“There have been many times where not only was I the only Black person in the room, but the only woman in the room, and that can be a lonely place,” said Pitts, advocating for the value that Black women mentors have added to her life. And while mentorship program structures and goals may differ company to company and person to person, the goal should always be the same: building a mutually beneficial relationship that educates, inspires, supports and encourages.
Here are the top takeaways from the discussion:
1. When initiating a mentorship, leverage people you already know when possible, and be personal in your approach.
For so many, reaching out and asking someone to be a mentor can be nerve-wracking, but it doesn’t need to be.
“You don’t always have to put subject line: ‘Mentor Needed,’” Jones said. “Reach out to build a relationship. The space to connect is always there.”
“I think most people are kind, and they do want to help,” Pitts added. “Try to put your fear to the side, and put yourself out there.”
2. It’s important to set clear expectations from the start.
Before approaching someone, it’s important for mentees to identify exactly what it is they are looking for in a mentor. Establishing clear expectations from the start makes it easier to measure the success of the mentorship as the relationship develops.
“A coach, a guide, a cheerleader, a confidant—a mentor can encompass all of these different roles, because the reality is: You need different help at different times,” said Pitts. “Think about what you need, and then find the best mentor based on that.”
"Sometime the advice you get in those pivotal moments can change the trajectory of your career," Jones added.
3. The most successful mentorships are centered on trust, genuine connections and mutual benefit.
“To me, the most valuable function of a mentor is to act as a sounding board and to give advice,” Kim said. “The best mentors are the ones you can be honest and vulnerable with.”
But it’s important to remember that mentorship isn’t a one-way street.
“As a mentee, you shouldn’t assume you’re purely on the receiving end of the give-and-take dynamic,” Kim added. “Be proactive in sharing your insights as a mentee, and your relationship with your mentor will be richer for it.”