Successful mentor-mentee relationships can have an impact on promotions, pay raises, and the overall career success of insurance professionals, while companies that support mentoring report higher levels of employee loyalty, engagement, and initiative. There are, however, several best practices for implementing mentorship programs that mentors and their mentees will address during an upcoming panel at Insurance Business Canada’s Women in Insurance virtual event on September 17.
From a mentee’s perspective, Andreea Paicu (pictured), associate account executive at Aon and a panel speaker in the upcoming Women in Insurance virtual event, recommends that professionals who are searching for mentors do their research and identify exactly what they hope to get out of the experience.
“At Aon, we had a pool of about 15 to 20 mentors, so I started with research because I didn’t personally know most of the mentors,” she said, adding, “Don’t be intimidated by their title … just pick a mentor that you will be comfortable talking to and embark on the journey with.”
She says that mentees shouldn’t be afraid to schedule lunches and coffee dates with mentors since it’s important that they show their mentor how dedicated they are to the program and their personal growth.
There’s also a misconception that mentors and mentees need to devote a ton of time to the mentorship process, while in reality, Paicu and her mentor, Kelly MacDonald, senior vice president and sales leader at Aon’s Toronto branch, scheduled one lunch and one coffee date per month. Additionally, MacDonald would invite Paicu to industry events and other meetings.
“What is most important is the quality of time that you’re spending with your mentor. You don’t have to dedicate time every single week to get what you want out of the program,” said Paicu. “And to ensure that you’re utilizing your time properly, the mentee should go into every meeting prepared with notes on whatever topics they want to discuss and specific goals that they want to attain.”
In fact, some of the topics that Paicu and MacDonald discussed were her goals for the duration of the program as well as longer term career goals since Paicu wanted to move up to the next level within Aon and needed help getting there. The pair also discussed raising Paicu’s corporate profile, so she joined the office’s ‘fun squad’ committee at MacDonald’s prompting.
“One of the first things that I learned was to never underestimate the importance of a simple task, like volunteering to walk around and sell raffle tickets,” explained Paicu. “This allows you to engage with people that you normally wouldn’t have and create new relationships with colleagues.”
After going through the mentorship program at Aon, Paicu has a few other important takeaways for insurance professionals hoping to follow in her footsteps and that of her mentor. First, she says that you need equal effort from both sides.
“The mentor is there to guide you and give you that advice, but the mentee has to come to the table with their plan of action and show that they’re following that advice,” said Paicu. There likewise needs to be mutual trust and accountability to make a mentor-mentee partnership successful. The mentee has to be able to confide in their mentor and know that they always have their best interests at heart.
For mentees specifically, Paicu recommends that they take charge and steer the relationship based on what they want out of the program. “Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for exactly what you’re looking for,” she added.
Meanwhile, for mentors, Paicu says to invite mentees to as many meetings and networking events as possible, because one of her most memorable experiences from the program was when MacDonald would bring her to various industry events, where she got to meet people that she wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. This in turn helped Paicu with networking and her public speaking skills.
As for whether the mentorship program was worth it for Paicu, she says there’s no question that it absolutely was. “What I learned in the program definitely made me grow a lot,” she said. “We didn’t only work on the career aspect. Kelly helped me become a more well-rounded person and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I gained more confidence in myself, my abilities, and I became a lot more motivated to excel in general in my career.”
The proof is in the pudding – shortly after the program ended, Paicu got the promotion that she wanted, and continues to feel support and positivity from MacDonald. Taking part in the mentorship panel at the Women in Insurance event is just another example of how Paicu has come out of her shell. “Prior to meeting Kelly and going through the program with her, I would not have even seen myself having the courage to say ‘yes’ to an opportunity like this,” she said.
To learn more about successful mentoring, register for Women in Insurance, being held on September 17.