We NEED More Mentors!
It’s pretty obvious. We could all find a dozen studies that suggest that engaging in a mentoring relationship improves post-graduate outcomes, personal satisfaction, and connectedness and advancement in one’s chosen field.
So why aren’t you mentoring someone?
If you are mentoring someone, why is it just one person? I was twenty-two years old the first time I met someone in whom I could put trust, personally and professionally, to help me develop as a person and make advancements in my life. It was an older black man. I felt like he understood parts of my struggle. Furthermore, he knew what it took to overcome that struggle and reach new heights.
From that point on, my hunger for mentoring-type connections was insatiable. I clung to more experienced people in higher education, in roles that actively developed and promoted student success, and I learned a great deal. Still, I was a bit surprised when former classmates, my peers’ younger siblings, or my student advisees would approach me in an informal context, asking if I could “help them.” I’m just a kid trying to make it myself. What do I know?
Enough. I know enough. Millennials have faced the toughest job market in decades due to the economic crash of 2008. There is an entire generation of people, worldwide, who have seen their dreams displaced, deferred, and disregarded in search of an opportunity that can provide material needs. When you think about what sort of example that generation is supposed to set for the up-and-coming Gen Z’ers...what comes to mind? Among the oodles of things Donald Trump’s administration is planning to cut, federal equal opportunity programs (programs that serve socially and financially underprivileged youth) are set to take a very hard hit. Not to mention HUD program and after-school programs. Marginalized people are being further and further marginalized, systematically. It’s more important now than ever that we commune to support each other's’ success.
Sometimes it's not all about what you did right that you can teach somebody. Teach someone to avoid the mistakes and missteps that you made. Teach someone to navigate the treacherous waters of uncertainty, resource depravity, and solitude.
If you’re “self-made,” you know how hard it is. Your difficult pathway to success isn’t a reason to condemn others to the same fate. It’s actually the exact opposite.
We have a responsibility and accountability to uplift each other. You’d be surprised what knowledge you have that can help someone else. As we grow, we forget how unintuitive now-common knowledge once seemed. I advise young writers to let others edit their work, to take a break and come back to ideas with fresh eyes, to create a schedule for projects so that they can establish consistency in their writing routine. Their eyes light up. They are incredibly grateful for information that is simply second nature to me at this point.
It doesn’t take a conversation every day. I have dozens of mentees, and I speak to each of them with varying frequency. However, whenever we do talk, it always seems like just right time. That consistency, the knowledge that the lines of communication are open in case a young person needs something, is crucial. Get involved in local and national organizations and network. Take a young employee under your wing at your workplace. Find an entrepreneur in or adjacent to your field and collaborate with them. You’ll gain so much through giving. We all build each other.