Photo credit: iStock.com/Cathy Yeulet
When a budding employee needs a career jolt, a good mentor can make all the difference. Mentorship is an age-old relationship of leading and learning, encouragement and fulfillment.
“Sometimes it’s difficult for individuals following a career path to get to a fork in the road, and decide which path should I take? Sometimes you need an outside-in perspective,” says Jeff Gilchrist, general manager of the professional services firm Avanade Canada.
Just as pro athletes have their coaches, Gilchrist sees business mentors as trainers who can help ambitious workers get the results they’re seeking, or identify areas of strength they need to develop to keep climbing the corporate ladder.
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“A mentor might help you refocus. Maybe you were previously in sales, so we’re going to move you into a delivery-oriented areas so we can round out your career so you can progress or step into this new delivery lead role,” Gilchrist says.
Gilchrist has had his own mentors, but his next project with Avanade is a partnership with the Aspire Foundation to help empower and up-skill one billion women in the technology sector by 2020, in a bid to close the gender, technology and income gaps for women worldwide.
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In the technology space in particular, Gilchrist said, encouraging more women to envision themselves in executive roles is an industry challenge, despite high rates of post-secondary education among females.
The Aspire Foundation initiative, which was announced last month, will connect women working in charities and social enterprises with access to business and technology mentoring.
“If we as an industry don’t start making women feel more welcome, or think about how they’re going to be making more successful in this space, we’re going to be marginalizing our capabilities,” he said.
So far there are 500 mentees waiting to get matched up with mentors, according to Suma Boby, the North American lead for media relations with Avanade. Boby herself recalls being a rookie in the public-relations world, and having a woman take interest in her career and push her to aspire for more.
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“With respect to believing in somebody, opening doors, helping to push you and put you into situations you’re not comfortable sometimes, it’s good for you to get out of your comfort zone,” said Boby, who has signed up to be a mentor.
The benefits of mentorship go both ways.
Even those passing on some professional wisdom and cultivating a talented protege into a future leader get some returns, Gilchrist says.
Being a mentor is gratifying. “As you mature in your career, a lot of what you evolve to is, how do you help others grow,” he says. “From the mentor perspective, you get a lot of satisfaction helping people grow. And the more mature you get in your career, increasingly it’s all about how do you help your organization become more sustainable and grow, and that’s all about helping to bring up the team behind you.”