Mentoring and why it’s important

Mentoring and Why It's Important
By: Jen Schaeffers, Founder NetworkinginVan

I've had a lot of people asked me in the last year how mentoring has benefited me. This is a hard question to answer – and an answer that might require dozens of blog posts on all the different things I have gained from these relationships.

It all depends on how you define “mentorship”. If you google the word, you'll find a dozen different definitions and meanings but most of them focus on the fact that it is a personal development relationship.

To me mentorship is about listening, being understanding, helping, guiding, providing advice when the time calls for it and putting your full support behind the person you are mentoring. There are informal and formal mentor relationships. I have been both a mentee and a mentor in both informal and formal relationships. I was a mentee in the Women's Executive Network Top 100 Mentorship Program, in which I took over 20 hours of classroom work through the Beedie School of Business. During this time I had 15 other women to learn alongside with, took a lot of time for self reflection and gained a solid understanding of what my core strengths were. I was also matched with a phenomenal mentor and was lucky enough to benefit from many one-on-one sessions with her where we discussed my career path and goals.

Over the last six months, I have acted as a mentor to a young woman starting her career through the Vancouver Board of Trade Leaders of Tomorrow program. I have really enjoyed being on the other side of the relationship, and feel that over the last ten years while growing my career, I can now be in the position to give back.

In addition to that I have sought out both men and women as mentors and have certainly met with a ton of younger people starting their careers to provide advice and recommendations. I don't think I ever explicitly asked a mentor if they would be my mentor. Our relationship just kind of evolved that way – over series of breakfast meetings, tea dates etc. It came to a point where it was almost implied and I still continue many of these informal mentor relationships.

Vancouver has some excellent formal mentorship programs that you can participate in – from both the mentee and mentor side. We have a great list here. If there are some we are missing, please let us know! I definitely encourage you to look into some of these.

It's just as easy to ask an internal colleague or someone you respect from afar to meet for coffee or lunch. I really don't think it matters what stage you are in your career, one can always do with a mentor. I personally love the stories Peter Legge has told about his mentor relationship with Joe Segal. He even wrote a book about it – called “The Runway of Life”.

Vancouver is full of wonderful mentors. NetworkinginVan is running a profile series right now on “Men Who Mentor” and in April we recognized many women who are difference makers in this city and are supporting both men and women in their careers.

We'd love your comments about how you have benefited from either being a mentee or a mentor.

Follow me on Twitter @jenu2

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