Credit union mentor programs are demonstrating their value in developing the next generation of leaders.
Earlier this year the Credit Union Association of New York’s Young Professionals Commission joined forces with the Crash Network to create a mentorship program.
As the first state association-sponsored program, the move addressed the career development needs of young CU professionals. Program facilitator, the Crash Network, hosted the initial introductory webinar, supplied a timeline and offered support along the way.
Matchups were made across the state with various sized CUs. The six-month mentorship process was conducted through weekly e-mails and twice-monthly in-person meetings or phone calls.
“The mentorship program has proven to be a great vehicle to promote learning, build knowledge and connect people within the credit union industry,” said Allison Barna, CUANY community development coordinator. “It’s also a way for credit unions to look to the future. Due to the initial success of this program, a second six-month round of mentorships will be starting shortly.”
Jo-Anne Harvey, a junior financial analyst with NEFCU, wasn’t quite sure what to expect of the program.
“It was eye opening. I was a little nervous that I’d be paired with someone who may not understand my experience but the match was perfect and she provided me with invaluable knowledge, advice and we still talk often,” said Harvey. “I’m glad I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to not only grow professionally but also get a different type of education on how to prepare for the work-life balance as work your way up the ranks.”
Michelle McCourt, executive vice president/chief financial officer at Bridgeway FCU and Harvey’s mentor, said mentoring has been the most rewarding part of her job.
“The Crash mentor program caught my interest since it involved working with up-and-coming young credit union professionals who really want to develop the skills necessary to advance,” said McCourt, who also serves as a mentor at her credit union and in the community.
“For it to be effective, the person needs to want to do this for themselves. It’s not about looking for another job but rather discovering more about yourself, what you do best and how to improve on that,” McCourt said.
She added that with the exception of making the time commitment, mentoring cannot be too structured as the objective is to be a career coach for someone, which means the personality match is as important as professional alignment.
Samantha Paxson, vice president of marketing at CO-OP Financial Services added that building trust is crucial as well.
“As a mentor, you have to come at it with an open mind and not assume that you have all the answers or you’ll come across as arrogant, condescending and irritating,” said Paxon, who made the decision to be a mentor as a nod to the mentors who made a difference in her life. “You’ve got to be a really active listener, incredibly open, honest, candid and committed.”
According to Barna, the pairing of 10 seasoned industry leaders with young protégés brought benefits to both mentors and mentees. Mentors gleaned insights needed to engage and cultivate tomorrow’s credit union leaders. The young credit union professionals gained their own insights, as well as some skills and tricks-of-the-trade that may have otherwise taken years to obtain.