5 Key Takeaways from a Mentoring Chat with Mary DePaoli and Sam Effah

The importance of mentorship for young Canadians working towards their career development goals

On January 21, Mary DePaoli, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at RBC, and Sam Effah, a 2021 Olympic hopeful and Youth Strategy & Innovation professional at RBC, had an open and honest discussion geared towards young Canadians about the importance of mentorship in defining your career. For those unable to attend this event, offered through DesautelsConnect and hosted by Ten Thousand Coffees, keep reading to find my five key takeaways from this virtual fireside chat.

1. Having a mentor should not be like looking in a mirror

Although finding a mentor who you relate to and connect with seems intuitive, Mary advises youth to look for a mentor who is actually quite different from yourself in terms of background, perspective, and even career path. She says your mentor will be able to help you think divergently and see the world in a different way than you might have without them. As the mentee, you can offer your own perspective with them, making it a mutually beneficial relationship. Sam added that mentors should be similar to sports coaches who want to see you succeed, but also won’t shy away from challenging you.

2. Use preparation to combat networking anxiety

Many of us view the idea of calling strangers or attending networking conferences as downright frightening, and Mary herself admitted that it took her a while to become comfortable and confident in these settings. She suggests that the best way to overcome networking anxiety is to prepare in advance; read up on the latest news and research any important professional you plan on approaching. The strategy Sam developed to ease his own nervousness is to bring a notebook and come with 10 questions written down, so you can be prepared if there is a lull in the conversation.

3. Networking ‘chains’ can be unexpectedly powerful

Another topic touched on by Sam during the event was the concept of a networking chain. Sam gave an example of his chain developing when he decided to build connections with people in the sports industry in Calgary, who then introduced him to other contacts, and these contacts introduced him to even more contacts. He didn’t know many people in Toronto when he moved there years later, but was able to meet with senior executives through those previously made connections, which eventually led him to his current role at RBC. He encouraged young people to consider these chains, as they have the power to lead you to great places in your career without expecting it.

4. Any experience is great experience

The COVID-19 pandemic has been undeniably destructive to the career prospects of young Canadians, leaving many in fear of not landing their dream job, or working jobs they weren’t expecting to after graduation. Mary shared her own story of unemployment after graduating from university, recalling the discouragement and disappointment she felt by the countless rejection letters she received. After being rejected in one particular interview, the recruiter called her asking for help on behalf of another company that was in need of her skills. Without knowing much about the opportunity, she started working immediately, had her contract extended, and that opportunity eventually turned into her first full-time position. Over 25 years later, she is still in contact with her manager from that company. Her story shows that taking unexpected jobs can bring you invaluable experience and lifelong connections, as long as you go into it with an open mind.

5. Wellness is the first step to building a successful career

On the topic of goal setting for 2021, both Mary and Sam emphasized the importance of physical and mental wellness and putting your wellbeing first, especially during the pandemic. Sam urged youth to make goals involving taking care of themselves their priority, before moving on to other goals such as ones that relate to job searching and networking. He also suggested the RBC Future Launch at Home site as a good resource for those who are currently working towards their career development goals.

Interested in attending similar events, or looking to connect with potential mentors or mentees?

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