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June 01, 2021
Two women talking at a table

When it comes to kickstarting a career, mentoring matters. And to help Retail students build connections and receive first-hand guidance from industry leaders, the Ted Rogers School of Retail Management tapped into their Advisory Council for a network of mentors. 

The Mentoring pilot program launched in 2020, with 12 students receiving one-on-one mentorship from a member of the Retail Management Advisory Council – executives in some of the most successful retailers in the country. This included coaching, guidance and opportunities to learn about retail careers, trends and current issues in the sector, as well as how to be a leader. It was not intended to be a career recruiting relationship.

The Mentorship Program, which ran for the 2020-21 academic year, included a minimum of two, one-hour meetings with an Advisory Council member and a “plus one” activity, such as an office visit, headquarters tour or job shadowing. Mentors were also available to students for additional contact points throughout the year, such as answering questions over email. 

"We hope that the Advisory Council Mentoring Program helps to directly connect students with prominent, successful members from our Retail field,” says Dr. Mark Lee, Director, Retail Management. “The opportunity to connect with key executives provides a unique perspective that will help shape the career pathways of our students."

One of the success stories of this program is that of Retail Management student and Executive Vice-President of the Retail Students' Association (RSA), Adriana Martinez . The fourth-year student, who is graduating this June, was mentored by Carolyn Hynds , Vice President of Loyalty, CRM and Analytics at Rexall Pharmacy Group.

“Participating in the Retail Mentorship Program was a fantastic opportunity, and I am truly grateful to have been part of it,” says Martinez. “Dr. Mark Lee and Sean Sedlezky (Manager, Program Design, Retail Management) put great thought into the matching process, and I am incredibly fortunate to have been matched with Carolyn. At the time, I was looking to explore a different area of retail, one that Carolyn could provide a lot of insight into.”

The pair met for an hour each semester, and Martinez was able to ask Hynds questions about her career journey, what working in retail during a pandemic has been like and how to navigate being a leader in the virtual working world. She applied her mentor’s advice to managing a team virtually as the Executive Vice President of the RSA, and found it highly effective.

While Martinez says she enjoys attending panel discussions and listening to industry leaders, she felt that talking to Hynds on a more personal level was an invaluable experience. “We were able to maintain engaging conversations and speak candidly with each other,” she explains. “I always came prepared with questions and made the most use of the hour I had because she had so much knowledge to share.”

“There is no greater honour than playing a role in shaping the next generation of retail professionals,” says Hynds.  “I can credit mentors with helping me see a possible future and build the confidence needed to achieve it.  It has been very rewarding to pay that forward through my involvement in the School of Retail’s mentorship program.  Ryerson students’ enthusiasm and passion for the retail industry is infectious and reminds me why I pursued a career in this field to begin with.”  

Martinez says that Hynds helped the way she viewed her career, and the steps she should take to secure a job after graduation. “The tips she gave me assisted in my job pursuit, nailing the interview process and making the most of my experience with the RSA,” she points out. “After our meetings, Carolyn would take the time to ask me how my job hunt was going and send words of encouragement, reminding me that the first job is always the toughest to find. It was a great feeling knowing I had someone in my corner.”    

At the end of this semester, Hynds shared a job opportunity at Rexall in Digital Marketing with Martinez, the area of retail she was interested in pursuing.  Hynds was gracious enough to pass her resume along to the hiring manager, and the job excited Martinez so much that she took it upon herself to reach out to Rexall’s HR coordinator she met at a previous Retail Management event. She eventually landed the Digital Marketing Coordinator position at Rexall, and started her new role in May.

“The Retail Management program allowed me to meet multiple Rexall executives who were guest speakers or judges, and I was always so impressed with their knowledge and passion,” Martinez explains. “While interviewing with Rexall, I had received a job offer at a different company, but my experience with everyone at the company and Carolyn made me confident in my decision to pursue a career with Rexall. I am incredibly happy with my decision, and grateful for my experience with Carolyn and her belief in me.” 


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