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Looking For A Mentor? 3 Rules To Get The Role Model You Need In Your Life

If you are looking for a mentor to help achieve your goals...Here are some rules that'll assist with you getting one!

Workin' Girl

For big dreamers and visionaries, snagging someone to bring you under their wing for is an ideal goal to have. I serve on the board of directors for a mentorship program, so I've seen firsthand the positive effects of mentorship in a young person's life. Never having one myself growing up, the benefits of having an experienced person lead me towards my professional development would have resulted in accomplishments happening sooner than later for me.

When I started blogging and my vision for what I wanted to do as a writer shifted and expanded, the need to have someone act as my advisor was necessary. Starting out in almost any field is a struggle, as we live in a world where people aren't always open enough to help another or ask for help to begin with. Where everyone “has it all together," I knew that I was far from where I wanted to be and needed someone already planted in the world I wanted to be in to teach me the in's and out's of writing. Myleik Teele says mentors are usually someone “who helps you in a certain aspect of your life and grooms you." I needed serious grooming.

I was a follower of one woman's work for about two years and reached out to her via Twitter one day to tell her I admired her and her gift for writing. I shared her posts whenever she wrote something new and left feedback to show that I actually read it and that it resonated with me. Subsequently, I extended an invite to her to attend my first annual blog brunch where I and other bloggers in the area would get together to talk openly about the things that not only bind us together as writers, but more so, as women. The things that I did leading up to me asking her to join in–conversing with her and asking questions in 140 characters, and sharing her work with my own growing network–resulted in her actually coming to my event. I questioned how I, a small-time blogger, landed an established journalist to come to my event. The answer was, I was falling into the mentee role without realizing it.

Long story short, from that one event and the honest conversations about the common factors that brought us together (the love of writing and womanhood), emerged an organic mentorship. I didn't ask her to be the one to guide me into my budding writing career, nor did she advise I follow her leadership. It just happened.

Nola Hennessy, founder and CEO of Serenidad Consulting, believes “a good mentor will guide, not advise; inspire, not motivate; critique, not judge; and share ideas and options, but not do it for you. The mentee must be willing to open up to new ideas, act on guidance given, [and] be prepared to adapt and change." All of these have worked for my own mentoring relationship and those I witness in my program.

My mentor, Bené Viera, and I teamed up to give our thoughts on mentorship, including the do's and don'ts of acquiring a mentor, and tips you can follow to hopefully have that role model take you in under their wing.

Rule #1: Don't Ask Someone To Be Your Mentor

Bené Viera speaks on letting things fall into place saying, “Don't ask someone to be your mentor. Mentorship happens naturally. People that believe in your work will invest in you if a genuine relationship has already been built."

On top of not asking someone outright to be your mentor, don't ask the people you look up to what you should do, but instead, what they did. Scooter Braun, the manager behind Justin Bieber, spoke on his own ideas of what mentorship is saying:

“There is this richness in history and the wisdom that comes from experience that trumps any kind of smarts. To me that's what mentorship is: drawing from that wisdom."

If you're looking for top-notch leadership that'll help you with your own goals, ask questions–tons of them–and pick apart what you think will work for you knowing that someone was once in your position, along wit, the methods that worked or didn't for them. Actress and co-creator of 2 Broke Girls, Whitney Cummings, spoke on the power of mentorship, saying:

“You can look at them [mentors] and the choices they make and that inspires you to make choices unique to you. A mentor shouldn't just be someone you emulate, because then you'd be a carbon copy and that's not original. It's someone who inspires you to be the best version of yourself."

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Rule #2: Put In Your Own Work In Your Career First

Bené and I clicked right away because we had something to talk about from the jump–her work and my own. When we finally met in person at my event, there wasn't that awkward, what do I say now moment because there was something that connected us from the conversations we had online. The importance in getting a mentor lies in being someone who is actively building a career, with a portfolio (big or small) to show and prove.

Bené says in the beginning, “I'd suggest people not get so caught up in having mentors and instead just do the work. When seeking a mentor, you should already be on a career-track that a mentor can easily point to the work you've already put in."

Also, (and this is pretty obvious), your mentor's career should mirror that of your own path and ultimate goals. In order to gain the professional insight you're looking for, it's best to chose someone already making moves in your desired field.

Rule #3: Know That Having A Mentor Is A Give & Take Relationship

Myleik Teele advises mentees to not be greedy and remember the give and take rules, as well as, understand that “mentorship is not a life vest." My mentor points out mentorship being a reciprocal relationship and recommends checking in often, outside of needing career advice.

“No one wants to feel like they're being used because their mentee contacts them every other week to put out fires and never hears from their mentee otherwise. It's draining, and makes the mentor feel used."

My mentor and I have actually switched roles in the past and that's strengthened our relationship as mentor/mentee and as friends. My advice is to take the relationship beyond the phone and meet regularly in-person, as face-to-face contact isn't much of the norm in communication thanks to technological advancements. Besides, don't you want to see the person helping you along in your journey frequently? Be ready to put in just as much work as your mentor to make the relationship work and last.

There's tons of quality information on questions you should ask before choosing a mentor, to tricks on being a good mentor that'll add to the mentoring relationship. Find what's right for you and best of luck getting someone you admire to be your mentor!

Have a mentor? Let us know how you two connected in the comment section below!

Featured image by Shutterstock

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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