Excellent client service is partly based on staff having the right attitude, but, in itself, a be-of-service orientation is not enough. The Agency strongly encourages relationship managers and other staff to take up special opportunities for professional development and education that will enhance their ability to serve our clients. The experience of mentorship is a special form of learning that takes place between an experienced older employee and one with most of their working life ahead of them. While the Agency does not itself offer mentorships, several relationship managers have participated in the program hosted by the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association (CHRA). Here is the personal story of one mentee.
I first learned about the Housing Professionals Mentorship Program (HPMP) through a posting on a Facebook group for young people in the co-op sector. Before joining the Agency, I worked for a co‑op property management company and I have always been active in the co-op where I live. I saw the mentorship program as an opportunity to expand my understanding of the broader housing sector in Canada as a whole. It also seemed like a great way to build my C.V!
I was thrilled to be accepted and paired up with Lilian Chau, Community Investment Portfolio Manager at Vancity! In January 2019, Lilian and I signed our mentorship agreement and committed to a bi-weekly phone call. From the first, I could tell that her confidence and knowledge were exactly what I needed. We were a great match. CHRA provided us with monthly topics for discussion and an online portal where we could log in to interact with other mentors and mentees. We started by setting immediate, short-term and long-terms goals for what I want to achieve in my career and then talking about how those goals could be realized.
Over the course of our six-month mentorship, Lilian and I found ourselves becoming friends. In our bi-weekly phone calls, she guided me in my professional life and directed me towards Ted Talks and books that would improve my business skills. As we discussed volunteering and the challenges of work/life balance, I learned more about Lilian’s role at Vancity and her earlier career in city planning.
In April, Lilian and I met for the first time at the CHRA Congress in Victoria, BC. We threw ourselves into a full day of energizing workshops on leadership and networking designed specifically for HPMP. A highlight for me was hearing from the CEOs and EDs of housing organizations, who made time to talk to us about how they had achieved their positions as leaders.
At the end of the mentorship, Lilian and I decided to keep in touch. The mentorship experience is like an alternating current that flows in two directions, with both parties learning from each other. The six-month mentorship and CHRA Congress helped me by developing my professionalism and my knowledge of affordable housing. I also learned about provincial differences in housing, community land trusts, sustainable construction and the complexities of housing development. Greater knowledge of the housing sector as a whole has increased my confidence in the value of my role as a relationship manager. Further on in my career, I hope to pay forward the help Lillian gave me by participating in this type of program again—as a mentor. – Rosalind Morton