How A Good Mentor Can Elevate Your Career

How A Good Mentor Can Elevate Your Career

How A Good Mentor Can Elevate Your Career

Rebecca Pang is a visionary sales leader, with a career that has spanned cities around the world and leading global organizations. Today, she is Vice President, Treasury Solutions at RBC and recently sat down with Ascend Canada to talk about the role mentorship has played in her career – both as a mentor and a mentee.

The impact of mentorship

Mentorship can provide the guidance, support and insight required to achieve professional goals, and open doors to both networks and opportunities throughout your career journey. A mentor can be a key relationship in your life – one with the potential to influence your career choices and trajectory.

For Rebecca Pang, mentorship has played an integral role throughout her career path. “My background has always been in corporate strategy and merger and acquisitions,” she tells Ascend. “Then when I did my MBA, the professor taught us to not just get a strategy job, but to get a Profit & Loss job or sales job. I thought to myself, ‘I am in introvert, how can I be a salesperson?’”

Then an opportunity came up a couple of years ago to lead a sales team covering Asian business owners in Toronto. Pang asked her mentor, who was her manager when she first came to Canada, if it was something she should pursue, sharing that she still felt like she was learning a lot in her strategy role and wasn’t sure if it was the right time to consider a new opportunity. “He agreed that you can always learn a lot,” she says. “But he added that taking on a sales role would give me a lot of new and different muscles that would set me up for success in the longer term. I took his advice, and the rest is history. I have found that I love sales leadership – and that’s the path I continue to be on today.”

Recognizing the value mentorship has played in her own career, Pang decided to become a mentor to many others as they begin and grow their careers. She explains that mentoring can take many different forms, and she offers mentorship support through a variety of channels. 

“Over the years since I came to Canada, I have been a mentor for many organizations, like Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), which focuses on newcomers, Women in Capital Markets, the CFA Society, Rotman School of Business, and I am currently an advisor for the Ted Rogers School Leadership Centre, which helps students think about leadership for the future world.” In addition, Pang participates in many podcasts and webinars to share her experiences and learnings, particularly for newcomers and minority women. “On top of that, I have also had one-on-one relationships with people – I am very passionate about staying in touch with how they’re doing in their personal and career development,” she says. Pang’s active and committed mentorship has been both appreciated by her mentees and recognized by the industry – in 2022, she was awarded the Then an opportunity came up a couple of years ago to lead a sales team covering Asian business owners in Toronto. Mentor of the Year award by Ascend Canada.

What to look for in a mentor

As you look into beginning a mentorship relationship or your own, Pang offers specific tips to help you find the right mentor – or mentors – to match your personal and professional goals.

The qualities of a good mentor

“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the light inside yourself.” 

This quote from Oprah Winfrey resonates with Pang, who believes that first and foremost, a mentor must care about the person in front of them. To that end, it’s important to find a mentor with whom you can build a strong and lasting relationship – someone who shares interests, values and perhaps past experiences.

“Other qualities of an effective mentor include being able to provide constructive feedback, but at the same time, being able to provide encouragement. Mentors need to be able to challenge the thinking of the mentee while at the same time giving guidance. It’s not the mentor’s job to command the mentee to do something – they have to respect the differences between them. With these qualities, the mentor can truly inspire and guide a mentee effectively.”


How to choose a mentor

Pang suggests choosing a mentor in a methodical way. “First, it’s important to think about your goal. What do you want to accomplish by finding a mentor? Is it to learn more about your industry? Is it to improve on a certain focus or to look for the next opportunity?” 

Once you figure out your goal, then it’s helpful to do a self-assessment. Pang suggests evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, and identifying any gaps that can be filled with the support of a mentor.

Then, it’s time to network. She encourages individuals to attend professional and industry events (like events hosted by Ascend Canada!) and then get to know someone before asking if they’ll be your mentor.

The right number of mentors to have

Once you figure out your goal, then it’s helpful to do a self-assessment. Pang suggests evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, and identifying any gaps that can be filled with the support of a mentor.

When it comes to choosing mentors, Pang recommends a balance between having different perspectives and developing meaningful relationships. “I think there is a benefit to having multiple mentors. Obviously, you can get different perspectives and access different role models who could be in different industries, different functional areas and/or at different stages of their career lifecycle.” 

At the same time, she emphasizes that mentorships require investment and time – they are relationships that take time to grow, and therefore cautions against having too many mentors. “So, a hybrid approach perhaps is having a few core mentors that you have a really strong relationship with. And then you can have several other people that you want to learn from and meet up with every now and then.”

How to get the most out of your mentor relationship

Keep in mind, mentorship is a two-way street. While you want to find a mentor who is invested in you, adept at providing constructive feedback and a strong networker, you as the mentee also have some core responsibilities to make the relationship work.

Following are the qualities of a good mentee, as suggested by Pang:

     Be open: The whole point of a mentoring relationship is that the mentor will challenge you to do something new – and that you may not feel comfortable with. It’s important to be open and give their suggestions a try.

     Be proactive: Mentors are very busy, so you have to proactively set up meetings and create agendas for those meetings.

     Be respectful: Avoid asking your new mentor if they can introduce you to 10 other people at your first meeting. Or to come right out and ask for a job. “That is not a respectful way to start a relationship,” says Pang. “You are developing a longer-term relationship – one that should be approached with clear accountability, expectations and goals.”

Pang also encourages mentees to look at mentorship as a win/win relationship. “There must be something you can contribute to what your mentors care about,” she says. “It could be as simple as sending an article that you think they might be interested in, or connecting your mentor to someone you know that could benefit them.”

The role of mentorship among the pan-Asian community

Pang explains that mentors are particularly important for certain groups in the workforce, such as pan-Asian employees and women. 

“There are sometimes systemic barriers faced by minorities or women in the workplace,” she says. “So, an important role for a mentor is to help them access opportunities and introduce them to certain people or industry associations that they may not otherwise have had access to.

She adds that if the mentor is of the same ethnicity, it can be inspiring for the mentee, “who can see the art of the possible and aspire to achieve career heights.” And, if the mentor understands the challenges faced by individuals of certain cultures, they can help them build confidence by focusing on particular areas.

Pang has mentored several women, pan-Asian individuals and members of other underrepresented groups throughout her career and is most proud of the times when she could have an impact on “hidden talent.”

“I always find it very satisfying to encourage these individuals and get them outside their comfort zone,” she explains. “And to give them the confidence they don’t see in themselves. Because a while back, I was like that. I was very shy. I was an introvert – I didn’t have the confidence and many people didn’t see me as a leader. With the help of my mentor, I was able to progress and build my own brand of confidence.”

 Whichever stage of your career you may be in, a mentor can make a meaningful difference. They can give you the advice, confidence and contacts that can open doors to new opportunities and be the person to believe in you, even when you face self-doubts and challenges.

And when you’re established in your own career, becoming a mentor yourself can provide valuable experience and perspectives. Rebecca Pang believes in paying it forward. “Once I was there – as a new immigrant, as a minority woman, as a young professional struggling to find my path. So, I find giving back to other people who are now experiencing the same thing that I did years ago, is very fulfilling.”


In January 2024, Ascend Canada is launching a pilot mentorship program in collaboration with Ten Thousand Coffees.