Mentoring programs are not what they used to be. Just as business networking has changed with the introduction of LinkedIn and other social media sites, traditional mentoring programs have also transformed to address the needs of the young professional joining the workforce.
The concept for the Greater Toronto Chapter mentoring program was born out of my own experience with mentoring. As I moved up the corporate ladder I found a need for occasional professional guidance. My supervisor at that time gave me guidance by providing a list of names and phone numbers of professional contacts. That experience then inspired me to develop a mentoring/networking opportunity for members of the Greater Toronto Chapter.
Two years ago, I began a pilot program with Charlie Musgrave, leasing executive with Cadillac Fairview, and co-chair of the Mentorship Committee. Twenty mentors, representing both intermediate- and executive-level industry professionals, each generously agreed to host four individual mentoring sessions with different mentees. This allowed 20 mentees to participate in the program while meeting with up to four seasoned professionals. In this way, the program differed from traditional mentoring in which a mentee may meet with only one mentor. Rather than providing simple professional guidance, meetings between mentors and mentees focus on the mentor providing industry insight and helping the mentee build a networking list of top industry contacts.
Matthew Jon Picken
The Greater Toronto mentorship program had 34 mentors and 80 mentees in 2011. In 2012, its third year, the program grew to 56 mentors and 90 mentees, with nearly all meeting times booked.
Mentors and mentees are also very active managing the mentorship program. Once a mentor has volunteered, they provide meeting dates to the Mentorship Committee, who in turn sets up the mentorship page on the chapter website with bios, photos and available dates for each mentor. Mentor/mentee matching is done on a first-come-first-served basis. Developing Leaders (DLs) pre-register for the program and are told when they may log onto the chapter website to select their mentors. A series of emails is triggered by their selections, introducing the mentees to the mentors, and they proceed to arrange their face-to-face sessions.
The Mentorship Program has received rave reviews from mentors and mentees alike. The mentors truly enjoy giving back to the industry and contributing to the development of the industry’s next generation of leaders. The DLs, in turn, value the unique insights they receive on current and future career paths.
Mentoring programs, such as Greater Toronto’s, are extremely important to the commercial real estate industry. The program allows young professionals to connect with industry leaders who have valuable knowledge. As many of us have noticed in recent years, the new crop of professionals is extremely driven and focused on career advancement. Mentorship programs open those career doors early and help DLs meet their goals.
When meeting with a mentor, Musgrave advises the following:
Show up with an agenda. Demonstrate that you put thought into the meeting ahead of time.
Learn more about the person before you show up. Ask questions that are important to you and relevant to your mentor’s professional background and field of work.
Don’t be offended if they reschedule. Meetings pop up and work can be hectic, especially for high-level executives in the industry.
For those chapters who do not currently have a mentorship program, I highly recommend starting one for the Developing Leaders. The commercial real estate industry is constantly evolving and the professional marketplace is more competitive than ever. The sooner DLs begin their mentoring and networking with top industry professionals, the better prepared they will be to maximize career opportunities.