Having a mentor can either make or break a person’s career. Why? The answer is simple. The right mentor can help you avoid pitfalls in your chosen career path and fast track you to becoming the best possible version of yourself.
This rings particularly true for people of colour who feel there is a lack of diversity or representation within certain career paths. As a result, we are discouraged from pursuing our dream jobs, and are instead left working in displeasing roles and environments. It should therefore come as no surprise that career progression is one of the primary reasons why people seek out mentorship or professional guidance.
A good mentor can not only help you with your career aspirations, they can also provide you with lifelong skills that are transferable across different aspects of life.
However, finding the right mentor isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes a lot of time and effort. This means that while you’re on the hunt for a suitable mentorship, you can also put some feelers out in the job market by checking out what opportunities are available on Alt A Review’s Job Board.
So what are some of the important steps you need to take when you’re trying to find a mentor?
Finding the right person to guide you in your professional life is key to a successful mentorship. The more time you put into finding the right mentor, the more rewarding it will be in the long run. Begin with your own circle of professional and personal contacts. Consider people who work in positions that you would someday like to fill. Consider their experience – not only in the job itself, but their experience of mentoring others too.
Your personal connections can mean anything from very close friends to extended family members. We are all more connected than we realise, so who knows who you might encounter if you look around for long enough.
The effort you put into finding a job should match the effort you put into finding a mentor. In the way that you would write a cover letter for a prospective employer to outline why you want a job and what value you can add to a role, you should also write a pitch for a potential mentor.
Your pitch should be very clear. Outline why you’re looking for mentorship. Explain why you’ve chosen them specifically, what guidance you seek and the level of commitment you need from them. This will allow them to see your potential and assess if they have what it takes to be your mentor.
Once you have established some sort of communication with a potential mentor, you have to strike while the iron is hot. Make the move and ask for a face-to-face meeting. Many people have become accustomed to video calls and virtual meetings, but this is not a time for convenience.
There is no replacement for human connection, and in-person meeting, you will be able to get a better sense of one another. You’ll be able to pick up on body language, facial expressions and overall energy. These components are crucial in helping both parties connect and explore if there is a potential for a successful mentorship.
Like any relationship, the connection between a mentor and their mentee should be nurtured. It is important to check in with your mentor on a regular basis to let them know how you’re getting on and to ensure that you’re both working towards the same goals.
Some mentors have scheduled meetings that will allow you to update them on your professional progress, while others will focus on goal setting. It is important that both you and your mentor are on the same page about your expectations. Make sure that you both discuss what sort of mentorship would benefit you the most.
Mentorship is a two-way street. While you may be gaining incredible insights from your mentor, it is important to remember that you need to give back wherever possible.
Also, make sure that you both have an idea about how long you would like the mentorship to last. This way there won’t be any room for confusion or feelings of rejection if the mentorship doesn’t last as long as you anticipate.
If you succeed to the next level, look out for others on their way up, who might need your help and the benefit of your learnings.
Here are a few companies to get started with a mentor.
For young people: Founded in 2017 by youth practitioner and project manager Elaine Isadora Thomas, we are a not for profit youth organisation that aims to provide long term mentoring and youth engagement solutions to young people from black and marginalised communities.
Shadow To Shine offers employability and entrepreneurial training courses, mentoring, work experience and various other opportunities to empower young people from underrepresented backgrounds to realise their full potential.
For Black Men: The 100 Black Men of London is a community-based charity led by Black men delivering programmes and activities focused on Mentoring, Education, Economic Empowerment, and Health & Wellness.
By Filomena Kaguako