Research shows that only about 20 percent of Black women report participating in a mentoring program within their organization. A mentor is a trusted adviser who is a few steps ahead in life, personally or professionally and helps someone along their journey. Mentorship is usually used to help employees thrive and excel in the workplace. Just like a garden that flourishes when nurtured, a mentor/mentee relationship thrives when nurtured. If you water and care for it, the relationship will grow and bear fruit.

Here’s how having a mentor can help drive career success: 

A mentor assists with setting and achieving goals.

Setting expectations for the connection is essential early in the mentor/mentee relationship. Schedule a conversation to assess the mentee’s needs and the expertise and wisdom the mentor can provide. There should be movement towards a goal. 

Mentees should share what they hope to get out of the relationship and be clear about what advice they need, such as changing careers, seeking professional growth, or reaching a finite goal. As a mentee, end your conversations with action steps to reach your goal.

A mentor creates a safe place. 

A mentor/mentee relationship can also serve as a space to unload emotions like stress, overwhelm, and self-doubt. Establish parameters and expectations that the mentor/mentee relationship is a safe place to vent and share thoughts. Especially when a mentee might face microaggressions, bias or inequities in the workplace, a common experience for Black women in the workplace.

Many Black women struggle with perfectionism in the workplace. The “superwoman” and the “strong, Black woman” persona have placed an undue burden on the shoulders of Black women professionals. A mentor can create a space of authenticity and allow mentees to be themselves. They can offer feedback and encouragement to redefine success, practice self-compassion and celebrate authenticity. 

A mentor champions you for new opportunities and roles.

A mentor advocates for the mentee’s advancement in the workplace. In this role, a mentor might highlight opportunities for growth to the mentee, like training, courses or certifications. They can provide opportunities for promotion and career advancement within the organization.

A mentor/mentee relationship provides reciprocal support.

A mentorship should not be a transactional relationship. To avoid a one-sided connection, it’s crucial to create reciprocity. A mentee should intentionally ask their mentor, “ What can I do for you?” A mentor might need your help with the latest social media app, spreading the word about a job or internship opportunity.