Mentorship Is as Important as Oxygen

As you pound the pavement and scour the Internet in search of a job, client or opportunity – an important task to add to your to-do list for career advancement is securing a mentor.

While the job landscape has changed with the advent of social media, what a mentor does has not. A mentor is still someone who has specific skills, knowledge and abilities to help groom you for success, provides strategic business advice and assists you with the tools to negotiate and conquer the corporate terrain. A mentor can be especially helpful for women who have the two-fold challenge of navigating the sexism of the business world while still maintaining a home and children. Choosing the right mentor will help maintain sanity as you climb the ladder.

“For African Americans mentoring is like oxygen; mentorship helps one uncover the opportunities and possibilities that are beyond the stratosphere,” says Kimberly Reed, human resource consultant and managing partner of The Reed Development Group.

A successful mentor will be compatible to her mentee, accomplished, connected, and available, and someone who also uses an innovative approach to maneuver the politics and drama of the corporate world. With mentoring you can achieve the following: creating a blueprint for your long-term career goal; securing invitations for the “right” networking functions; mastering the art of negotiation; and winning tips to climbing the corporate ladder.

“Mentoring is coming from an authentic place of service and pouring into an individual the necessary tools [etiquette/protocol, networking, strategic alliances, wellness and career coaching] for winning in a male-dominated world and a near-to-invisible culture for women,” says Carol Harvey, mentor advocate for Delta Sigma Theta sorority (Philadelphia chapter), and manager of admissions for Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

A mentoring relationship is not just a one-way street. You, as the mentee, must play a strategic and proactive role in their professional development, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency goes on to say that in order to take full advantage of a mentor/mentee relationship, a mentee must be open to feedback and coaching.

“Mentorship is a developmental relationship, says Ella L.J. Edmondson Bell, Ph.D., founder and president of ASCENT-Leading Multicultural Women to the Top, and author of Career GPS: Strategies for Women Navigating the New Corporate Landscape (Amistad; $25.99). “It’s a dance. It’s like any other kind of relationship; you have to get to know someone. The mentor shares his or her wisdom and knowledge. You share your perception of what’s happening in your company from your level. Look for mentors around you. You need allies, colleagues, and peers. Mentors are supposed to support you. That support is circular, not linear.”

As women we must openly celebrate each other, formulate healthy networks and relationships. It is critical to have a mentor, however, it is crucial to give back and become a mentor. To get involved today, check out http://www.caresmentoring.com.

According to HHS, a mentor should possess:
• Strong interpersonal skills
• Organizational knowledge
• Technical competence
• Strong leadership skills
• Sense of personal power
• Ability to maintain confidentiality of mentoring relationship
• Willingness to be supportive and patient

Karen Taylor Bass, The PR Expert, provides entrepreneurs, corporations, and mompreneurs with essential branding, marketing, and public relations coaching; www.karentaylorbass.com and www.taylormademediapr.com. Follow Karen’s tips and Caviar & Chitlins moments at Twitter, twitter.com/prexpert.