During the 2021 ESSENCE GU Summit, Girls United Associate Editor D’Shonda Brown was joined by Host & Creator Michelle Blue, Miss Black International Ambassador Pageant Executive Director Chelsea Thompson and McDonald’s Owner/Operator Danesha Smith to talk all about making the transition from mentee to mentor in an insightful conversation presented by McDonald’s.
For young women of color, it can seem impossible to find someone who looks like you to help navigate the ins and outs of your desired career path. If you’ve been wondering where to start, how to find a mentor, or how to take the first steps towards becoming a mentor yourself, these ladies have you covered. Scroll through to check out five things we learned from the panel about seeking or providing guidance to jumpstart a career, venture into a new industry, or simply solicit sound advice on the next move to make as a young adult.
Check out the video above to watch the conversation in full.
The 2021 Girls United Summit is presented by CBS Original The Equalizer and sponsored by American Airlines and McDonald’s.
You don’t have to wait until you reach a certain level of success to become a mentor
Host and creator Michelle Blue spoke about the importance of realizing that we can provide guidance to someone at any point in our journey. “At any stage in our lives or our careers, we can be mentors,” she said. “At any point in our lives, we’re further along than someone else. I think it’s important that we realize that wherever we’re placed, we can serve others and provide guidance for others along the way. Whether it’s from a professional standpoint or simply out of passion and desire.”
It’s important to pour back into women who look like you
It’s no secret that women of color are the minority in many professional settings, and when you see another woman who looks like you, it’s important to lift while you climb. For McDonald’s Owner and Operator, Danesha Smith, that was her ‘why’. “What made me want to become head of HR was not seeing people in the room that looked like me,” she said. “I was always getting a lot of questions about my journey and people wanting to know how I did it and who did I know.”
Mentorship doesn’t always have to take place in a professional setting
Maybe you’re looking for someone to guide you in your creative passions or to simply help you navigate your early twenties. Wherever you are on your journey, remember that it’s okay to reach out to someone to help in those areas, too. “Mentorship is both personal and individual,” Danesha shared. “Anyone looking for mentorship, think about what it is you’re trying to accomplish, be clear on what you’re trying to accomplish and connect with people that embody that.”
As a mentee, you can also provide value to those helping you
When learning from someone, it may seem as though you’re not qualified to provide resources or things of value. According to Michelle, that’s completely wrong. She encourages young women who have mentors to think about ways they can serve those who are pouring into them. “There are things you can do like send articles that are relatable to their industry or think about how to show up,” she said. “For example, if you know they’re attending an event, reach out about handling their social media for the day. We always have something to give to others, don’t diminish your experiences and where you are.”
It’s important to know when to reach out for mentorship
For Cierra Thompson, while pouring into others in the pageant industry, she knew it was time to seek out mentorship for herself. “As much as I pour into other young women, I need someone to pour into me too,” she said.
Cierra also spoke on the things that she’s been most grateful for since finding a mentor of her own. “I’m most grateful for my mentors giving me the leeway and the push to step into my role as an Executive Director. We all deal with imposter syndrome and it’s important to have mentors who really see your potential.”