Skip to main content

Is Your Mentor "The One?"

Is Your Mentor "The One?"

You know the story. As minorities, we can find ourselves unique in our work environments. But not in the ways we hope. There’s no spotlight on our accomplishments, our contributions, or even our potential. The spotlight’s on our difference, and it’s never too long before we really start to squirm from the heat and the glare.

We can hide it, and we can hide it well, but the squirming and discomfort stay with us. But apparently that’s just how it goes! We accept it as par for the course, and then go about our days doing our actual damnedest on the job.

After all, we’re here! We got through that first set of doors and there’s no way we’re going back. We know too many friends, too many classmates, who didn’t get this far. Folks either believed in us or they didn’t; but what matters is that we’re here now and already beating the odds.

We’re no stranger to hard work (twice as hard for half as much, right?). It’s just that it’s been a minute since we joined the company, and we’re starting to look around and wonder:

What’s the next move?

[Related: Eight Ways You Can Support Racially Diverse Colleagues at Your Workplace]

So you get a mentor.

Sound familiar? It’s about now that you might want some real help. Company culture’s not just confusing, it’s exhausting. It’s exhausting second-guessing yourself, policing your own tone, or rewriting that email for the third time. It’s exhausting overthinking what to wear to the next meeting, or calculating if that networking happy hour is worth the time it takes to steel yourself.

So you get yourself a mentor. Better yet, your company has one assigned to you. Time to make serious progress! Cue the sigh of relief, right?

Wrong. Being a mentee shouldn’t be a second job. So why does it feel like one? You know that senior staff are busy, but it’s weird that your mentor doesn’t actually check in with you. Those rare moments when they’re available feel strained or stilted. When they offer you advice, it doesn’t quite sit right, and you leave those conversations feeling just as confused as when you started. Something’s either missing or seriously out of sync.

[Related: Elevating Female Voices of Color in the Social Good Sector]

Your mentor doesn't know who you are.

It’s not that they don’t like you...or at least, that’s not the point. Your mentor doesn’t know you or even the world you’re coming from. They don’t notice the traps you have to avoid, or “get” that the rules they take for granted are rules you don’t even know exist. They can’t see that you’re out here winging it, because they didn’t have to wing it. That’s the disconnect.

So what now? I almost hate to tell you, but you have to find somebody else. Your company-sponsored mentor is not “the one.” You need more than generic in-house programs to level up.

You don’t set the company agenda! So how can it align with who and where you want to be? Your task is to find a mentor who you can actually connect with. They might not have had your life! But you won’t have to be “on guard” and “on point” with them.

“Getting it” is key for your mentor to actually and actively invest in you, in the lifespan of your relationship, and in the fulfillment of your goals. I can help you find them. And I can do that because I’m here to get you. As your coach, I work with you to hone in on the goals you actually want to achieve, and the plan to get you there on your terms.

Our work together is not limited by what your company wants from you, expects from you, or tells you that you deserve. It is not limited by the scope of in-house programs, or the competition for senior staff’s scarce attention. It’s time to stop guessing and plan for your next move. That includes strategies to build the team of supporters, mentors, and sponsors who can be the bridge between your world and the world you’re breaking into. Let’s get to work and make you your top priority.

[Related: How to Find a Corporate Mentor]

--

Denitresse Ferrell is a Transformation Strategist and Success Coach. She helps ambitious professionals gain clarity on their career goals and develop strategies to get there.


Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.

{{playbook.title}}

Continue learning with this Ellevate Playbook: