By Emma Bott
Mentoring and networking are important parts of career development that are often overlooked during student education. They help you understand what you are getting into and if it’s the right fit. You understand what you have to do; mentoring and networking are not things you do just at the start of your career, but throughout. At some point, you will probably transfer from the mentee to the mentor. It is something that only gets better with practice, so the sooner you start, the better.
Informational interviews with individuals in the job that you are looking for are essential for understanding the job and industry. These interviews can be done with people you know either through school or internships. It is also possible to just straight up call someone. Honestly, it sounds scary, but you can make so many great connections. Informational interviews are great because they give you a glimpse of what the job is actually like as opposed to the job description or the TV version. You learn about the ins and out of the job, the hours, and the lifestyle that the job allows for. It is honestly just a great time to get life advice and learn. Oftentimes, the professional you are interviewing will provide you with books or publications to read in order to help with your career. An informational interview often flows like a conversation; it is usually a good idea to have a few questions set before the interview. They typically happen over coffee of drinks, perhaps lunch or dinner. Often, offering to buy coffee or a drink for the person you’re interviewing is a good call. When you are starting out, it best to look for people who are in the middle of their careers. A lot of the time, these people will feel flattered that you want to sit down with them.
Going to talks where individuals give career advice is also very helpful. While you lose the face-to-face aspect found in mentoring, you will often meet other professionals that could eventually be your colleagues. These events can be found at your university, other universities in the area, or via online resources such as EventBrite. Some are free events and some you do have to pay for–keep in mind that some events do offer student pricing. As far as paid events go, try to think of those costs as an investment in your future. On International’s Women’s Day, Concordia’s Faculty of Management hosted a panel of four local female business owners who told their stories. The women who spoke were Jacqulyn Cardinal (Co-Founder and Director of Experience, Naheyawin), Giselle Courteau (Co-Owner Founder, Duchess Bake Shop), Heidi Fedoruk (Co-owner, Leading Edge Physiotherapy) and Larissa Whiting (Owner, Lahari Yoga). It started with each woman coming up and telling their stories and then, at the end, there was an opportunity for questions. The women told stories of how they came to be successful. Jacqulyn Cardinal’s advice was to act on something that needs to be done as soon as you notice a need for action. Giselle Courteau’s advice was to avoid doing anything you won’t be proud of. Heidi Fedoruk talked about how getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to her because it led to her and her husband starting their own business. Larissa Whiting spoke about not having a grand plan for her life and not expecting to own a yoga studio. So much advice was given at this event, more than I’m able to cover in just this article. Another example is a talk that MacEwen recently hosted with Rachel Mielke, founder and co-owner of Hillberg & Berk. She talked about how her business grew; there was success, followed by failures, followed by more failures, and then, finally, success. These talks are beneficial because they give us insight to very important realizations: there will be both ups and downs, and success takes time and dedication.
Networking helps gain an edge in an industry. There are many benefits to joining a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and organizations. Networking can be related to the common saying of “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” If you are looking to network within your certain career path, a good website to look at is “Ten Thousand Coffees,” which connects you to individuals working in whichever career path you are interested in. LinkedIn is also a good place to start networking and make connections. Networking can be done through internships, informational interviews, seminars, talks, conventions, conferences, luncheons, or dinners. Introductions can be made by people you know. Many professors, especially sessional professors who have jobs outside of teaching, have relevant opportunities for students. Another place to look is at association websites–some examples are Appropriate Dispute Resolution Institute of Alberta (ADRIA) and Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA).The AADRIA has luncheons, dinners, and conventions in order to connect professionals. The HRPA offers student memberships and hosts an annual conference. With online mentoring, networking is becoming worldwide as we can now connect with people from across the planet. When you are networking, think of ways to leave an impression on the professional. It is important to make an attempts to ensure a meaningful connection.
My best piece of advice is to get out there. Network, find mentors, and attend talks. Mentoring and networking is important to learning and growing into your profession of choice and it will help you thrive in your career.