Getting the most out of mentorship


Feeling unsure of yourself as you enter the workforce? Getting support and advice from a mentor can be extremely helpful.

Before embarking on his odyssey, Ulysses, the celebrated figure from Greek mythology, entrusted his friend Mentor with his son’s education. And talk about a tall order: Ulysses expected his son would get the guidance he needed to become king, no less! In fact, a mentor’s role is “to be a source of inspiration and role model,” explains Charlotte Morneau, general manager at Consultations Morneau, a career management company.

Christine Cuerrier, who works as a career counsellor at the Montreal campus of the Université du Québec, puts it this way, “Mentorship is a relationship between two professionals: one with a lot of experience and one with less. It’s a way for new workers to learn about the right way to act and react in a given profession.”

In other words, mentors aren’t there to tell you how to write your reports, but rather to make suggestions about how to establish good professional relationships.

Finding a mentor

Some organizations establish mentorship programs to help new employees integrate. This involves teaming up the novice worker with more experienced staff.

“As an engineer who is just starting out, you could have a communications specialist as a mentor,” states Morneau. “Even though you and your coach have different areas of expertise, you can still discuss issues such as defining your role in the team or identifying the company’s strategic goals.”

If you work for a company that doesn’t have a mentorship program, you can always find one on your own. Look for someone who inspires you and with whom you have a lot in common. It could be someone who is still in the workforce or a retiree.

“People starting their own business may want to ask a businessman they know for advice,” suggests Cuerrier.

Learn from their experience

“In order for the exchange to work well, the teacher and student have to trust each other,” adds Cuerrier.

Regular meetings, at least once every three weeks, are an excellent way of developing an alliance quickly. And the expectations have to be established right away.

“It’s important to have a mutual agreement about confidentiality and intellectual property,” says Cuerrier. “We’ve heard horror stories about entrepreneurs stealing business ideas from their advisors.”

To prevent unpleasant surprises, make sure your mentor is trustworthy by talking to people they work with.