10 Steps to a Successful Mentoring Relationship
Step 1: Self-Assessment and preparation of your CV or biography sheet
One of the most important things in having a successful relationship with your mentor is being prepared and knowing what it is that you would like to get out of it. In order to be prepared, you should attend a CV workshop at or drop-in at CaPS to have your CV looked over by one of the career advisors. For the workshop and drop-in schedule please see the website C.V. & Advising Drop-In Hours or come by the CaPS office. For more information on self-assessments visit our suggested links on Self-Assessment.
Step 2: Application and meeting with the mentor program coordinator
After you fill in the online application and chose a mentor, you will be contacted to come in and meet with one of the coordinators. At this time you will be given your mentor’s contact information, as well as valuable information about the program.
Step 3: Preparation (become informed)
Before you contact your mentor, it is important to be prepared: Research the company/organization for which the mentor works, and find out a little more information about his/her position and the industry in general. You can do your research on the Internet, or come in to the CaPS office and take advantage of our Career Library.
Sometimes, mentors make a copy of their CV available for view at CaPS – ask the Mentor Coordinator for more information. Once you have completed your research, begin thinking about what kinds of question you would like to ask your mentor. A list of suggested questions can be viewed in the section titled "Questions to ask your mentor".
Step 4: First contact
Your first contact with your mentor should be either by phone or by e-mail. Please see the requested method on the mentor’s information sheet. If you e-mail your mentor, you should attach a copy of your CV and a short biography. Let your mentor know who you are, what you are studying, and what your goals are.
In order to properly initiate your match, you must either CC your introductory e-mail to the Mentor Coordinator (mentor [dot] caps [at] mcgill [dot] ca), or e-mail the coordinator a short confirmation that you have contacted your mentor. You have two weeks from the day you pick up the contact information to get in touch with your mentor.
Step 5: First meeting
If your mentor is located in Montreal we encourage face to face contact. Such a meeting can take place over coffee, for lunch or at the mentor’s office. Speak to your mentor and arrange a place that both of you are comfortable with.
If you mentor is not located in Montreal, your contact with him/her is likely to be restricted to the phone or by e-mail. However, don’t fear, you can still greatly benefit from such interaction. Let the mentor know how often you would like to be in touch with him/her . Ask for the most appropriate time of day and place to call. If you are using e-mail, write to the mentor regularly and ask for the advice you would have asked had you met in person. A mentor is meant to be more than someone to answer a list of questions, they are there to help you make decisions and to offer guidance.
Step 6: Follow-ups
Every two months, the Mentor Coordinator will send you and your mentor a follow-up e-mail. It is important that you respond to these e-mails promptly; this will allow the Coordinator to keep the program running as smoothly as possible. If you ever have a question or any concerns you can always reach us at mentor [dot] caps [at] mcgill [dot] ca or call at 514-398-3304 ext. 0761. We will get back to you as soon as possible.
Step 7: Future meetings/contacts
It is important to be in contact with your mentor regularly. It is common for students to initiate contact with a mentor and then lose interest; this kind of irregular communication will leave a bad impression with the mentor. How often you contact the mentor depends on both your’s and his/her schedule. Be sure to ask the mentor about his/her availabilities as soon as possible.
Step 8: Ending the match
Matches last two semesters (about 8 months). After this period, the match will be completed and the Mentor Coordinator will notify you and your mentor. You may keep in contact with your mentor at his/her discretion, but CaPS will not monitor future communications. Two semesters is the maximum length of time for a match, but you may choose to end it at any time. Please contact the Mentor Coordinator to notify him when you wish to complete your match. He can then match your mentor with another student, and if desired, re-match you with a new mentor.
Step 9: Final Evaluation Form
Upon completion of the match, you will be sent a link to a short Student Evaluation From. Feedback from both the mentor and the student allows us to continually improve our program, so please fill out the form as honestly as possible.
Step 10: Thank you card
Your mentor is a professional with limited time, and has volunteered to help you in your career search. Though not required, it is recommended that you send your mentor a short thank you card upon completion of the match.
Suggested Questions to Ask Your Mentor
The keys to a successful mentoring relationship are your enthusiasm, preparation and ability to communicate clearly. Before you meet your mentor, think about the type of information which would be helpful for you. The following questions are meant to help you get started.
Questions about your mentor’s career path/training
- What kind of education/training do you have?
- What was your experience at McGill like?
- How did your time at McGill prepare you for your career? Are your studies at all related to your career?
- How did you manage the transition from school to work?
- How did you get your first job post-graduation?
- What has your career path been like to date? Is it representative of most people in this kind of position?
- How important is a graduate degree, designation, or additional certificate in this field?
- Are you a member of any professional orders or associations? Which ones do you feel are the most important to belong to?
- What are the future prospects like in this field? What trends do you see developing over the next few years?
- If you could change any aspects of your career, what would you change?
Questions about their current position and responsibilities
- How did you obtain your current position?
- What are your primary job responsibilities?
- What does a typical day/week in your job look like?
- What do you enjoy the most about your job? The least?
- What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
- What kind of professional development opportunities are available?
- Are there many opportunities for advancement in this position/organization?
- Who are the people who usually excel in this field/position? What personal qualities do you need to succeed?
Questions about working conditions
- How many hours do you work in an average week?
- How much autonomy do you have in terms of what you focus on at work?
- What kind of supervision did you have when you were starting out? Currently?
- How is your performance evaluated?
- How much flexibility do you have in terms of dress, hours, vacation or job location?
Questions relating to your current situation and future goals
- What advice would you like to have heard when you were starting out?
- How would you recommend I “try out” this line of work while I am still in school?
- Do you have any recommendations with regards to useful courses to take or extracurricular activities to be involved with?
- Are there any other fields or jobs you would suggest I research/explore?
- How do people find out about job openings in this field? Are they advertised? If so, where?
- When should I start applying for positions and forwarding my resume?
- How is a typical job interview in this industry conducted?
- Is there anyone else in this field you would recommend I talk to? When I call them, may I mention that you referred me?
How are Mentors Classified?
Mentors occupations are classified based on the National Occupation Classification. It is a system for describing the occupations of Canadians. This system of classification gives statisticians, labor market and analysts, career counselors, employers and individual job seekers a standardized way of describing and understanding the nature of work.
There are 10 skill types or unit groups which compose the main categories of the classification.
0 Management occupations
1 Business, finance and administration occupations
2 Natural and applied sciences and related occupations
3 Health occupations
4 Occupations in education, law and social, community and government services
5 Occupations in art, culture, recreation and sport
6 Sales and service occupations
7 Trades, transport and equipment operators and related occupations
8 Natural resources, agriculture and related production occupations
9 Occupations in manufacturing and utilities
For the purpose of classifying our mentors we use the major and minor occupation descriptions, which fall under the ten main skill types.
Please note: the information, which is provided about the mentor online, is basic. Once you have applied for a mentor and have been matched, you will meet with the coordinator and have an opportunity to find out more detail about the mentors profile.
The following is an example of a classification. For a list of all the NOC Major and Minor classification categories please visit the NOC Code List website.
To obtain the information of a person whose occupation is municipal planner, on the website Occupational Structure by Skill Type, you may select:
2 Natural and applied sciences and related occupations ->
215 Architects, urban planners and land surveyors ->
2153 Urban and land use planners
One of the example titles is "municipal planner".
When doing your preparatory research on your mentors' industry and occupation, it is a good idea to check out the websites that provide occupational profiles and the details about them (e.g., example titles, main duties, employment requirements). The recommended websites are:
- Job Bank Canada - Explore careers by occupation: Search by job title.
- Occupational Structure by Skill Type: Search a job title by choosing from the NOC list.
- Search The National Occupational Classification: Search by job title, job description or by NOC list.
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: Provided by the US Department of Labor.