On April 20, 2020, AMA Toronto hosted the launch event for the third year of Career Accelerator, a spin-off of the Mentor Exchange program that was created to meet the specific needs of young professionals who are just starting to navigate their marketing careers. Just over 40 people gathered to meet the other program participants as well as meeting their new mentor match for the first time. As with all the launch events for our mentorship programs, the room was buzzing with that first date energy, something so palpable, it was remarkable that this was all happening as a Zoom video call.
“When Covid-19 hit, we knew we were going to have to rethink how we do things,” said Craig Lund, VP of Mentorship at AMA Toronto. “On the programming side, we still had two more major events happening, the relaunch of the Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends and the annual CMO Breakfast. At the same time, we were just about to kick off Career Accelerator.”
The Career Accelerator mentorship program was designed to help young professionals get a lay of the land from a career standpoint. Participants are paired up with a mid to senior-level marketer for five mentorship meetings over a nine-month period and are also provided with a one-year AMA membership and free access to networking events. Program sponsor Headstart Copywriting also provided resume resources and access to their resume tips podcast.
The program promises mentees face-to-face meetings with their mentor as well as a launch reception. “We were not sure what to expect when we told applicants the program needed to shift to a virtual model, but in the end, everyone was hungry to get started and not a single applicant requested a refund,” said Lund. “It would seem that at a time of so much uncertainty, it may just be the best time to have someone to lean on.”
It’s one thing to start off completely virtual, but what about programs that were already underway with face-to-face arrangements. AMA Toronto’s 10th season of Mentor Exchange is 75 per cent of the way through the program calendar. So, we asked how participants have adjusted to the shift.
For Jessica Zuckier, a Marketing Director at Enghouse Interactive, the shift has meant even more frequent touchpoints with her mentor. “We’ve had consistent, weekly phone chats which have been really great,” says Zucker. “Sometimes we do Facetime, and other times we just do a regular chat on the phone. I think the best practice for mentorship during Covid-19 has been ensuring we schedule meetings regularly and FaceTime to foster the connection.”
Mentorship pair Chris Gregory and David Kincaid shared similar sentiments. Kincaid, Founder of Level5 Strategy as well as Co-Chair of Mentor Exchange suggests that the shared experience of the crisis deepened the connection.
“The interesting thing I’ve observed,” says Kincaid, “is that the shared/common condition and challenge we all face actually gives us more of an equal, “what are you seeing/what do you think?” shared ground for our discussions…as opposed to me trying to help his agenda with my background and experience! This has resulted in a much stronger one-to-one relationship where we’re both doing all we can to simply help one another.”
Gregory, a Product Manager with Magna Interiors, went further to outline his own list of best practices for a successful virtual mentorship.
1. Stay focused.
2. The foundation of our mentor/mentee relationship was built early, so the only difference in communication now is the method. The substance remains unchanged.
3. Continue to communicate at more frequent intervals — it doesn’t always have to be specific to the exchange, it could be a check-in to make sure things are good, or to share an article/video/thought. Fluid, open, and frequent communication have helped us maintain, and even accelerate the experience.
4. Embrace the new/current state of civilization and new constraints.
5. Remain positive and optimistic.
The application for the 2020/2021 Mentor Exchange program will open in July. Visit https://www.mentorexchange.ca/apply-now/ to learn more about the program and sign up to receive a reminder when the application process opens.
We’ve become pros at running highly engaging online events. Our Annual CMO breakfast will be taking place as scheduled on June 10th in a virtual format. You’ll hear from CMOs in industries that have been completely shut down as well as companies that have had to throttle the demand. Sign up to hear from the leaders of Hudson’s Bay, Sunwing, Tangerine, and Well.ca.