Surviving the first year: finding a mentor

by Sarah Dashow, Senior Assistant, INALJ Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, Northwest TerritoriesYukon

Surviving the first year: finding a mentor

Sarah DashowIt’s the first day of your new job, and you have a lot to learn, and a lot of people to meet. Depending on what type of environment you are working in, there may have been an orientation, or perhaps training sessions, or some kind of knowledge transfer, but now you’re on your own – what do you do?

Find someone, be it a supervisor, a team member or colleague who has been there for a while, or just a more experienced hire in the same department, and ask them to be your mentor. Let this person be your introductory handshake and your go-to person for questions – get to know them so they can get to know you. He or she will already know their way around wherever you are working and will know the projects, teams, and culture, and from this, you can latch onto projects that interest you or pursue networking opportunities that fit into your role.

Speaking from my own experience in a co-op position as both a mentee and a mentor, it is an invaluable experience. I did get lucky – the company I work for, besides having an actual coach and mentor system in place for new full time hires, fills two co-op positions at a time on a 4-month term with a potential 4- month extension, which has since created a system where a new co-op comes in as another takes the extension: instant mentor!

Through the senior co-op, a role that I am now filling for the new co-op, I was able to reach out for additional help and training when the other team members were engaged with other projects. Additionally, her pre-established relationship with the team served as an ice-breaker for me to get to know everyone better.

Not only did this facilitate my feeling comfortable and confident in my position, but it allowed me to get more involved in a variety of projects early on and really make the most of my time.

Everyone was in your shoes at one point, and a new a job can leave even the most confident people feeling anxious and nervous. Will I fit in? What if I mess up? Your mentor can become your guidebook and your connection. They can let you in on the trade secrets – the things that make the everyday work a little easier or the ways to fix that metadata folder you accidentally deleted. They can tell you the best restaurants to grab a quick lunch, or the floor with the best coffee machine.

From the simple to the complex, your mentor is your friend, and together, your first year might not be so scary after all.

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