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A publication of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, Northern Section

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Northern Section’s mentorship program delivers valuable experiences

By Ellen Yau, Mentorship Director, May 15, 2023

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Identify your goals: Why do you want a mentor, and what do you hope to learn? You can clearly understand what you want to achieve by asking yourself these questions. This doesn’t mean you need a complete roadmap, but it is good to consider what areas you need guidance in and what you hope to gain from this mentorship program. For example, you may be unsure about your next career step, so you want to “listen and learn,” using the time to get an insider’s look into your mentor’s work experience and guidance on interview tips, review of your resume, or to ask general questions about what to expect in a particular job. Or, you may want to discuss pivoting your career, whether progressing to a management role and wanting to learn leadership skills or develop skills to handle work challenges.

Find the right match: Look for a mentor with experience in your area of interest (whether that is a specific planning focus area, such as transportation, land use, or the environment, or an organizational subsector like private or non-profit. It’s also important that a mentor’s personality and work style align with your goals or interests, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. APA mentorship program participants fill out a participant survey asking about experience and interest levels, and the information is used to find matches between participants. You will want to complete the survey with as much detail as possible so we can help you find a match. The program offers a low-barrier entry to join and provides a relaxed environment for you to build that relationship with a professional planner. We have also helped connect mid-career professionals to directors and managers in past years.

Manage the relationship: Remember that this program is voluntary, and your mentor volunteers their time to the program, so be considerate of their time commitment. Be communicative, follow through with your commitments, be punctual and prepared for meetings, ask thoughtful questions, and be mindful of how much time is being spent. The APA mentorship program introduces participants to one another through email, and then participants are invited to meet in person at regionally organized happy hours before formal one-on-one meetings occur. Before each meeting, we send reminders and materials with questions or ideas, but matched pairs are welcome to go off-script. The meetings could happen at the mentor’s workplace, over a meal, walking in a public space, or any other mutually agreed-upon arrangement.

Express gratitude: At the end of the program, share gratitude and redefine the mentorship relationship. At your third meeting or in a follow-up email, express your appreciation for your mentor’s time and guidance. You can use this opportunity to discuss whether you want to continue meeting beyond the program or if you will move in different directions. The APA Mentorship program is set up for participants to participate year after year and request different matches, which allows planners in the profession to continuously make relationships through the program and maintain prior matches.

How to achieve success as a mentee

How to achieve success as a mentor

  • Clarify your goals.
  • Research your mentor.
  • Develop a brief agenda.
  • Send materials.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Set clear goals and objectives.
  • Get to know your mentee.
  • Develop a mentoring plan.
  • Provide feedback.
  • Encourage and support growth.

Important dates for the 2023-2024 Mentorship Program:

  1. Enrollment Opens: July-August 2023
  2. Mentorship Matches Announcements: September 2023
  3. Meeting 1: October/November 2023
  4. Meeting 2: January/February 2024
  5. Meeting 3: March/April 2024
  6. Program Wrap-up: May 2024
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