By Kristin McVeigh
We often assume mentorship program relationships involve a senior communicator and someone who’s just getting their feet wet. While that’s often the case, mentee David Hedley has a Master of Arts in Professional Communication and a writing career spanning three decades. Changes at work pushed David to seek guidance on strategic communication.
There are many different reasons people participate in mentorship, and a lot can be learned from David (mentee) and Kathryn Ward’s (mentor) experience. Kathryn has been a consultant for close to 20 years, assessing organizations’ cultures and processes to determine strategic solutions.
The IABC/Calgary mentorship program is currently accepting applicants for 2018-19, so be sure to apply by October 12!
Why did you decide to get involved in the mentorship program and what were you looking to get out of the experience?
David: I needed a second brain! At work I was approaching a time of change as we moved toward more integrated and more strategic approaches to communication. In our profession, when are we not reacting to organizational change? I felt I needed to “up” my strategic game. I hoped the mentorship program could help me create a personal path through the complexity.
Kathryn: The program was recommended to me by other Calgary IABC members, all of whom called it a great experience. Plus, I’ve received – continue to receive – so much from my own mentors, this gave me a way to pay it forward. It’s also a great opportunity to meet new people. Those who paired David and I worked a little alchemy – it’s been a great fit. I’ve seen more than a few organizational changes in my time.
What was the most valuable thing you learned or gained from participating in the program?
David: Maybe navigating change looks a little different for everyone. I like to see a big picture more clearly so I can then understand what my priorities should be, going forward. The mentorship helps me think this way. I got surprised, too, by a couple of things. First, our conversations kept going in unpredictable directions, as Kathryn brought a fresh perspective.
And second, the value for me didn’t come only during the meetings themselves. As I considered beforehand what we would talk about at each meeting — how to make each conversation useful, not just catching up on the weather — I was sketching out the big picture in my mind. So our meetings had a challenge/solution framework. Does any of this sound familiar Kathryn?
Kathryn: No idea what you’re talking about. I was in it for the coffee. But seriously, I believe that the mentoring became a reflection of what David was processing. He had set ideas of what it should be and what the outcomes should look like, and we had to let go of that to be open to new possibilities. Plus, I got to learn from an expert in another area who has a background very different from mine.
What would you say to someone thinking of getting involved in the mentorship program?
David: It’s what you make it. I was looking to create a personal path through organizational complexity — a meandering path as it turned out, but that’s OK by me, if it’s OK for my mentor.
Kathryn: Do it. Stay open to how it might take shape. Phone calls and emails ended up being just as important to our experience as the formal meetings.