Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Career Development – What Mentoring Can Do For You

Mentoring is often defined as a professional relationship where one person (i.e. – the mentor) helps another person (i.e. the mentee) with professional and personal growth.  They work together to develop specific skills and knowledge that will help enhance the mentees career (within their current role, or preparing for future career paths).

What we have found to-date with the Ottawa-Gatineau Chapter of CSAE’s mentor program is that mentors and mentees are learning from each other – while the mentee benefits from the experience and knowledge of their mentor; the mentor in turn is learning from the mentee just as much – in many cases about technology, new, “fresh” ideas for marketing and communications, and how an employee in a junior position at an association perceives an operational structure.

For the purposes of this article, we have interviewed a series of association executives; all who have participated in the local program in years past.  Some have agreed to speak publically about their experience, others preferred to remain anonymous, but all provided feedback that could and should be shared with the chapter.

The interviews were conducted without specific questions in mind; it was a conversation with each individual to hear from them specifically what they felt was beneficial from participating in the program.

“Working in an association with a very small staff set, it was important to me that I found someone who was in a similar situation as I was, who either currently is, or has, ‘lived what I was living’.  We could exchange ideas, operational experiences, and listen to each other’s ideas”, says Robin Jackson, Executive Director of the Canadian Federation of University Women.

“I must admit, I wasn’t sure it was going to work out with my match, and frankly, neither did she”, says Sangita Kamblé, Executive Director of the Canadian Occupational Therapy Foundation.  “We were too much alike, and frankly, we were not sure how we could benefit from this.  But after meeting with my mentoring partner, we clicked.  It is very much an equal exchange; we share concerns, ideas, etc.”

What are the benefits of mentoring?

There are many…too many to highlight in one article.  But; some benefits include encouraging/enhancing business initiatives; professional development; breaks down the “silo” mentality between generations, industries, and job functions.

One anonymous supported said that “It moves you beyond your typical circle of professional relationships.  With the chapter’s program, the ‘match-making’ is someone else’s responsibility; by using some questions to help determine the pairings (i.e. what you want out of this).  Then they match you up with others who are looking to help with those areas.  I cannot speak to everyone else’s experience, but I was paired with someone outside of my industry.  I was new to my role, and with this program, I got to look at new approaches, which helped me grow in my position, and my organization.”

Mentors benefit by learning other areas of an organization; or an industry, gaining satisfaction in sharing expertise and experience with others, and in turn, having a new perspective that helps with their own professional and personal development.

“Looking back to when I was very new to associations (and to being an Executive Director); I really could have benefitted from a program like this.  I certainly feel that I reasonably invested my time as a mentor”, says Duncan Grant, Executive Director of the Association of Canadian Archivists.

Mentees benefit by learning specific skills and knowledge to help them advance their careers; gaining from the mentor’s expertise, and they have someone who will listen when they are frustrated; or wanting to share successes.

“I spent a lot of my time with my mentor focusing on articulating my core competencies and highlighting my unique skills.  It’s not always easy to do this on your own, and the help my mentor provided was fantastic.  I know that I can fall back on her for advice if needed.”, says Geraldine Hyland, Manager, Member Services at the Canadian Library Association.

About the Mentorship Program

The Ottawa-Gatineau Chapter of CSAE conducts assessments during the summer months, and then matches the pairings in September.  From September-May; it is up to the mentor/mentee pairings to set up a schedule to meet, chat, etc.  The Chapter volunteers circle back in January to check in and ensure that everyone is going OK.  Our “official” involvement ends in May; and it is up to the pairings if they want to continue or not.

“My match and I have been at this for over 1.5 years; and it doesn’t show signs of stopping yet”; said Sangita Kamblé.

“I do not run in the same circles as my match.” said Geraldine Hyland. “I doubt we would have come across each other in an in-depth way as we have through this program.”

Another anonymous participant said, “We are still in touch monthly.  It is largely in part of both of us recognizing that you have to put an effort into it to get anything out of it.  We are both interested in keeping it going.”

“Members should really be taking full-advantage of this program – there is a wealth of knowledge available to you as a result – on both sides.”, says Duncan Grant.

Interested in participating in the program?  Contact the Chapter Executive for further details.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net