Mentorship. It can be an intimidating word for some and it evokes a pile of questions for many. What is a mentor? Do I need a mentor? How do I find a mentor? Can I be a mentor? What do I ask a mentor?
It was some of these questions the Ag Women’s Network sought to answer and hopefully also bring some clarity too at the recent speed-mentoring event.
“I do think the word, ‘mentor’ is intimidating to some people,” said Mary Ann Dore, one of the AWN Leadership Team members and organizers of the event. “People may feel they are too old for a mentor or too young to be a mentor. In reality, anyone can be a mentor or be mentored.”
Indeed, mentorship is often cited by leaders as one of the most important assets they had in their career. Mentorship was also identified by the Canadian Agricultural HR Council (CAHRC) recently as a means to prepare more women to enter leadership positions.
Mentorship itself can also take on many different forms. Katie Cheesmond, Director of Business Development at RLB, opened the evening by sharing how mentors, coaches and sponsors all play different roles in our careers. She challenged the group to consider these roles and how each of us may be able to play them at one time or another.
Often when we think of mentors, many of us think of the longer-term relationships with those who inspire us to be our best selves. Our parents may come to mind as the first mentors in our lives but as we progress in our careers, it’s helpful to have a few people you can seek out to help navigate the tough decisions.
Less talked about, but perhaps as important, are coaches and sponsors. Coaches often provide support specific to a skill or outcome we’re trying to achieve, like negotiating a deal or public speaking. Sponsors are like your champion or advocate. They may recommend you for a role in your company or a position on a board or focus group.
Whereas coaches can provide help with one phone call, mentorship and sponsorship both require some level of relationship to be effective. The mentor need not be in the same sector, or even industry, so long as there is a level of trust and comfort to discuss matters openly.
As a result, the speed-mentoring event provided people with an opportunity to get to know a diverse group of leaders from across the industry through roundtable sessions. Mentors shared their stories and offered encouragement to attendees to seek out what they love, stick to their values and build their network. The goal was as much about networking as mentoring, and most people took advantage of the time afterwards to talk further.
Although not decided if or when another speed-mentoring event will be held, the feedback has been very good thus far. One attendee described it as an “excellent networking event to inspire and motivate you to be your best self!”
The Ag Women’s Network thanks RLB for hosting this event and everyone who participated, especially the mentors.