The Power of Mentorship
May 31, 2019 | Anita Jenkins
Editors Canada’s John Eerkes-Medrano Mentorship Program off to a great start
Throughout my life, people have generously shared their insights and tips with me. Some were small and similar to household hints. Others were transformative. All were important and helpful in some way.
Just recently, someone helped me with the settings on my smartphone. Another person downloaded a delightful app for me (Shazam) that satisfies my constant need to know what music is playing in a café or store.
When I was injured, someone told me that Superstore has a click-and-collect service. Another person introduced me to an agency that provides help with everything from housecleaning to transportation.
When I began working as a freelance editor and writer, my accountant husband said, “You don’t have to charge the same rates to all your clients.” You might say, “Who doesn’t know that?” Well, for me at the time, that was an amazing revelation. Someone else – a saintly client – gave me the courage to charge what I was worth, or at least enough to cover the bills and leave a little extra for small luxuries.
There is a word for all of these acts of kindness, sharing and support that fortunate people receive. The word is “mentoring.”
Description of the program
In May 2017, Editors Canada launched the John Eerkes-Medrano Mentorship Program. The website information includes this statement: “Most successful people have been mentored, whether they realize it or not.”
The program, available exclusively to members of Editors Canada, has been slowly growing. Both mentors and mentees are reporting positive experiences. Most seem to understand that mentorship is a two-way street, with benefits accruing to everyone involved.
Several participants have appreciated how mentorship allows a great deal of flexibility, as compared to a formal course with an established syllabus. If the pair starts off in one direction and then realizes the goal should be different, they can change things and consequently achieve the best possible results. Unlike a workshop or course, the activities can be tailored to suit the situation and the personalities involved.
In one case, the participants both had busy schedules. Mentor Nancy Flight (Vancouver) and mentee Rhonda LaFrance (St. Paul, AB) agreed to extend the usual two-month relationship to five months, with less frequent meetings. Flight says, “Perhaps my biggest lesson this time was not to try to do too much or to expect too much too soon. I think I was a bit too optimistic about what we might accomplish in a short amount of time.”
The cost ($250) is manageable. The mentors receive a small honorarium ($200), as they should, but much of their consulting expertise is provided pro bono.
Right at the outset, approximately 20 people signed up to be mentors, and several others have come on board since then. Clearly, these people understand the benefits of being a mentor and how much their mentorship services can help their fellow editors.
Frances Peck, an editing workshop teacher and informal mentor in Vancouver, talks about “the deep satisfaction that comes from giving of yourself and sharing your knowledge.” She adds, “For some beginning editors, all it takes is a small boost, a nudge of encouragement. Then they’re off, heading sky high.”
Mentor Beverly Ensom (Ottawa) says, “Having benefited from the wisdom of several wonderful editors, I am a true believer in the value of mentorship. I think this is an appropriate and necessary role for Editors Canada.”
Ensom, like many experienced editors, found herself doing a lot of informal mentoring over the years. When she was the National Capital Region (now Editors Ottawa–Gatineau) branch representative to the national executive council, her contact information was posted on the local branch website. As a result she found herself in “hour-long conversations” with editors who wanted to know what to read and where to find resources that would help them develop their careers.
Flight, who has taught and mentored for years, has this to say about her recent experience with the Editors Canada mentorship program: “I have always learned through teaching, and this experience was no different.”
Ensom, who mentored Claire Wilkshire (St. John’s, NL) says, “Claire was already a good editor, but she wanted to learn more and expand her horizons. I enjoyed my engagement with her and am glad to now count her among my friends.”
Wilkshire says, “Mentorship is a great idea. It is important to work with a colleague, especially given the isolated way editors often work. It provided an opportunity to gain insights and perspectives. I wanted to learn about excellence – to have an experienced editor look at my work, someone who knows the difference between good and very good.”
Wilkshire adds, “I loved working with Beverly. She was very focused, conscientious and well prepared. I find that many editors are happy to share.”
Lafrance describes what it was like to work with Flight: “I was interested in book publishing and wanted to brush up my skills in that area. It was a great opportunity. At first we weren’t sure how to proceed, but we found our way through trial and error. Nancy saw my strengths and told me what areas I needed to focus on.”
This statement from mentee Sarah Jefferies says it all: “The mentorship program confirmed for me that I wanted to be an editor.”
For more information on how the Editors Canada mentorship program works, and the benefits it offers to mentors and mentees, go to www.editors.ca/professional-development/john-eerkes-medrano-mentorship-program.
Two articles on mentoring have been posted on The Editors’ Weekly blog (blog.editors.ca):
- October 24, 2017: “Mentorship: Where the Learners Teach and the Teachers Learn,” by Anita Jenkins
- August 28, 2018: “Lifelong Learning for Mentors and Mentees,” by Trish Morgan
About John Eerkes-Medrano
John was a long-time Editors Canada member who died in June 2015. An editor who won the respect and loyalty of the authors he worked with, he was a two-time recipient of the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence. He was also a teacher and a mentor.