Education is important but Mark Beckles has little doubt that he also owes his career to the network he established and the mentorship he has benefitted from along the way.
“The career opportunities afforded to me have been amazing but I’m mindful that I would not have enjoyed a fraction of success without a network and mentors at every stage of my career,” said Beckles, the vice president of social impact and innovation at RBC.
In a recent interview with Magnet, Beckles said not only is he still friends with his first boss from when he worked in the office of the Barbadian prime minister, but he’s also still in touch with those who mentored him as a teenager.
Over the decades, they and other mentors have given him invaluable career advice but have also “championed and challenged” him as he worked across many sectors including financial services, insurance and non-profits.
Beckles says the best mentors are those who help you see your potential and your blind spots.
Knowing the significant role these relationships have had on his success is why Beckles believes it’s critical for young people to establish networks well before they leave college or university.
“It’s especially important amid the COVID-19 pandemic for youth to value and initiate real connections with those who are currently working in their chosen field,” said Beckles.
He credits his mother for instilling in him a sense of service by sending him to church and organizations like the Boy Scouts, which taught him the importance of being engaged with people.
“Building relationships alongside focusing on your studies is critical,” he said.
“The great risk is spending $60,000 on an education where you are highly qualified but underprepared for the workforce. Networks and mentorship can help to bridge that gap.”
The future of work is changing, whether it’s where people work or how people work, and it’s prudent for youth to be aware of these trends and establish key networks.
“Networking and mentorship is not just about securing a job,” added Beckles.
“It’s about ongoing advice about how to develop oneself over time, preparing oneself for life as it unfolds and those careers and experiences you haven’t even thought about.”
Tips on building a network
Mark Beckles helps oversee RBC Future Launch, a program that’s committed $500 million over 10 years to provide scholarships and equal opportunities to Canadian youth, particularly those who identify as Indigenous and Black.