Thank you for participating in our mentorship program to connect and share knowledge amongst visible minority librarians across Canada. We’ve assembled this guide to be used as a reference for useful tips and ideas that you can implement to foster a meaningful relationship. Clear and open communication is imperative to establishing a mentoring relationship, so this guide focuses on aspects to improve communication and the sharing of experiences.
Get to know each other.
Share your background with your partner to let them get a sense of who you are. (See below for some potential discussion topics.) Start off with sharing your CV or LinkedIn profile to provide more jumping off points for conversation. Also, provide details of some of your career goals, interests, and background. If possible, try arranging at least one call or video conference to facilitate a more personable relationship than through email alone.
Define your expectations.
Be clear about what you’re seeking from a mentorship pairing, and share this with your partner. Being clear helps to prevent misunderstandings. Tell them what you need, but be aware that mentors aren’t there to answer all your questions or do the work for you. Also, mentors might not be experts in all areas you need, but might be able to connect you to people within their network who could help. Multiple mentors to help throughout your career is recommended.
Define your goals.
Determine what you would each like to get out of the mentoring program. Having clear short-term and long-term goals will help you get to know each other better so you can both work together towards how you can achieve them.
Discuss steps to achieve your goals.
If you are working on getting a job, you may want to review your resume and cover letter together. If you are interested in developing leadership skills, you may wish to discuss specific work scenarios or seek out resources on leadership. Develop a plan with your partner as to how you can work toward your goal, and remember to report on the progress you are making throughout the session.
Schedule time to communicate.
Plan to meet at least twice per month and try to honor scheduled meetings. If you’re having a particularly busy period, let your mentoring partner know so they won’t feel that you’ve forgotten about them. You could try creating a schedule for future meetings at the beginning of the relationship to help keep your communications on track. Short and more frequent communications are preferred for relationship building.
Do a bit of prep work before you communicate. Have a list of questions or responses for each other so you can have productive interactions on the most important topics. For phone or video calls, sharing your questions in advance can be helpful for some people to have more time to think about how they can address the topics.
Be an active participant.
Both parties should take an active role in building the partnership and keeping each other accountable. Mentees should be encouraged to direct meeting agendas and conversations to areas on which they need information, problems or challenges they may be experiencing, career issues they need help or guidance with, and so on. Mentors should listen, ask questions, and offer objective information and support. Share interesting articles, resources, conferences, or job postings you think your partner might be interested in.
Commit to the relationship.
Taking the time to focus on your mentorship pairing can be challenging amidst other commitments. We ask for a commitment of two months to build this mentoring relationship. Since it is short-term, reliability and consistency are important for the entire duration of the session. Be realistic about your commitments to your mentee, and follow through with those commitments. Please try to maintain at least twice monthly communication even if it’s just a brief check in. If your schedule or availability changes, let your mentoring partner know.
To foster a positive relationship, honesty and vulnerability about experiences and careers is critical. We also want people to be open to talking about uncomfortable topics that visible minority librarians can encounter. Keep your conversations private and confidential. Remember that you are building trust in your mentoring partnership.
Discussion topics and talking points to get started:
• Your previous experience and career path, both in libraries and other related work and volunteer experiences – Why did you get into the profession?
• Your current job or education
• Your career goals – Where do you hope to be in 5 years? 10 years?
• Diversity topics and issues – Does your identity as a visible minority affect your work? Are you the only visible minority in your workplace? Do you deal with racism or microaggressions? Adapting as a new immigrant? Getting along with colleagues from different cultural backgrounds?
• Specific areas of interests in librarianship – Are you interested in community engagement? Cataloguing? Research? Services for specific populations?
• Professional development – Courses taken, or courses you are interested in taking
• Interviews – Tips and techniques
• Job applications – Review your CV, cover letter, job listings
• An interesting article you read or current hot topic in the library world
• Describe a typical day at work or responsibilities
• Specific scenarios at your work – What’s your work culture like? What are challenges faced at work?
• Management tips and strategies
• New media, trends, and technologies
• Conference attendance
• Work/life balance
• Work on committees, associations, or professional organizations (at work and outside of work)
• Job precarity – Part-time work, unions, future of the job market
• LIS resources – Webinars, associations, forums, networking
• Time management – Dealing with multiple responsibilities and commitments
• Change management – New protocols implemented at work
Please feel free to contact the Mentorship Committee (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions, concerns or for support during the session!
Adapted from the BC Library Association, Bay Area Library & Information Network and Iowa State University.
Last updated April 20, 2020.