I was rejected by a mentor once. I was stuck in my career and desperately looking for guidance. During my one-on-one with my director (someone whom I highly respected and still do), I asked if he would consider mentoring me. I remember saying, “I’m stuck in my career and am hoping you can mentor me.”

I continued by asking specific questions:

“How do I get to the next level?”
“How did you become a director?”
“Do I need management training?”
“What do you think I’m missing?”
“Do I need more creative training?”
“Should I go back to school?”
“What can you recommend?”

“I can’t mentor you, and I honestly don’t know what you should do next,” he said, looking me dead in the eyes. I was quite surprised, “You should be content where you are, Barney,” he continued. He finished with, “just keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll get there.”

I was devastated. I left that meeting feeling rejected, embarrassed, and without answers.

Mentorships provide a pathway to career advancement for BIPOC employees.

Mentorships provide a pathway to career advancement for BIPOC employees. A recent Pew Research Center study shows that first-generation college graduates lag substantially both career-wise and financial-wise in comparison to second-generation and beyond college graduates. Implementing a company mentorship program can help first-generation college graduates with:

  • Understanding the company culture and corporate values
  • Understanding HR benefit programs, such as 401K, HSA, and others
  • Learning how to promote their voice and promoting ideas beneficial to the company
  • Identifying short-term and long-term goals for professional success and advancement

Why is that important, you may ask? According to a LinkedIn survey, 40% of Black professionals ages 18–34 say the biggest obstacle in their career is not having a clear path or opportunity for advancement at their organization.

I discuss this and more in my previous blog post.

I never did find a mentor. Managers have occasionally supported me, but only at arm’s length. This event truly strengthened me. When I became a manager, I made it my mission to mentor, guide, and support my team in every way I could.