Before you #LeanIn or career climb, you have to be on your career path. This is where a mentor comes in--that person who guides your career and sometimes your personal development. In some cases, it's someone--an advisor or a heavy weight--who functions as a sponsor or champion as I write in 6 Minute Career Climb: You, Inc. Whatever the name, I have never had a consistent person or people who have committed to my professional development and success. I identify it as the single most detrimental thing to my career advancement which I discuss on the last Beauty Shop panel on NPR's Tell Me More with Michel Martin before the show's cancellation.
4 of My Mentor-Seeking Mistakes You Should Avoid
- I entered a brutally competitive field: Broadcast journalism is notoriously hard on women. While not encouraging women and minorities to avoid competitive careers, I do advise going in with eyes wide open--becoming fully informed of the political lay of the land with a focus on relationship building and assembling a constellation of allies who will advise on career moves, missteps, and survival tactics.
- I misidentified mentors: Your boss is worried about budgets, layoffs, and staff shortages, all factors contributing to not having the time, patience, or will to mentor you. Another thing that is critical for young women is correctly identifying a male colleague's intentions. Men in positions of power still make up the majority of the workforce and many are outstanding, committed mentors. Just make sure that he shares your 100% professional intentions and doesn't want to sleep with you.
- Waiting for Mujer Maravilla: Along the lines of the documentary Waiting for Superman where the great revelation is that no one is powerful enough to save students in a failing public school system, I made the mistake of wanting--and waiting--for a mentor Super Sheroe who would mirror my experiences as a Latina--an Hispanic Wonder Woman which leads to:
- Branch Out to Others Outside Your Background and Comfort Zone: There is still not a critical mass of Latinas in positions of power in the media and many other professional fields. However, more African American and white men and women are. The most important thing is to identify someone--regardless of background--who is senior enough in experience and power and who is willing to commit to your professional development.
To raise children, does it take a village or a family? I say both but also one important stakeholder--YOU. When mentoring a young woman of color, she will need you to #LeanIn for her, using the phrase Sheryl Sandberg coined to discuss women stepping up to advance professionally. You are not only mentoring this individual but her whole network of amigas and little brothers and sisters for whom she is a role model--perhaps the first to attend college or hold a "clean" white collar job. Your mentorship will help create a confident career woman who will pay it forward with the potential to create a multiplying effect in her community of upward mobility.
Click below to hear the last Beauty Shop panel on NPR's Tell Me More with Michel Martin focused on mentoring. This broadcast aired on July 30, 2014.