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How to use Mentorship to Grow a Great Career

Mentorship is an undervalued tool that can fast-track your personal development.

You might have already observed the benefits of mentorship in your own life. Have you had a teacher or coach who helped you along? Perhaps a co-worker or manager who as guided you along as you started your new career? If you said yes to either of these questions then you know having guidance in your life can increase your confidence and provide clarity to your future goals.

Mentorship can come in many forms so that’s why CareersNow! is here to break down the basics so you can decide if it’s right for you.

What is a mentorship?

Mentorship is a relationship featuring a more experienced person providing guidance and support to a less experienced person. The experienced person, who acts as a trusted advisor and a source of expertise is called the mentor, and the less experienced person, who receives the advice, training or counselling from the mentor is called the mentee.

What are the benefits of mentorship?

Mentorship benefits both the mentee and mentor. As mentee, the benefits you will experience are:

  • a broader perspective of the career options available in a given industry
  • guidance to identify and achieve career goals
  • a greater awareness of your skill blind spots and places where you can improve
  • increased knowledge and understanding of your industry
  • increased confidence
  • developed mentoring/coaching skills
  • a safe space where you can have confidential sounding board for ideas and challenges
  • insights into your mentor’s mistakes so you can make the right decisions the first time

What types of mentorship options are there?

What mentorship looks like varies from person to person based on whether you are part of a formalized mentorship program, the methods of communication and the number of participants involved. Overall mentorship can be divided into formal and formal mentorship.

Informal mentorship is when finding a mentor is not structured or formally arranged. A naturally developed relationship such as those with friends, family members and colleagues can be considered informal. In these cases, the participants may talk informally with no explicit goal intended by the relationship however through ongoing conversations the participants experience personal growth.

In contrast, formal mentorship occurs when there are more methodical approaches and structured techniques that allow for goals to be measured and attained with a clear, concise path. For example, through an organization, you are paired with a mentor with the goal of improving your presentation skills. Your mentor will coach you through the process and help you get better at presenting.

What is the difference between individual and group mentorship?

1. One to one mentoring

This traditional method of mentoring happens when a mentee and mentor are matched, either through a program or on their own. Between the two a relationship is developed where the mentor can directly share knowledge and offer developmental advice that helps the mentee achieve theirs. The mentoring relationship has structure and a timeframe as established by a formal mentorship program or by the individuals themselves.

The two participants can choose what method works best for them based on the party’s schedules. They may choose to talk over the phone, virtually or in person. Typically mentorship sessions are 30-60 minutes meetings once a month but this may vary depending on the participants’ agreement.

2. Group mentoring

If time is a concern then another common practice is group mentoring. Group mentorship occurs when a single mentor (or multiple) is matched with a cohort of mentees. The initial program structure is provided while allowing the mentor to direct progress, pace and activities.

CareersNow! mentorship series demonstrates this type of mentoring style through our mentorship series. If you are a college or university student planning your career in the food and beverage manufacturing industry then join us for one, or all, of our virtual career mentorship sessions and meet with leading professionals to get great career advice and learn about exciting career pathways!

Missed a session?

Don’t worry you can still check out the session through our recorded sessions being shared on YouTube.

How do you find/choose a mentor?

You made the decision that you want to try mentorship but are not sure how to get started? The first step is knowing what you want out of the relationship before you approach potential mentors. Once you have decided that you can ask a trade organization whether they can help you choose a mentoring partner. Alternatively, you can take the initiative and approach a potential mentoring partner directly. You can find potential candidates:

  • Former and current supervisors
  • Leaders in your field
  • School/program alumni
  • LinkedIn
  • Mentoring programs
  • Leader in your company/institution
  • An experienced colleague in a different department

Keep in mind when you are choosing a mentor you should be looking for someone with shared values as you in terms of work-life balance and ethics. You wouldn’t want your mentor guiding you in a direction that doesn’t match what you want as a person and the values that you hold.

How to get the most out of one-on-one mentorship

Here are a few tips to get the most out of your one-on-one mentorship sessions.

The key to mentorship is that both you and your mentor know why exactly you are participating and what you hope to gain from the program. As a mentee, it’s your job to be prepared so you can get more out of the relationship.

1. Drive the relationship

As a mentee, it’s your responsibility to take ownership of your learning and development. After all, the mentorship is primarily directed for your benefit so you should be the one taking the lead. Ensure that you connect with your mentor regularly and agree to set a minimum number of hours per month to meet with your mentor and make sure you and your mentor keep to them. Be proactive in requesting feedback!

2. Be prepared

Prepare for your meetings that time is used effectively. Try writing down what you would like to talk about prior to a meeting. Establish with your mentor explicit goals and objectives for the relationship. If you don’t know what these goals are (like identifying what career you would like) that in itself should be the goal. Be prepared to be challenged and talk about your challenges.

3. Be open and comfortable to feed

Throughout your mentorship, you will be receiving feedback from your mentor. Read and listen to your mentor’s comments carefully and be open to different perspectives. Keep an accurate record of your development and process and you might forget things during your session. The goal is to work on your personal development this can only be performed if you provide accurate information.

4. Build trust

Maintain strict confidentiality when it comes to your mentor. It is also your job to be open with your feelings. Remember you can’t grow unless you are open and trust your mentor. Don’t be afraid to ask and bring up topics no matter how big or small because if they are on your mind then that means it is affecting you. 

Where do you find formal mentorship programs in the food industry?

Finding a mentorship program that works for you will depend on your interests and your career goal. A good place to begin looking for formal mentorship is trade associations. Typically, they will require you to be a member first however many offer discounts for students. Here is a list of places to get you started:

Sign up for a CareersNOW! Mentorship Session

Want to learn more about what a career in the food and beverage manufacturing industry could look like for you?  

Sign up for one of CareersNOW!’s upcoming career mentorship sessions! Whether you’re a college or university student planning your career in the industry or just starting to think about your future, these mentorship sessions will help you the chance to virtually meet with leading professionals to get great career advice and learn about exciting career pathways.   

The next mentorship session takes place on December 7, 2021. Sign up here.

Get ready for your future in food!

Over the next several months, Food and Beverage Ontario will be providing free career mentorship and virtual career fairs through our partners, FoodGrads and Food Processing Skills Canada. Tell us you’re interested by filling in the form.

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