Here is why you should have a mentor: insights from Canada’s most influential women
Many of our amazing The Honest Talk podcast guests — ambassadors, business leaders, and sports stars — emphasize the role mentors have played in their personal and professional lives and growth. In doing so, they serve as examples of how mentorship can help women at all levels succeed in their careers.
Benefits of Having a Mentor
World champion curler Lisa Weagle, who also will be Chef de Mission at the 2024 Winter Youth Olympic Games, believes “your support system is important — family, partner, but also mentors, and networks, and women supporting other women.”
There are plenty of roles a mentor can serve, with just a few including:
- Subject matter expert – offering industry knowledge, experience, and wisdom.
- Career guru – providing guidance on career growth and options.
- Educational advisor – giving recommendations on skill and competency development.
- Bridge-builder – expanding your network and making connections.
- Horizon-widener – broadening your viewpoint and challenging assumptions.
- Cheerleader – keeping you on track and moving forward.
- No-judgment listener – providing a safe space when things get tough.
We’re pleased to share the following thoughts from our inspiring podcast guests offering a deeper perspective on the benefits of mentorship.
Guidance and Wisdom
Mentors provide invaluable insights and advice based on their experiences, helping mentees navigate challenges effectively.
Indira Samarasekera and Martha Piper, the first and, so far, only female presidents of two of Canada’s largest and most respected research universities, the University of British Columbia and the University of Alberta, believe that people need a support system consisting of some combination of family, friends, mentors, and sponsors.
You can think of a sponsor as a mentor on overdrive — somebody who not only offers support and wisdom but who will actively promote and advocate for you. Indira Samarasekera and Martha Piper speak to the power of sponsors to move you forward, and they recommend watching for, and cultivating relationships with potential sponsors.
Mentors offer support and encouragement, empowering women to believe in themselves and embrace new opportunities.
When one of our guests, retired RBC Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Tory, was promoted to head of the largest business at RBC, her mentor said to her: “You’re thinking about all the things you don’t know instead of all the things you’re bringing to the job.” Jennifer told us that those words helped her reset her approach to settling into the job.
Mentors provide guidance on overcoming unique obstacles and sharing strategies for success based on their own journeys.
Jennifer, as one of Canada’s most influential women, spent a lot of time mentoring women and helping them build confidence.
I think that’s the piece that we really have to work on, is how do we encourage women to take the risk.Jennifer Tory
As Jennifer notes, it’s important to take calculated risks — it’s the calculating that can be a challenge! Knowing if a risk is the right one to take requires:
- Evaluation: Assessing potential positive and negative outcomes and weighing them out.
- Information and analysis: Gathering relevant information, conducting research, and analyzing available data to make an informed judgment.
- Realistic assessment: Understanding your capabilities, resources, and limitations.
- Active decision-making: Applying careful consideration and reasoning to the available information and your own goals.
A mentor is a great sounding board to help you with this process.
Mentors bring extensive networks, connecting women to valuable collaborations and opening doors to fresh possibilities.
Networking and mentorship go hand-in-hand. A strong network helps you expand your opportunities, gain knowledge, build relationships, receive support, find opportunities for collaboration, understand and embrace diversity, and find a sense of community. Much like connecting with a good mentor, building a wide network will help with career advancement, personal growth, and navigating the dynamic landscape of both professional and personal life.
And for those who find networking draining and overwhelming, all the more reason to seek out a mentor willing to share their connections — it’s like pressing the networking “easy” button!
Mentors assist in identifying areas for improvement, honing strengths, and accessing relevant training and development programs.
It’s often difficult to identify the appropriate next steps — should you be applying for a full executive MBA program, or registering for a night class at your local school board?
A mentor can provide informed, objective input to help you make these decisions. They understand your industry, know your strengths and weaknesses, and are aware of your personal circumstances and your budget.
By taking all these things into account, a mentor can help you set skill development goals that are right for you — if self-confidence is an issue, they can encourage you to stretch yourself or they can advise you against committing time and money to an unnecessarily costly or lengthy program.
By leveraging the wisdom, support, and encouragement of mentors, women can unlock their true leadership potential and overcome barriers to success.
How to find a dream mentor: tips from The Honest Talk
Define your goals. What are your short-term and long-term goals? Once you have a clear understanding of your objectives, you can look for a mentor with experience and expertise in that area.
Networking is an excellent way to meet potential mentors. Attend conferences, seminars, and industry events. Join professional organizations and clubs related to your field of interest. Be active in your community and build connections.
Your workplace is a great place to find a mentor. Look for senior colleagues with experience and knowledge you can learn from. If your company has a mentorship program, take advantage of it.
Ask people you trust for recommendations. Talk to friends, family members, and colleagues who have mentors. Ask them to introduce you to their mentors or to suggest someone who can help you.
Don’t wait for a mentor to come to you. Reach out to potential mentors and ask for their guidance. Send an email or LinkedIn message introducing yourself and expressing your interest in their work.
Search for mentorship programs. There are lots of them: for immigrants, for women, for women of colour, for entrepreneurs, etc. These programs might match you with an ideal mentor who understands your challenges firsthand.
Here are some mentorship programs for women in Canada you might want to look at:
- The Prosperity Project offers a mentorship program for women.
- Canadian Women’s Foundation has an Empowering Girls initiative.
- Monday Girl offers members-only mentorship for professional women.
- Women in Leadership Foundation helps women to find a mentor for professional growth.
- Mentorship Program for Women Coaches by the Coaching Association of Canada.
- Women in Governance offers a mentorship program for executive and professional women in Canada.
We would love to add more programs to this list. Let us know!
Mentors act as catalysts for change, empowering women to embrace risks, challenge societal norms, and unleash their true leadership potential. So, whether you are a seasoned professional seeking new heights or a woman embarking on a transformative journey, remember that mentorship can be the missing piece to your success. Embrace the power of mentorship and unlock your true potential as a leader.