastic mentor as I have, make sure to show your appreciation for their time and keep in touch!
YPAC Mentorship Program does an excellent job preparing the current university students for the future and boosting their confidence. Transitioning from academia to industry can be overwhelming. Having a mentor to guide you through it and give you advice along the way is very helpful. As evident from the conversations with Kshama and Tina, both students (mentees) and mentors learn a lot throughout the process. This program helps you identify the desired mentoring outcome and then works backward to figure out the system or action needed to achieve that goal.