Introduction and Background
The Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum is committed to fostering a robust, connected and engaged CIM community. A key part of that community is the future leaders of our industry: the students and recent grads of the various mining and mining-related programs across Canada. In discussions with students, it became apparent that an accessible mentoring program allowing students to connect with current leaders in the industry would be of great benefit. Following such discussions, a request came forward from students at Queen’s University to implement a Mentorship Program. At the time, CIM saw this as an opportunity to make an impact in the community. CIM and Queen’s University committed to establishing a mentorship pilot program. After a successful year and positive feedback from both university faculty and participants (mentors and mentees alike), CIM has made the decision to expand the program Canada-wide. This expansion marks the beginning of a partnership between Canadian mining schools and industry experts.
CIM’s Mentorship Program seeks to connect post‐secondary students and recent grads from mining disciplines with industry mentors to facilitate knowledge transfer, reduce student attrition, develop future leaders, and provide every opportunity for students to have a successful and rewarding career in the mining industry.
Mentoring is a natural process and is recognized as a benefit to both the mentee and the mentor. When people get involved in a mentorship program for the first time, they often wonder what the rules are and how to get the most out of the opportunity. The following recommended program guidelines are a combination of mentoring guidelines and advice from many sources, including mining and mine service companies, as well as Toastmasters, which has been in the mentoring business for over 90 years.
What is Mentorship?
As defined in the Oxford Dictionary, “Mentorship is the guidance provided by a mentor, especially an experienced person in a company or educational institution.” Mentorship is about helping people develop on their path to success. The relationship that is built between a mentor and their mentee is based on helping the mentee build confidence and ownership on their path to success. Mentors are also rewarded for their efforts. Mentors can learn from their mentees, further refine their own professional and personal skills, and develop a sense of fulfillment by paying-it-forward.
Contrary to many beliefs, mentorship is not teaching or coaching. A mentor need not be a qualified trainer or an expert in their role. As further explored in this document, a mentor's role is focused primarily on the ability to listen and ask questions with the goal of challenging the mentee to identify the course of action they need to take in regard to their development.
A very important factor of a mentor-mentee relationship is the mentee's ability to take ownership of the relationship. This means taking the initiative to create a mentorship plan and set up meetings. It also means letting the Program Lead or faculty advisor know if there are any issues or if things aren’t going as planned. The Program Lead will liaise with the CIM Representative to sort out any issues.
The following list outlines the roles that mentors and mentees should play in a mentoring relationship.
- Listen and use questions to help participants identify their own solutions
- Provide vision and insight, share experiences, describe an understanding of strategy and culture
- After discussion, offer specific solutions for the situation or development
- Give honest feedback after listening and encouraging participants to self‐assess
- Lead the relationship; schedule meetings
- Clearly identify development needs
- Listen attentively and participate actively
- Follow through on agreements and on activities
Qualities of Mentors and Mentees (Toastmasters)
Qualities of Mentors
There are some important and essential characteristics mentors need to possess if they are to be effective. A good mentor is:
- Available – One must have time to spend with a mentee
- Patient – People learn at varying speeds, and some need more guidance than others; a mentor should be willing to provide whatever it takes to help the mentee
- Sensitive – Tact and diplomacy are vital; as a mentor, one should always be careful to say and do things that will motivate and encourage the mentee; being loyal and taking care not to betray the mentee's confidence is also very important
- Respectful – Everyone is different; a mentor respects the differences between himself or herself, the mentee and others
- Flexible – Not everything happens according to plan; mentors must adapt to various situations and accept that mentees may make decisions that they do not agree with
- Confident – A mentor ought to be self‐assured and friendly
- A good listener – A mentor must listen carefully; simply listening without taking on the other person’s problem can be of great help to the mentee; just by listening, one can enable the mentee to articulate the problem and sort things out
- Concern for others – A mentor must genuinely care about other people and truly want to help them
Qualities of Mentees
If a mentor/mentee relationship is to be successful, mentees have responsibilities and obligations as well. To receive maximum benefit from the relationship, mentees should possess the following qualities:
- Eager to learn – Mentees must be willing to take on new challenges
- Receptive – Mentees must be open to feedback, viewing it as an opportunity to improve themselves
- Open to new ideas – Mentees should be willing to see things from other perspectives
- Loyal – Mentees do not violate confidence or trust
- Grateful – Mentees appreciate the help their mentors are giving
The CIM National Program Lead will oversee the matching of mentors and mentees. This will be driven primarily by the stated interest of the mentee matched against the areas of expertise of the mentor. Although geographic location will be considered, thanks to the ability to connect electronically, matching needs with expertise will be the main selection factor. We will also try and match students with mentors who attended the same university.
It is highly recommended to have a mentoring plan which can be formal or informal. Some items which could be addressed in the plan are:
- Frequency and duration of meetings
- Documentation of meeting notes with “Action Items” format
- Format of meetings, deciding whether it be held by phone, Skype/Zoom, or in-person
- Meeting schedule: consideration of time constraints in both the mentee's and the mentor’s schedule, ensuring flexibility
- An agenda: a free-flow style meeting works for some people but many do better with a general agenda which includes actionable items; the mentor will certainly be used to this format
- Unique events: opportunities to meet at CIM events or other mining-related events
The Mentoring Process
A mentorship plan will help guide the mentoring process. Knowing how to start, identifying goals of the relationship and establishing availability will help both the mentor and mentee determine key aspects of the relationship including how many sessions and when to move on from the relationship. Ideally, it is recommended in the first meeting that the mentee clearly defines what it is they would like to develop or work on and that both parties agree on the format and frequency of meetings. After the initial meeting, all other sessions should be decided on between both parties. The direction should be clear from the beginning.
Potential Topics for Discussion
Everything except the weather! Things that mentors and mentees may consider are:
- Thesis topic
- Summer job lessons learned
- A recent technical paper of interest
- A favourite business or technical book to recommend or discuss
- New things happening in the company
- School field trip
- New technologies the mentor’s company is implementing or developing
- Upcoming CIM talk or conference
- Experiences of when they entered the job market (challenges and opportunities)
- How to approach prospective employers
- Potential career paths
- Self‐awareness (strengths, weaknesses, blind spots, etc.)
- Job shadowing
- Site visit
- Introduction of mentees to individuals at the mentor’s company
- Book review
- Mentor to share a corporate presentation or project for knowledge
- Mentee to share/give a school presentation or project for feedback
- Attend a CIM meeting or event together
Suggestions for Mentors
- Mentors should start with safety—it is important to ensure that mentees know just how important safety is to our industry
- Once a time is set, do everything possible to ensure you are available
- Confidentiality both ways is critical; mentors should be patient. Mentors may have a great deal of experience and they must be considerate of the fact that their mentee’s experience is limited. It may take some time to explain certain concepts they have not been exposed to
- Sharing screens will allow mentors to show mentees presentations. Video is a great way to explain a process or a corporate initiative. Storytelling is often the best way to get a few key points across. The Aesop method is recommended, where there is always a summarization with the “moral” of the story
- Avoid politics, religion and controversial current events that aren’t mining-related; these topics probably won’t help in your mentee’s development and may alienate them
Suggestions for Mentees
- Mentees must lead the process
- Discussions must be kept confidential
- Mentees can get valuable feedback and guidance regarding summer jobs from their mentor
- Mentees shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions, if there is an acronym, phrase or terminology that you do not recognize or if you just aren’t getting it, speak up!
- Mentees should take notes and try to look for at least two key takeaways from each session. If possible, it is recommended to set a little time after for self‐assessment
- If a mentee feels it isn’t working, they should inform the Program Lead or let their faculty advisor know; based on feedback provided, CIM will work to find another mentor
Ending the Mentoring Relationship
A mentoring relationship can last as little as a week and endure as long as a lifetime. It can be something that both parties address in the initial mentorship meeting or can be mutually agreed on at any time. Should either the mentor or mentee need to end the relationship abruptly, it is good practice to immediately notify their partner. If the end date is established in the first meeting, then use the last meeting to review.
Mentorship is a proven way to share and build leadership skills for both the mentee and the mentor. It is a symbiotic relationship. Mentees make a smart choice when choosing to participate in this program. It will expand their network and knowledge base and provide a solid foundation for future leadership. To the mentors, CIM is thankful for the donation of their valuable time to this program. The sharing of their knowledge will make for strong future leaders and benefit our industry now and for a long time to come.