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Employment Advice Column Helpful Tips for Working with a Mentor

Dear Joanna

I am matched with a Mentor who is working in my dream job – as an administrative assistant. This mentor understands my disabilities and accommodations. I would like to learn as much as possible from him. Do you have any tips as to how I can have a meaningful and successful mentoring relationship?

Signed: My Mentor (MM)

drawing of a person thinking about their career

Dear My,

I’m impressed that you know how to ask for help and want to learn from others. Mentors can offer support and encouragement, as well as introduce you to new people and employment related events. In addition to career advice, you can develop a new skill too. Here are some suggestions on how to engage in a successful mentoring partnership based on my experiences as a mentor and mentee, as well as from Denyse Ramjit, Manager of the Peer Mentoring program for persons with disabilities at Job Start:

1. Prepare. If you have a clear career or employment goal, that would be the best. But don’t worry if you don’t. The mentor can help you figure out a realistic one with an action employment/career plan. Prepare a list of questions to discuss at your meeting with the mentor (hopefully it’s in person). Consider emailing the list or even an agenda to your mentor in advance. Bring your resume, a pen, a pad of paper, and a few job postings of roles that you are interested in. If you don’t have a clear career goal, bring a list of your passions, interests, strengths and hobbies. The more the mentor knows you, the better he or she can help you achieve your learning goals.

2. Have clear learning goals. Make sure that both of you are clear about your learning goals and that you have realistic expectations in this relationship. Write it out and review them with your mentor. Remember – a mentor is not expected to get you a job offer or an interview or solve all your problems. Understanding workplace culture, self-marketing ideas, accreditations, establishing professional networks, identifying employment opportunities and setting job search strategies are some of the areas that can be explored in your discussions. Throughout the relationship, check-in to make sure that your goals are being met and that you and your mentor are on the same page.

3. Clear communication: Working with your mentor is a professional relationship. Decide at the beginning of the relationship how your mentor would like to communicate. Some mentors prefer emails; some prefer in person meetings; and some prefer the telephone. Establish a mutually beneficial timeline that works for both of you and will ensure that you maximize your time together. If you have to cancel a meeting, make sure you notify your mentor in advance. Be accommodating to your mentor’s schedule as well.

4. Stay positive and open to feedback: Listen carefully to your mentor’s advice and suggestions. Be flexible and open to his constructive feedback. It’s a unique opportunity to learn from someone who is experienced and professional and working

in your field. Be a lifelong learner. Take the suggestions of the mentor and test the waters. Try out the new ideas in the labour market. Show the mentor that you have initiative and welcome his opinions and feedback. This relationship offers both mentor and mentee to develop leadership, coaching and communication skills, as well as learn about the recent trends in their profession and labor market, and from the mentees’ experiences with their job search.

5. Be thankful. Anyone who is willing to volunteer to offer guidance, advice and time is going to expect something in return. Don’t forget to show your appreciation each time you communicate with your mentor. Gratitude and loyalty goes a long way. Maintain a professional demeanor (advance notice when cancelling, following instructions as to how the mentor likes to communicate, effective listening, to name a few) is critical as is saying thank you.

5. DO NOT ASK FOR A JOB. The purpose of this relationship is to help the mentee become more effective in their job search, and to reconnect with their profession in Canada. Mentors are volunteers. It is not their responsibility to find a job; nor are they expected to do so. It’s a learning and networking opportunity. It’s a professional relationship that offers you guidance, coaching and assistance with your efforts to build your career in your field. Hopefully you can take all this new information and insights and apply it to your job search. Eventually this knowledge will help you get a job in the long run.

6. Check in with your mentor. Your mentoring coach will conduct a monthly check-in by phone or email to review the progress of your partnership. Keep your mentoring coach updated as to your activities. If you have any concerns, or questions, consult with your coach to problem solve. Sometimes, the relationship isn’t a good fit. It’s important to discuss this with your mentoring coach to avoid potential and unnecessary conflicts.

I wish you lots of success with your mentor and I know you will learn a tremendous amount which you will be able to apply to your job search and building a successful career in Canada in your field.

Signed: Joanna

To submit your questions for this column IN CONFIDENCE, please email jsamuels@reena.org

About Joanna Samuels

Joanna Samuels, B.Ed (in adult education), M.Ed, CMF, RRP, is an employment resource supervisor at www.reena.org. She has over 12 years of frontline experience in providing supported and customized employment/career coaching, job development, and workshop facilitation to unemployed and underemployed job seekers from diverse communities and fields who are individuals with disabilities and multi-barriers. She also helps employers with building an inclusive workforce through innovative recruitment programs, as well as offers “train the trainer” courses. Also, Joanna is a certified Life Skills Coach, and certified Personality Dimensions Facilitator. She is a published author, and employment advice columnist as well as a guest speaker on issues related to employment and careers at conferences and podcasts as well as being featured on Kelly & Company, http://www.ami.ca/category/kelly-and-company and https://newcanadians.tv/about-us/