Canada: The Value Of Mentorship – A Path To Professional Success

Last Updated: March 31 2014

Article by Marilyn Krelenbaum* and Carmela DeLuca

The recent focus on mentorship in career development raises the question, "How does the process work and how can it help professionals advance? " Mentors are important agents in facilitating career mobility and professional fulfilment. They can provide a unique perspective and advice, access to meaningful contacts and support that can make the difference between a promising business candidate and a successful one. Those fortunate enough to have benefitted from good mentors know this instinctively to be true.

Mentorship can make an impact, and thus positively influence career advancement by:

  • Fostering skills development,
  • Offering exposure and visibility,
  • Promoting protégés within a company and/or industry,
  • Acting as a role model and/or friend, and
  • Increasing the protégé's confidence levels and aspiration to higher levels of success.

Mentoring relationships also provide benefits to the mentor. The mentor gains respect from colleagues and personal satisfaction for successfully developing the mentee, creating a win-win situation.

Mentorship plays a particularly important role in advancement of women professionals. Women may have concerns related to family and career interruptions and may hold back from pursuing opportunities because of a perceived incompatibility. Women may resist self-promotion, and attribute accomplishments to a team effort and therefore may be overlooked. They may be reluctant to ask for assistance and/or how to go about asking for assistance and thus may not develop the skills and tools necessary for advancement.

Mentoring may be even more relevant for women pursuing careers in non-traditional industries such as the life science industry, where women role models are generally fewer, particularly at senior executive levels.

There are many forms that a mentoring relationship can take – formal or informal, structured or unstructured -and different mentors can provide varying types of support. Assessing what skills you are seeking in a mentor is an important first step. Finding suitable mentors is the second step. Although your immediate colleagues and contacts are typically fertile ground for identifying mentors, you may need to look beyond your immediate colleagues and contacts particularly if you are a young professional or considering a career change.

The Greater Montreal Chapter of Women in Bio (Greater Montreal WIB) recognizes the value of mentoring, and as part of its core mission, has designed a mentorship programme under the skilful guidance of chair, Andrea Gilpin and her committee. We are responding to a need expressed by our members and participants in Women In Bio programmes. Many young graduates who are seeking their first position are looking for guidance and may be unaware of the range of opportunities available in the life science industry. Other women are in transition following restructuring or feel that they have accomplished their professional goals in a particular area and wish to take a different direction by accepting a new challenge."

In this rapidly changing world it is important to be self-aware and plan for your career. Whereas plans can change and flexibility is a key advantage in the current job market, knowing your strengths and areas where you need improvement and the general direction you would like to take are key elements to success.

The objective of Women In Bio's mentorship programme is to help participants identify a few short-term goals that they can make happen within 12-18 months, and match each of them with a seasoned executive or academic that can help coach them to better achieve those goals. Goals are personalized to the individual's career aspirations, industry and current work and life situation.

Protégés must be members of WIB Greater Montreal Chapter. Our mentors are senior leaders with more than 10 years' experience in a senior role. Mentors are selected for their entrepreneurship, leadership, innovation and interest in peer coaching. They have a strong desire to share real-world practical advice with protégés on their career development goals.

Mentors and protégés commit to a minimum of five one-hour meetings over a six-month period, preferably face–to-face. The protégés are encouraged to solicit feedback from the mentors throughout the process. Successful relationships can be built and may be maintained indefinitely in a mutually rewarding and satisfying experience.

To learn more about Women In Bio and the Montreal mentorship program, please contact montreal@womeninbio.org.

Originally published on BioTalent Canada's Newsletter, HR Microscope March 2014 issue.

Footnote

* Marilyn Krelenbaum, Principal, Consultants to the Healthcare Industry

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