By Cyrus Lee, 4th year BCom student
Eight months ago, as I entered my fourth year of the BCom program, I began meeting monthly with my mentor, Charlotte O’ Reilly, marketing director of Upanup Studios. Prior to participating in the mentorship program, I had hopes of a digital marketing career or potentially pursuing a master’s degree in law. Given that these career paths are pretty different from one another, I needed some advice on the choices and decisions before me. I got to know about the BCom mentorship program through a friend and I decided to participate out of curiosity.
What I got out of the program
The BCom mentorship program has been a rewarding and humbling experience. I thought I knew everything about myself and that my goals were set in stone. Having been a mentee, I now realize having an additional voice that isn’t part of your circle eliminates the echo chamber in some really important ways.
Prior to the mentorship program, I had many “bigger picture” questions. These questions related to the marketing and law careers I was considering, and touched on everything from financial security to motivation factors, drive, and work life balance (health, family and relationships) associated with each of these careers. Charlotte helped me answer these questions by bouncing them back at me in simpler terms. I just felt that she really cared.
With Charlotte’s help, I decided to move into a career path that I had not expected. I’m now looking to pursue a master’s degree in architecture post-graduation. Charlotte went out of her way to look for connections to get me started with my journey into architecture. She set me up with a Skype meeting with an architect working in Paris, UVic alumna Heather Moss. Heather provided tons of information on the industry and what to anticipate in architecture school, which was very helpful.
During the months I was meeting with Charlotte, I had a big shift in co-op work environments (from a non-profit, event-hosting, “fun” work environment to internal audit). As my work responsibilities piled on, participating in meetings with various departments were part of my job and I found them a bit intimidating. Having casual conversations with a business professional indirectly helped me build professional acumen and behavior. I noticed that these conversations with Charlotte made me feel at ease during regular work meetings.
The BCom mentorship program is driven by mutual effort. If you’re a fourth-year student looking to fill up professional development unit credits for your COM 405 course, this isn’t the program for you. The rewards that come with the mentorship program depend on the effort you put into the course. As much as the mentor is there to give you advice, if there’s nothing to chat about – there’s no advice to be given. Come prepared and you’ll have an amazing experience!
The guidelines drafted by Malcolm Webster, the mentorship coordinator, have been very helpful in guiding core conversational topics. Before every meeting, I’d read through the mentorship checklist to make sure I have some idea of what the meeting would be on.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but make sure you have time to meet your mentor! Setting time aside every month to meet with my mentor was extremely beneficial. Conversations were more comfortable and we were able to share a little bit more each time.
Why choose the BCom mentorship program
Turns out, there are some questions that can’t be answered by a Google search. As we move through this technology-heavy environment imposed on us by COVID-19, I think we’re beginning to miss out on the information you can derive from human connection.
If you’re struggling with making connections at networking events, the BCom mentorship program is a welcoming way of getting to know local business professionals. There are lots of business professionals who want to help university students like us. It’s a very underrated and underutilized source of help and advice.
For some of us students, this might actually be a great time to apply for a mentor. Working from home means some professional mentors may have more time flexibility and fewer obligations. Plus, if the plans you were making for the coming weeks involved travel or other opportunities that are now limited because of the pandemic, mentorship is one thing that you can still take advantage of.
My incredible mentor
I can’t thank Charlotte enough. She has challenged my conventions by asking questions and providing well-rounded advice. Without her, I don’t think I’d be where I stand today. She gave me the extra push to pursue a career that I’m passionate about. She’s been very selfless with providing help, connections and teaching me how to build my network. It’s been a wonderful experience, and I look forward to continuing to learn from her.
For more information about the Gustavson mentorship program, visit: https://www.uvic.ca/gustavson/faculty/executive/index.php
The program is open to business students currently enrolled in any of our degree programs, as well as alumni. Mentors do not have to be affiliated with UVic.
Photo credit: Travis Bell (top), Kate Masters (bottom)