Feeling lost in your career? Find a mentor!

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Mentorship is one of the best ways for newcomers to learn how to chart the course of their careers in a new country. It provides a unique opportunity to gain knowledge about your profession from someone with firsthand experience. The following video features notable Canadians discussing the value of a mentor (especially for young people):

What is a mentor?

Simply put, a mentor is a guide or teacher who shares his/her experiences to help a mentee who is just starting out in the same career. Industry professionals who mentor can offer help on anything from formulating your career plan to practical advice on a host of job situations that are relevant to you. Mentorship requires relationship-building. In her study, Dr. Sharon Strauss, researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital (Toronto, Ontario), listed down five key ingredients necessary for a successful mentoring relationship: reciprocity, mutual respect, clear expectations, personal connections and shared values. (To know more about Dr. Strauss’s study, go to the Science Daily article “What makes a good mentor and mentee?”).

Mentoring can be formal or informal. Formal is when you participate in a program where you meet with your mentor regularly, based on a set schedule and duration. Meetings for informal mentoring relationships happen only when needed and the length of time varies. You can agree to meet with your mentor face-to-face, by email, phone, video conferencing or text chat. But whatever style or method of meeting, make sure that your objectives and goals, as well as your questions are prepared.

How to find a mentor:

  1. Explore mentoring programs in Manitoba (see Community Resources below);
  2. Seek out a mentor directly by writing, or emailing the professional. Make sure that you introduce yourself first and explain your request completely and politely.
  3. Ask a mutual friend or acquaintance for a referral. Having someone in your network introduce you to a willing mentor is a valuable asset and is less daunting than making a cold call.

You can read “How do I ask someone to be my mentor?” by Alan Henry (Ask Lifehacker) to know the steps in choosing a mentor and how to ask them the proper way.

Benefits of having a mentor:

Aside from gaining essential knowledge in your field, mentoring relationships also provide motivation. Good mentors not only brief you on the technical aspects of your work, but can share wisdom that can inspire you to succeed, just like they did.

Generous mentors can also open doors to many opportunities for you and can get you connected with the best people to further your career. However, don’t expect, or worse, ask, for professional favors or connections from your mentor. Remember that your main objective is learning from their expertise, not taking advantage of their kindness. Always keep in mind that respect is the most important ingredient in a mentoring relationship.

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Community Resources

Mentorship programs in Manitoba:
English Online’s Career E-Mentor Program will help you start your career from scratch in Manitoba. It is particularly helpful for those in the regulated professions.

The Winnipeg Connector Program is mainly a networking initiative but you might find your career mentor here. Learn more about it: Want to start your professional network? Join the Connector Program.

If you’re a young person interested in becoming an entrepreneur, learn about the YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg’s program: Are you are business-minded young person? Learn business 101 at the Y. You’ll learn the basics of putting up a business and get advice from successful Manitoban entrepreneurs.

University of Manitoba’s Career Mentor Program is designed to help students explore their options.

ACI Manitoba provides various programs for the youth to be exposed to careers in art and culture.

Want to work in the music industry? Manitoba Music offers a Youth Mentorship program in music management, marketing, and promotion (for ages 16-21).

Students of the University of Manitoba have the opportunity to join the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies of Manitoba’s mentorship program for monthly interactions with seasoned mentors.

The Manitoba Marketing Network Business Mentoring Program provides guidance for entrepreneurs on the many facets of business.

The Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program is offered by the Manitoba Writers’ Guild for emerging literary writers.

The Manitoba government has a host of internship programs particularly for those interested in civil service.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Winnipeg has various mentoring programs for individuals or families on various aspects on life.

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