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  1. Blog
  2. Mentorship
  3. June 1, 2018

How Diverse is Your Mentorship?

The importance of being intentional when picking mentors

By InHerSight
How Diverse is Your Mentorship?

Here’s the thing—success doesn’t come easily. And it surely doesn’t come without the help or influence of others.

In fact, when we asked women in the InHerSight network to tell us what they turn to most often for help with self-assessment and personal growth, the number one response was mentors and coaches. Unfortunately, you can’t always rely on your organization to have a top-rated mentorship program, or a mentorship program at all, for that matter. So what then?

If your company doesn’t have a mentorship program (or if they do but you’re not getting a whole lot out of it), it’s really important that you seek out mentors on your own. Building that support team and those channels for feedback and advice is a key piece of setting yourself up for success. In fact, 75 percent of executives say mentorship played a key role in their careers, according to a study from Deloitte.

Not only is it important to find people you trust and can learn from to help you navigate your career, what’s maybe even more important is to be intentional about the mentorship you seek. Your mentors should NOT be a direct reflection of you, rather, they should be a reflection of the ever-changing workplace and the world we live in. The more diversity you have in your mentorship, the broader your perspective will be, and the better equipped you will be to manage workplace relationships and make more informed, inclusive decisions.

When choosing mentors, look for diverse perspectives across these 5 factors.

Gender

It may seem natural to gravitate toward other women when looking for mentors, especially since they understand the unique challenges women face managing careers. But as much comfort you might find in having another woman as your mentor, there are benefits to getting a male perspective (one being that men have had a long history as the majority in leadership roles, and can more often provide the perspective of someone who has had “a seat at the table”). Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s mentor relationship with economist Larry Summers is a great example of how mixed-gender mentorships can drive a lot of value.

Age

You hear the word mentor and you immediately think “older.” Here’s the thing—we’re at a pivotal moment in society where baby boomers and Gen Xers are in positions of leadership and influence, meanwhile millennials, and even some Gen Zers are taking the workplace by storm with with their natural understanding and comfortability with technology and new methods of communication that are driving a lot of industries forward.

Yes, it definitely works to have someone more seasoned with professional experience to turn to for advice. At the same time, it also pays to have someone in your circle who is younger and can provide insight on new trends that may be foreign to you. These younger individuals have their finger on the pulse of what works for their generation when it comes to things like management styles, communication strategies, and more.

Race

Individuals of different racial and ethnic backgrounds have different perspectives, and are therefore privy to different methods of moving and growing in the workplace. Exposing yourself to a mentor with a different racial background will not only broaden your perspective, but also expose you to various ways of handling different workplace situations (and make you more sensitive to the experiences of others in the process).

Career Level

Much like age, it’s natural to hear the word mentor and see a picture of an older, professionally seasoned individual who has reached one of the higher rungs on their career ladder. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have a mentor who fits that bill. For a minute, however, consider the insight that someone could offer who has been mostly in a position of monitoring leadership and success from a more supportive role. Don’t roll your eyes at the advice of administrative staff, or even janitorial staff, who are often silent observers of what goes on in the workplace. I believe firmly that common sense and an understanding of people and their desires will get you further than degrees and experience.

Read more: How One Woman and One Business Trip Helped Me Face Imposter Syndrome

Industry

A good mentor does not have to work in the same industry as you. The various experiences and approaches that people develop in different industries can offer you a new way of seeing the world you work in. Seeking out mentorship from professionals in industries complementary to or even radically different from yours can broaden your perspective and may even give you an innovative edge.

It’s important for us to remember that we can’t possibly know everything, and we can’t grow without the influence of others. Whether your employer is one of the companies that provide the best mentorship opportunities, or if you have to shop around for yourself, make sure the individuals who offer you mentorship have different perspectives than your own. And even if your employer pairs you with a mentor, don’t let that stop you from building your own team of diverse people to help light your path to success.

Read more: How to Find Your Flock in a New City

What things did you consider when finding your mentor? Tell us on LinkedIn. Does your employer have mentorship or sponsorship opportunities? Rate your company today.

By Archele Moore

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