While mentorship offers plenty of advantages, it’s also surprisingly hard to come by. According to the 2023 Career Optimism Index:
Of course, these statistics don’t hit the same across demographics. As the Career Optimism Index notes, the lack of mentorship is more prevalent among older employees and those workers from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
Underwood also points to the special circumstances surrounding BIPOC employees. “The voices of BIPOC are notably absent in the development of [mentorship initiatives],” she says. “Viewing mentoring programs through the voices of all within an organization can provide valuable perspectives that create positive mentoring opportunities for all.”
As a result, Underwood advocates for encouraging a clear understanding of the role implicit and explicit biases might play in the development and execution of workplace mentorship initiatives.
Performance evaluations of mentors and assessments of program effectiveness are two other ways to encourage positive and productive mentorship.
Jane Austen famously referred to truths “universally acknowledged” with regard to matrimony. When it comes to mentorship, Underwood might contend the only universal truth is that no two mentor–mentee relationships are alike.
The cadence of meeting, for example, “is defined through the expectations of the mentor and mentee as they establish the purpose and boundaries within their unique mentoring situation,” Underwood says.
The same goes for results. What a mentee hopes to accomplish and what a mentor hopes to share are entirely individual. That’s why, as a mentee, it’s important to have a clear idea of what you’d want to gain or accomplish by having a mentor. Do you want to move to the next level in your career? Switch careers? Find the best upskilling or professional development opportunity?
To understand what you hope to accomplish, Underwood recommends asking yourself the following: