Woman speaking with her mentor

Tips to develop an effective mentoring relationship

Being new in a job, organization or career can be daunting for a novice. But finding the right mentor can help open doors, smooth rough patches, and provide advice and insight to success.

Here are some pieces of advice on mentorship from Foresters Financial employees:

How can you find a good mentor?

Simina: Find a mentor that is not your manager or in your up line. It is best to find a mentor within a similar line of work. Furthermore, if the mentee / mentor relationship is not formal, there is a higher chance that it will diffuse a lot quicker and you may not get what you expect out of it.

David: You can find a good mentor by seeking out someone who is not only willing to help guide you on your chosen path, but by focusing on those who may be aligned with your focus in regards to your business area.

Greg: Look for someone who has experience, but is approachable.

Pirkko: [Look for] someone who is a good, thoughtful communicator [and] who is willing to take the time to help you. Many professionals are grateful for the development help they’ve received and are happy to help someone looking for advice.

Jade: Finding a good mentor means looking at the people around you or in a network that possesses the qualities, skills or career you would like to see for yourself in the future. Barbara: Find someone who has skills you want to develop or is in a job that you are interested in learning more about.

Kevin: Use face-to-face networking opportunities to ask questions that can lead to finding your mentor while growing your professional network.

What can you expect from a mentor?

Simina: A mentor is there to guide you, however it is a two-way relationship. Start the relationship with giving your mentor your development plan and a list of what your career aspirations are. Once your mentor has those, they can better guide the conversation and help you develop in those particular areas.

David: You should expect someone who will be in your corner to provide guidance, insights and encouragement. You should also expect this person to allow you to experience the good and the bad as a means of preparation for what’s to come. Remember to be open to constructive criticism.

Greg: They should be able to give you the advice, guidance and encouragement to help you achieve your goals.

Pirkko: Expect solid guidance and experienced advice.

Jade: A mentor should be bold and transparent with you – if you’re in the right path, they’ll let you know; if you need to pull up your socks, they won’t be afraid to tell you. Regardless, they will guide you through your career and motivate you to be a better person.

Barbara: Sharing experience and knowledge, guidance on making choices, setting goals and overcoming obstacles and challenges.

Kevin: You should expect your mentor to listen carefully, ask questions, and provide unbiased support.

What are some questions you could ask a mentor?

Simina: What were some of the challenges you faced when you were in a position similar to mine? What did you do to overcome them?

David: What advice would you give me if I decided to switch gears and pursue something different?

Greg: What is the best way to make a good impression with management?

Pirkko: Always ask for honest feedback and don’t be afraid to speak up honestly. Your conversations with your mentor should be candid. Don’t be afraid to ask a question. Let them see your strengths and areas to improve. Get input on those areas and discuss where you can improve to develop your career.

Jade: What do you believe is the biggest challenge in my industry?

Barbara: Are there any blind spots I need to work on? How could I communicate more clearly?

Kevin: Any questions that align with your overall career goals are appropriate questions to ask. Some of the more common questions are skills based or situational. For instance, if you’re looking to improve leadership skills you might ask about tips on becoming a better influencer’. Or if you’re faced with a particular challenge at work, you might ask your mentor how they would deal with it.


Why is having a mentor important?

Simina: A mentor is there to provide you with a different type of insight. They’re also there to help you solve professional challenges.

David: [Having a mentor] will alleviate a lot of confusion and uncertainty as the mentee attempts to follow their dreams.

Greg: Having someone in your corner who knows the pitfalls is extremely important. It can help speed up your path to your career goals.

Pirkko: Having someone who knows your abilities and professional character well is also an advantage in a world of networking professionals. Sometimes a mentor will be able to put in a good word for you or advise you of potential growth opportunities of which you were unaware but may be just the right fit for you.

Jade: Mentors will help you look at situations from a holistic approach. They are such a critical part of our career path because they help us grow and improve outside of our workplace.

Barbara: They can see areas we need to improve that we may not see ourselves, share information and knowledge, [and]provide support and encouragement.

Kevin: Mentors can act as sounding boards for ideas offering valuable opinions. And mentors can open doors and make introductions that lead to future opportunities.


How can you be a good mentee?

Simina: Take ownership of the relationship. Remember that you enter this relationship as an agreement. Stick to the ground rules both of you have established and when given a task by your mentor, make sure you make time to complete it. Remember to not take this relationship lightly, as your mentor can choose to dissolve it at any time.

David: Have an open mind and realize that although some of the information passed along by the mentor may seem tough at times, the end goal is to make the mentee stronger in order to succeed in the long run.

Greg: Be thankful, respect their time, always ask questions and be open to feedback, even if it’s something you don’t want to hear.

Pirkko: Listen and take your mentor’s advice…and accept the challenge! A great idea is to set up regular meetings with them where you can comfortably talk in a scheduled time slot.

Jade: To be a good mentee, I would recommend to always ask questions and reflect on situations before going to your mentor with an issue. Show them you’re committed to learning by taking their advice and bringing it to life!

Barbara: Be respectful of their time. Take responsibility for your own development. Build trust, keep an open mind and try to have fun.

Kevin: Curiosity is a great trait for any mentee. Ask a lot of questions, but also be open and receptive to all feedback your mentor provides.


Mentors that were interviewed:

Simina Bonner, Learning Specialist

David Hutchison, Regional Vice President of Sales, Southwestern Ontaro

Greg Hubert, Corporate Marketing Specialist

Pirkko Saari, Brand Development Specialist

Jade Towle, Manager, Marketing Communications

Barbara Beau, Assistant Vice President, Enterprise Compliance

Kevin Gaynor, Digital Marketing Manager


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Sanaya Bhatia

Sanaya is obtaining her education from the University of Toronto in Book & Media studies, English and Digital Humanities. She will graduate in June of 2019. Sanaya enjoys to write about different consumer markets, has a keen eye for detail and is based in Toronto, Ontario.