The Journey of Mentorship with Arlene Dickinson

As a prominent figure in venture capital, three-time best-selling author, and champion within the startup ecosystem in Canada, Arlene Dickinson has earned many accolades throughout her journey in entrepreneurship. In her interview with MindFrame Connect and Globalive Media, she discusses how those successes were supported by her mentors and community, what she looks for in her mentees, and the mission behind her full-service marketing firm, Venturepark.

Informal Mentorship

“In my world, I think that a mentor can come in and out of your life, and they can be found in many places in your life. It can be through friends, associates, people in other industries and sectors who have had success and can give you advice.”

Informal mentorship is the natural coming together of a mentor and mentee who are working towards shared goals, have similar interests or commonalities, or choose to learn from one another through a relationship that offers personal growth. It is not organized by an outside group or matching program, but rather arises organically from existing relationships or connections.

Some of the benefits of informal mentorship include a sense of ease, choice, and friendship between the two parties, as well as increasing your view of who can be a mentor. There is also the ability for these informal mentorships to ebb and flow as needed, in contrast to a formal mentorship program with set timelines. Spend some time reviewing your current contacts and evaluating whether you’d like to reach out to them – you might be surprised by what you learn from unexpected places.

To learn more about identifying possible mentors in your existing social circles and assessing your needs as a mentee, check out this resource.

Being a Great Mentee

“Curiosity is a basic, fundamental principle of any good entrepreneur, and any good mentee.[…] I always look for people without a pre-conceived notion of how things should be done but are open to how things might be done.”

In a review of mentorship literature, one of the leading factors that defined great mentees was being learning oriented. As Dickinson described, a mentee who is reflective and asks questions will get more out of the mentorship process and will allow their mentor to better meet their needs. For a mentorship to thrive, both mentor and mentee should be interested in personal growth – both as an entrepreneur, and a member of the broader startup community. Being curious and open to different ways to approach complex problems will help you and your mentor reach further, together.

To get ready for your mentor session, start by identifying your core areas of focus and clarifying your “asks” in order to provide your mentor with a starting area to jump off of for your conversations.  

The Power of Pause

“One of the best benefits I’ve had from a great mentor is the ability for me to sit back and take a breath. To listen to what they’re telling me, and not get so overwhelmed by the obstacle in front of me that I can’t see a way forward.”

Effective mentors provide their mentees with a moment to reflect, pause, and assess the proper path forward. The ability for mentors to provide long-term vision to a mentee who may be struggling with a short-term problem is one of their most powerful tools. On their end, mentees need to be invested in reflection – described in mentorship research as having the self-awareness and emotional intelligence to interrogate the results of your actions. Mentors who support reflective behaviours in their mentees help them improve their adaptation and flexibility, which results in entrepreneurs who better respond to stressors and challenges. The power of pause is one of the biggest gifts mentors can offer to their mentees.

To learn more about Dickinson’s work supporting the startup sector, check out Venturepark. Her work as an author, podcast host, and entrepreneur can be found here.

Further Resources

Tips for Making Cold Calls to Mentors. MindFrame Connect

The Critical Art of Reflection. The Art of Mentoring

The Right Mentor Can Change your Career. Here’s How to Find One. NPR

How to Ask Good Questions. MindFrame Connect

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