There comes a time in our lives when we turn to the people we trust most for support. According to John C. Maxwell, “A mentor is someone who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. The best way a mentor can prepare another leader is to expose him or her to other great people.” What are the defining characteristics of a quality mentor? What comes to mind? For me, it’s someone wise, knowledgeable, relational and attentive.
Mentorship is a relationship between two people, where an individual with extensive knowledge, experience or connections guides the other in a certain area of expertise. For many of us, this year has been a year of doubt, frustration and uncertainty. Add to that the ever-changing social restrictions, and you’ll see why seeking out professional mentorship has become more challenging than before. My advice is to give yourself permission to acknowledge the loss and the uncertainty of these present circumstances and be willing to move forward by identifying your goals. Look for new ways to grow and ways to challenge the status quo.
If finding a mentor is one of those goals, you can start by answering these questions:
- Who do I look up to?
- Who can I trust?
- What do I want to get out of this relationship?
- What are my strengths and weakness?
After reflecting on these, you can look through your existing networks and make a list of people who work in your desired field of expertise. Talk to your friends and extended family members, and look through the social platforms you’re part of. If you can’t find the person you want to connect with within those spheres, consider joining professional webinars and other workshops. You can look at this post for more information on building your network.
The best way to start a professional mentorship is to invite the person for a casual informational interview. Prepare a list of questions you want to ask and make sure you don’t overstay your welcome. If this initial meeting was valuable for you, follow up right away to show you’re serious about learning. At that point you may want to ask if they’re willing to meet with you again. Let the process flow naturally. It may start slowly, but even if the person is only able to commit to one or two meetings, you’ll still learn a great deal from the experience, and it’ll make it easier to approach the next person!
Below is Anthony’s story. He is a previous OFE participant who was struggling to find employment during COVID 19.
I arrived in Canada from Nigeria in September 2019. I came excited and optimistic about starting a new life, settling in, meeting new people and trying new things. It didn’t take long for my enthusiasm to get dampened by an uphill battle of job-seeking – months of enduring numerous rejections and searching for the ever-elusive hidden job market. Determined not to give up, I continued to apply despite the pandemic starting. There was an unprecedented rise in job losses and many of my interviews were cancelled as the pool of “better qualified” candidates grew. After weeks of being in lockdown, I was beginning to lose hope.
My friend posted an OFE ad on Instagram and I decided to give it a go. I registered and participated in amazing workshops that eventually found me employment. I am currently 6 months into the job and it has been an amazing journey and experience so far. One major takeaway was the personal experiences of my facilitators Dylan Soriano and Lisandra Lopez. Through their stories, I discovered things I had been doing wrong despite having the right intentions. With their guidance, I learned and unlearned things to not only get a job but to also keep it.
In the simplest way, I would say professional mentorship has equipped me with the tools and knowledge to navigate through various challenges. The guidance and information from mentors played a major role in getting me to this point. They showed me which paths would fit me best and highlighted mistakes I should avoid. It makes a lot of sense to seek advice from people who are in the positions you want to attain. It gives you a chance to walk in their shoes without necessarily having to make as many stops along the way. In most cases, the knowledge and insight you gain from their journey can inspire you to step outside of your comfort zone. The road less travelled can be greatly rewarding if no one tells you.
If I could give future job-seekers advice, it would be: don’t give up! Despite what you hear in the news there is a job for you out there and people are still getting hired. Businesses are adapting and new positions are opening up, so there is still hope. If anything, the playing field has been levelled. Focus on developing yourself as an individual. Stay diligent in your pursuit for a better tomorrow and don’t forget to work on your SOFT SKILLS. One thing that has been rewarding during my time here is how far your attitude can take you. Having a good attitude can potentially find you employment. Lastly, I know some days might feel gloomy but I want you to know that it is okay to take a break. However, don’t sit for too long. Tighten up those laces and keep running until you get what you want.
-Anthony Areh (previous OFE participant)
Like Anthony, I also struggled to find employment as a young graduate. I struggled with the stress and fear of unemployment. It was then I met my mentor, Paulo Mesquita. Paulo was a former Employment Services Advisor. I met him while volunteering at OFE. It was unknowingly a blessing in disguise. He saw something in me that I struggled to see in myself. He invested his time and knowledge in my development as a job seeker, and he was the one who decided to review my resume for a position I thought I was underqualified for. As a result, I gained the confidence to apply! Now that I’m an Employment Services Advisor myself, I try to find new ways to mentor other job seekers. The power of mentorship is that it produces a future of opportunities and hope for a better tomorrow.
May you all continue to thrive and live your lives to the fullest!
– Paulo Mesquita, my mentor
Author: Miracle Fayokun, Employment Services Advisor
COVID-19 and unemployment: How to cope. (2020, May 19). Retrieved November 20, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coping-with-unemployment/art-20485976
Johansson, A. (2017, May 11). Looking for a Mentor? The 7 Best Places to Start. Retrieved December 04, 2020, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/294093
MENTOR: Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved December 08, 2020, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/mentor
Sastry, A., & Tagle, A. (2020, September 03). The Right Mentor Can Change Your Career. Here’s How to Find One. Retrieved November 20, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2019/10/25/773158390/how-to-find-a-mentor-and-make-it-work
Why mentorship is important to building your career. (2020, May 11). Retrieved November 20, 2020, from https://www.fullyprepped.ca/blog/networking/why-mentorship-is-important-to-building-your-career/