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Communication and Design

Why Mentoring Is More Important Than Ever During Uncertain Times

A Chang School publishing graduate talks about how she became involved with the new Chang Career Flash Mentoring program and networking when in-person meetups aren’t possible.

You have probably heard the old adage, “It’s not what you know but who you know.” While skills, knowledge, and experience from a certificate or degree and on-the-job training will help you land a job, having a network of professional relationships might help you seal the deal.

Anna Sullivan, who graduated from The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education with a Certificate in Publishing, knows this very well. Not only does she teach the students she mentors about the value of networking as part of the Chang Career Flash Mentoring program, it’s also how she got involved with the program.

Anna kept in touch with her former instructor at The Chang School over the past few years, so when the opportunity came up to be involved with the Flash Mentoring Program, which started in September, her instructor put her name forward. Similarly, Anna landed the job she has now at Harlequin thanks to a colleague she stayed in touch with since her days as an intern at Penguin Random House Canada, who kindly gave her advice along the way and let her know when an opportunity came up.

“In real simple terms, many of the opportunities I have is because of networking!” says Anna.

Anna Sullivan, Marketing Coordinator, Trade Backlist at Harlequin and Graduate of Certificate in Publishing, The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education

The goal of the Chang Career Flash Mentoring program, which is delivered by the Ryerson Career & Co-op Centre and Tri-Mentoring, is to provide guidance and industry insight to mature students enrolled in The Chang School who may be looking to change or advance their careers. The program is not a structured, ongoing mentorship arrangement but rather intended to be short, efficient transactions of information and advice. This model allows students to connect with multiple mentors over the span of three months.

Mentoring Helps Combat Uncertainty and Social Isolation

Mentoring is especially important for students right now, Anna points out, with job market uncertainty and social isolation making networking extremely difficult.

Feeling more isolated than usual has been a challenge for one of the program’s students. Jessica Farkas said it’s easy to “get stuck in a vacuum” when it comes to job hunting because of social isolation — something the mentors have helped her with.

“The mentors have been a great sounding board for all of my questions and concerns as the world changes radically before our eyes,” she says. “Not only have the mentors given me great tips and advice, like using tools like Canva to create an eye-catching resumé, but they have also been great at bolstering my confidence that I am, indeed, on the right track to have the future that I want.”

To help students like Jessica, Anna says her conversations with students have been focused on encouragement, positive thinking, and figuring out ways to make the most out of this time for them.

“There’s a lot of fear and inertia right now, so it’s important for students to feel like they are still being productive and proactive about their careers,” says Anna, adding that her conversations are twofold — first, she encourages students to look inward and identify the skills and passions that lend themselves to their industry and then, you guessed it, she encourages them to “get networking!”

Tips for Virtual Networking

While in-person networking is off the table during the pandemic, Anna says there are still lots of options for students to reach out and start building those crucial relationships.

Here are some of her top virtual networking tips:

  • Use Linkedin to research companies or positions that you’re interested in and then reach out to people.
  • Reach out to your instructors to get connected with people in the industry.
  • Do some online research. If you find a company you like, and they have an e-mail address listed on their website, reach out!
  • Find like-minded peer groups looking to network or job-hunt.
  • Use social media as a networking tool, send messages just as you would an email.
  • Seek out organizations like Toastmasters that have great resources on public speaking and building leadership skills (for when you DO land that job!).

Networking Is a Life-Long Career Goal

Before students get paired with a mentor, Anna says the way the program is structured teaches them to take that crucial first step — reaching out.

“By putting the ownership on the students to reach out to mentors, this program really does mimic what a lot of real life networking looks like,” says Anna. “I get it, sometimes it can be quite difficult or uncomfortable to initiate conversations, set up phone calls, ask questions, or maintain relationships. But I hope with the help of this program students realize that people are here and ready to help. We’re willing to share our knowledge and expertise and, above all, we want them to succeed!”

Speaking of success, one of Anna’s mentees got a job after their first conversation! But she says she can’t take the credit. “I think my role in that relationship was simply to encourage them to take ownership of who they are, what they are good at, and what they have to offer the industry.”

For Paul Neuviale, the program gave him a better understanding of the expectations and challenges met by his potential employers.

“I didn’t realize the staggering number of applications received for every single job posting, and for that reason, not all positions in my field are advertised,” he says. “Consequently, I was encouraged to be proactive in reaching out to people I was interested in working with, because they may very well know of an opportunity that I am not aware of.”

This is one of the career-long goals that Anna hopes to instill in students she mentors.

“Trying to break into an industry is extremely challenging,” she says. “But once you’re in, it’s important to understand that the effort doesn’t stop there. It’s important to always work to build and strengthen relationships. It just makes the end result of our work that much better!”

To find out more about the Chang Career Flash Mentoring program, contact denamarcos@ryerson.ca.