Tools for Success

What if someone offered you self-confidence, career advancement, personal satisfaction and financial benefit - all at no cost to you?

That’s the gift of a mentor.

Chelsea McKenzie - photo credit: Mike Savage

Mentors – not to be confused with personal coaches – are this generation’s living, talking breathing key to success, offering advice and insight to their usually younger protégés on everything from athletic pursuits to professional development.

According to one study by Catalyst Inc., people who work with a mentor earn approximately $25,000 more over a two-year period.

“If you find a gap between where you are and where you want to be in your life, a mentor can help you close it,” says Chelsea McKenzie, a graduate of KPU’s bachelor of applied design in graphic design for marketing program.

When McKenzie (pictured) met her mentor, she was working for someone else but looking uncertainly ahead to eventually starting her own firm. With help, direction and – most importantly – a vote of confidence from her mentor, McKenzie took the leap and now runs McKenzie Design, which specializes in graphic design, social media, marketing, promotions and branding.

“It was extremely powerful and even liberating to know that this very successful person had such confidence in me that I could start my own company,” says McKenzie.

So how does a person find a mentor? In McKenzie’s case, her mentor is a self-made CFO of a large architectural firm who was also a family acquaintance. But a mentor can really be anyone who possesses traits that are desirable to the mentee, and who is willing to share their experience.

“Start by identifying the sphere of your life in which you want to improve,” says McKenzie. “Don’t be too broad in your assessment because you won’t find within one mentor the ability to help you with every aspect of your life. If you have a sports or athletic goal, find a mentor just for that; if you’re struggling in your career, find a mentor within your field.”

Once you identify a mentor, approach humbly with a request for help, and if the mentor agrees, establish the so-called rules of engagement.

“A mentorship can start casually, but very quickly you’ll need to have the ‘define the relationship’ talk,” says McKenzie.  “That’s when you need to set expectations around goals, boundaries, communication channels and the frequency of your connection.”

McKenzie and her mentor met weekly when they first started the relationship two-and-a-half years ago; today, they meet about every six weeks.

McKenzie says showing gratitude is also important. Mentors are not paid for their service, so it’s important for the mentee to remind the mentor how much they are appreciated. And rather than a simple “thank-you,” notes McKenzie, the mentor gains the most satisfaction knowing his or her advice has been heeded, and made a positive difference.

For more information on the benefits of mentorship, visit:

Next month: How to become a mentor.