Starting your mentoring journey as a mentee is an exciting and rewarding experience. It can also be challenging as you navigate a mentorship program for the first time. There are also new factors as we continue to experience and navigate the impacts of COVID-19 and remote virtual working.

Within the credit union system we’re fortunate to have the National Mentorship Program provided by CCUA. The program runs from April to November annually, and I would encourage you to review the program here. There is an information session available March 10th at 2pm to learn more about this years program.

Participating in the program last year was incredibly valuable and fulfilling for myself! Here are 5 tips to get the most out of your mentorship journey:

  1. Find a mentor – The first step in finding a mentor is clearly defining what your career goals are. At the beginning, the relationship should be driven by the mentee, and clearly defining your career goals provides a framework in finding a mentor with the skillset/expertise/experience that will be most beneficial. The National Mentorship Program provides a tool to outline the specific skillsets you’re looking to improve and will match you with mentor(s) that best fit.
  2. Define the relationship – There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to mentoring relationships. Mentorship can be formal or informal. Formal mentorship relationships are more structured with specific goals and defined timelines. This type of mentorship is generally the most efficient and effective, specifically in the short-term. Informal mentorship relationships will be generally looser in the sense that they can be ongoing for long periods of time with less structure. Although less structured, this type of relationship can be a great way to gain ongoing professional advice in a less intensive environment.
  3. Be proactive – as the mentee you’re in the driver seat. You’ve defined your goals, found a match and are preparing for your meetings. It’s important as the mentee to respect your time with your mentor. Seek advice and have an agenda, especially in the initial meetings. As the relationship develops it can become less formal over time – and the mentor becomes more of a sounding board at crucial points in your career. Remaining open to feedback and advice is important.
  4. Mentor/mentee relationships are a two-way street – As a mentee you have a unique perspective, and you can add value to the relationship by sharing your experiences, or interesting information (articles, industry trends or social media trends) with your mentor. Be open to sharing knowledge, these relationships are most beneficial when there is strong two-way conversation.
  5. Relationships can continue after the program – Getting back to the formal vs informal mentorship styles – while the mentorship program might have a specified timeline, if you build a strong connection it can be long-term and beneficial for both the mentor and mentee. By building a strong connection, setting boundaries and being proactive it can lead to building a network of mentors to connect with when seeking advice or even a long-time friendship.

Mentorship programs are a great way to learn from experienced leaders, build relationships and achieve your career goals. As you grow and develop, remember to pass it on by becoming a mentor yourself or sharing the knowledge you’ve gained through the experience.