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The Benefits of Mentoring

This post was originally published in the August, 2023 edition of the AIO monthly newsletter by Kate Tomen, VP, Business and Operations. To get updates on everything angel investing in Ontario, subscribe to receive our newsletter directly here.

August always feels like a daunting month. Summer days are fleeting. Blink and you’ll miss it. Blink and kids will be back in school. Blink and leaves will start turning golden.

That’s why I try to take time in August to sit back and to s l o w down. Pause to enjoy what is left of summer. I also find August to be a great time to do a little bit of self-evaluation… to ask yourself “What have you done to see growth in every area of your life?”

My answer always is “mentorship.” To mentor and to be mentored.

I recently joined Startup Canada’s Startup Women program and Girls in Tech as a mentor. I couldn’t be more thrilled or honoured to be a small part of these programs. Mentoring is a great way to give back to your community and provide access to support and networks essential for founders to grow their businesses.

Here is why I mentor and think you should consider becoming a mentor as well…

  1. Shape the Leaders of Tomorrow 🌍Mentoring is about helping people become more of who they are already- not to make them more like yourself. The journey of a founder is often a lonely and difficult road. Investing in young people or those who are underrepresented in tech today, creates a stronger, more equitable, and inclusive future for all tomorrow.
  2. Widen Your Perspective ⬅️➡️Mentoring allows you to stay connected to the startup scene and really understand the founder’s journey. Mentoring is a unique opportunity to step outside your bubble and learn about the world through the perspective of someone else. Hearing new-to-you, different or opposing thoughts is an opportunity to widen your worldview, which will ultimately make you a better investor and startup coach.
  3. Sharpen Your Skills 🔪Mentoring requires us to sharpen many skills including our leadership and listening skills. Often, we hear but do not really listen. Active listening involves asking questions to encourage the mentee to elaborate on thoughts and feelings and asks you to show empathy. Mentoring also requires us to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is essential for connecting with others, being our authentic selves, and for risk-taking. These are all skills that we, as mentors, need to work hard to cultivate and practice daily.
  4. Broaden Your Network 👥As a mentor, you will have the opportunity to connect with many different people, including startup founders, employees, investors, and other mentors. Strong professional relationships often hold the key to success- for ourselves and for the founders we mentor.
  5. Find Purpose 💗An often under-acknowledged benefit of mentoring is that it allows for self-reflection- it forces us to become more self-aware. Mentoring requires that we look in the mirror. Self-awareness is essential for an effective mentor-mentee relationship- it allows us to understand our own strengths and weaknesses and to make decisions that are in line with those values. By partaking in self-reflection, we can find a deeper purpose.

Mentoring is a two-way street. Like most things in life, you get out what you put in. Being a mentor can be an immensely rewarding and worthwhile role. And ultimately, it makes you feel really good. Mentoring is a great way to spread happiness throughout your community. If you are looking for more content about mentoring, I suggest you start with this article from XV magazine about the Do’s and Don’ts of Mentoring by Lisa van de Geyn.

Looking to become more involved with startups? Look into incubator or accelerator programs offered in your local community- check out your local Regional Innovation Centre or Small Business Centre. Take a look into organizations that support entrepreneurship that share similar values to your own. Two organizations that I admire with a focus on sharing entrepreneurship with everyone are Rise Asset Development, a national organization dedicated to empowering people with mental health and addiction challenges to achieve greater social and economic inclusion through entrepreneurship, and Junior Achievement’s Company Program for secondary school students.

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