By Tamika Tremaglio
This is graduation season, and along with the nearly four million postsecondary degrees being handed out, new graduates are getting a lot of good advice from commencement speakers and loved ones.
Allow me to add one more piece of advice, and it’s a simple one to remember: Keep building your network of mentors, advisors and sponsors. The people who gave you good advice about the right professional track, coursework and summer jobs and internships are often the same people who can help you as your professional life gets launched.
This can be particularly true for women. Though they far outnumber men studying on college campuses, research shows they are less likely than men to get meaningful advice and mentoring over the course of their school and professional careers.
And don’t just set yourself up to receive advice. Give it. Some of the best mentors are those who know the power of ongoing guidance as you build a career, navigate the job hunt and then the workplace, evaluate the kinds of bosses you work for, and do everything else they don’t teach you about in a college classroom.
There’s plenty of evidence on the benefits of mentoring in school and after you graduate. The 2016 Gallup-Purdue Index, a survey of more than 11,000 respondents with bachelor’s degrees or higher credentials, found strong connections between mentorship and employee engagement, long-term well-being, and overall engagement in the college experience. Mentorship played a big role in the success of career planning, respondents said. Graduates surveyed also suggested it was less important who students had as mentors than whether they had been mentored in the first place.
But this is a two-way street. It’s typically not enough for women to seek out mentors; they should also seek to become mentors. My own interest in mentoring goes back to lessons from my father, who insisted it was important to lift as you climb. As a result, I make an intentional effort to mentor young people on a regular basis.
The need for women leaders to commit to mentorship is more important than ever. In a survey of more than 1,000 professionals in North America about their experience with mentoring, three-quarters of respondents said their most meaningful mentoring relationship was either “very important” or “extremely important” to career development.
Along gender lines, women were more likely to report that mentoring had profound effects on their careers. The survey also showed that people tend to pick mentors of the same sex.
Nevertheless, this is not only relevant to women. In my role leading Deloitte’s Greater Washington marketplace, we are proud to champion the Mentoring Matters Coalition and the United Way to reach young people across the National Capital Area. We also have a deep mentoring relationship with organizations like the Posse Foundation and BUILD that prioritize diversity and inclusion in their mentoring missions. Personally, I’ve learned that the best advice often comes from a network of mentors who you admire because of their skills – no matter their gender or ethnicity.
If I had to write a letter to my younger, graduating-self, I’d tell her to look for people to emulate and toss out any feelings that I didn’t belong because of my gender, my race or any other defining characteristic. And I’d say this, too: Give back and mentor others, because it can be a great way to discover how far you’ve grown. You might be amazed at what you can learn about yourself, and what you can help others learn about themselves.
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