High marks for mentoring

CPA’s new mandatory mentorship program is designed foster foundational skills such as problem-solving, decision-making, communication, teamwork and leadership.

By now, you have probably heard about the CPA mentorship program, which is a mandatory component of the CPA practical experience requirements and officially debuts in September. But whether you’re an aspiring CPA or a veteran who has spent your career mastering the ins and outs of the industry, you might not realize how important fostering and embracing a mentor/mentee relationship can be. "This mentorship program has a specific focus," says Richard Piticco, CPA, CA, project lead for CPA practical experience requirements. "It’s about helping future CPAs develop their enabling competencies, which includes members demonstrating values and ethics and transferring them to incoming CPAs."

This is the first mandatory mentorship requirement CPA Canada has initiated, and it emphasizes the importance of creating the enabling competencies — skills such as problem solving, decision-making, communication, teamwork and leadership — that are so vital to an organization’s success. Catherine Mossop, president of Whitby, Ont.-based Sage Mentors Inc., which offers career coaching and designs mentorship programs, says research shows that having a mentor early on has the most profound impact on long-term career success. "It’s really about learning foundational skills, having someone to bounce ideas off of to gain perspective."

How it works

Future CPAs find their own mentors — making a good match is key to getting the most out of the relationship. The initial requirement is that the mentor be in good standing with a provincial body and not a family member of the mentee. Mentors have three ways to get involved: they can join their organization’s preapproved program (formerly called Approved Training Offices), sign up to the CPA’s mentor pool or accept a mentoring request. The minimum duration of the program is 30 months and the time commitment is estimated to be less than 15 hours a year. Mentees and mentors must meet at least twice a year, but Piticco recommends increasing that time "to develop a relationship and establish trust."

For the mentee

Inspiration, advice, expertise, leadership and motivation: this is just a taste of what protégés will receive when they find the right mentor. "The benefit of having a free mentor is invaluable," says Piticco. "People pay for professional coaches. Here’s your chance to pick the brain of someone who has developed a wealth of knowledge in the industry." You’ll learn enabling competencies that can’t be taught in postsecondary schools. "People who have mentors develop understanding in a broader context. Mentors help us manage relationships and filter information, which significantly reduces stress and makes us more confident," Mossop says.

For the mentor

It doesn’t matter where you are in your career — as long as you’re in good standing, you can get involved. "For more senior mentors, it’s about giving back to the profession," says Piticco. "Younger members can also effectively mentor. It’s a way to make you a better leader." In addition to providing guidance, understanding and support, mentors teach the nuances of the profession and organizational culture, says Mossop. "They offer a broader experience and perspective, and have time and wisdom on their side. Mentors grow leaders," she says. As a mentor, not only will you have the chance to make a mark on the career of a future CPA, but you’ll enhance your professional development, work on your leadership skills and receive access to resources, including free continuing professional development tools. "We need to be learning all the time and mentoring achieves this goal," says Mossop.

Words of wisdom

"We all want to contribute to the success of our organizations, and mentoring is a way to do so"

Catherine Mossop, President, Sage Mentors Inc., Whitby, Ont.