Mentoring programs good opportunity for networking

It is said that behind every great man there’s a great woman. While that may or may not be true, it is true that behind every great person there’s somebody who served as an inspiration or a mentor. In fact, according to one mentoring expert, everyone who has ever held down a job has likely reached that position by following in the footsteps of someone else, either consciously or subconsciously.

Mike Garska, president of Novacom International Ltd. in Edmonton and host of the www.findamentor.org, said most people have mentors around them in their everyday life, but may not realize it. His advice is to acknowledge someone who might be a mentor and focus in on the skills or qualities that are admirable in this person.

“There’s no one person I want to be like, but there are many people who have qualities that I really admire. In order to improve myself in terms of business, my personal life and in my communication skills, I want to understand these aspects and ask questions pertaining to them. That’s how I look at mentorship,” Garksa said.

While a mentoring relationship can be handled at the individual level, many large organizations are getting in on the idea that mentoring can be beneficial to an entire company. Organizations such as IBM Canada Inc., AT&T, Shell and Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Ltd., are all encouraging their employees to become involved in a mentoring relationship.

Ian Frazer, vice-president of business development for Corporate Mentoring Solutions Inc., a Victoria-based company focusing on developing mentoring programs for organizations, said the benefits are obvious.

“Nobody disputes that mentoring programs have short term, medium term and long term benefits and ROI,” he said.

According to Frazer, five major areas are targeted in mentoring programs: new hire and new position orientation; supervisor management; emerging leader development; succession planning; and diversity.

Sarah Shortreed, strategy and change lead for Communications Business Consulting Services at IBM Canada Ltd. in Markham, Ont., is currently a member of a group mentorship program at her organization specifically targeted at emerging leaders.

Shortreed explained that the group mentoring program features six prot