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The Career Accelerator program helps young marketing professionals further their career with the help of an experienced marketing professional. Inspired by the success of Mentor Exchange, this program is specifically designed to meet the needs of junior marketing professionals looking to move up the ladder in their careers, and runs from April to January of each year, with applications and matching taking place between February to April. 

With the 2020/2021 Career Accelerator program coming to a close, we interviewed some of the mentees about their experiences in the program and what they have learned over the course of the last year. 

1. What originally drew you to the AMA Toronto Career Accelerator program?

Parnika Sharma, Digital Marketing – Web Growth & Market Strategist at Bench Accounting

Graduating from my Masters in Marketing in 2020, amid a pandemic, left me and many of my classmates uncertain about what our next career step would be. I knew that I wanted to work on a plan of tactics I could start to help position me as a strong candidate for a near-future role and a future marketing leadership position. The Career Accelerator felt like a great opportunity to meet industry professionals, to network and learn from their experiences, and to gain more insight into what type of work and which industry I’d like to see myself grow into. 

Julia Shisgal, Business Development Director at Maru/Matchbox

I have been following the AMA for a few years and attending events here and there. I’ve always been curious to learn about marketing because I felt that my career path had been a bit siloed to research and insights. The Career Accelerator program came at a time when I was starting a new role at Maru/Matchbox, so it was a perfect opportunity.  After all, it was my first time going through a virtual on-boarding, and navigating through a larger company size that is global. The guidance and support throughout this mentorship program has been invaluable. 

Anastassiya Mun, Marketing Strategist at KRFTWRK

My main goal was to get a job at a Marketing agency, precisely speaking, to understand how to transition my career from the corporate world into a more agile one, as an agency used to be, especially nowadays. I spent time doing the research myself, but quickly realized that insights from the real world are valuable and the only effective way for me was to get them via expanding connections, networking, attending events, etc.  

Joining the association was a great decision as it is amazing to be surrounded by a like-minded circle of professionals as the AMA has. 

2. How has your Career Accelerator mentor helped you achieve your professional goals over the past year?

Parnika Sharma

Through my sessions with my mentor Paolo, I was able to talk through management changes I was facing at work, get advice on how to build my skill set, and also worked on thinking through some long-term goals and tactics I can start working on in the short term. My mentor was a welcome source of valuable insight and prompted a lot of reflection about which aspects of my role I currently enjoy, what I’d like to do more of, and what I’d like to gain experience in.

Julia Shisgal

My mentor is Barb Boyd. She’s been an invaluable source of encouragement, inspiration, guidance, and an empathetic listening ear during the isolating times of working remotely during a pandemic. From the moment we met, Barb was encouraging me to reflect deep down about why I signed up for the Career Accelerator program, and about the goals I was looking to develop.

Barb’s guiding and reflective nature really helped me narrow down my list to 4 big goals, which I’ve come to learn are the jumping off points for lifelong learning. Barb was generous enough to share her knowledge from personal experiences, provide me with additional resources (i.e. articles, courses, podcasts), and help broaden my network. 

Anastassiya Mun

I was matched with Melissa Ahlstrand, the brilliant mentor and person. Melissa is an enthusiastic, positive, and inspirational leader. She’s a respectful and active listening mentor with great feedback. We understood each other completely and we’re committed to our plan of action. She always has a keen desire to share tips for my career profile and spots that can be improved. Melissa brings the best in me by going deeply. We even had interview simulations, which I really loved! 

3. What are some key takeaways that you learned from your mentor and this experience overall?

Parnika Sharma

A lot of the insights I got from my mentor were around soft-skill development, relationship-building and stakeholder management – aspects I wanted to make a conscious effort towards working on. With my mentors’ support, I was able to plan how to be more transparent with my manager about what I enjoy and what I want to learn. My mentor was helpful in asking hard-hitting questions that really made me think about what I enjoy, why certain roles appeal to me, and what I want to work on.

Julia Shisgal

The biggest takeaway I learned from the Career Accelerator program is how important mentorship is. To find that human connection, where you have someone so experienced, rooting for you, and being able to share your experiences together and learn from each other, has been invaluable. One thing that Barb has taught me is “learning how to learn” (this was a course that Barb had shared with me through Coursera), but it’s also a mindset that I adapted from our time together. 

I had four massive goals for the Career Accelerator program, and through it, I realized they are all intertwined. They build on one another, and they are a lifelong journey. 

Anastassiya Mun

I’m grateful to Melissa and the program for her valuable time, support, and honesty. I’ve been able to get a clear understanding of what I do right and where I need to be improved. A mentor isn’t here just to support and inspire, but to open our eyes to ways we can bring our “champ” personality. They are here to challenge us to manifest and work to build a career where we feel like a strong player on our own and in a team–where leaders believe in you, where you feel valued, and where opportunities arise. 

4. 1 reason why you would recommend it to someone else?

Parnika Sharma

I would recommend the Career Accelerator program to early career marketers that are looking to gain insight from more experienced professionals, think through how they’d like to see their marketing career grow, and are otherwise looking for a chance to network with other marketers.

Julia Shisgal

I think that now more than ever, mentorship is absolutely critical. For personal improvement, professional development, and especially for that human/emotional connection. 

The pandemic has shifted so many things, from our ways of working to our ways of connecting with each other. I learned that mentorship is about friendship, coaching, guidance, and having someone in your corner that listens to you and gives you objective feedback with your best interests in mind. This is such a powerful combination, and when you have the right mentor/mentee pairing, the experience can be life changing, as it has been for me.

Anastassiya Mun

Self-growth and networking – my go-to advice. A mentor-mentee relationship is a fantastic mutual adventure for it. You can’t do everything on your own, so get the professional to join you too. You’ll look at many things from different angles and perspectives. To all career adventurers, good luck with your goals!

Applications for Career Accelerator 2022/2023 are now open. Join us for our fifth season!

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