How to Engage in Mentorship Opportunities | The Story of Bradley & Robert was originally published on Idealist Careers.
Throughout my career, I have been fortunate enough to gain the experience of managing hundreds of people, many of whom I hired as early-career professionals. One of the most rewarding aspects of management is sharing my expertise through mentorship: helping others develop new skills, advising on critical thinking and strategic planning, and nurturing that golden leadership mindset.
Here on Idealist’s Career Advice blog, we’ve decided to share stories from staff that relate to the various aspects of working in the social-impact sector. As we continue to highlight resources for professional development, I figured now is as good of a time as any to share the story of a mentor/mentee relationship that I’ve had with my friend, Robert.
Whenever I participate in workshops, presentations, and keynotes held at various schools, events, and conferences around the country, I always end with an open invitation—“If you want to reach out directly through email, connecting on LinkedIn, or saying hello…”—and some people do just that (though fewer than you might think!).
Pro tip: If you get that kind of invitation, jump on it!
Robert was one of those brave people who approached me. It’s now been seven years, and our friendship has been filled with career advice, connections, and conversations. Below, I asked Robert to share a little bit about his background to highlight how connecting with other professionals helped shape his career trajectory.
Robert, I already know the answers to some of these questions, but can you tell us a bit about where you come from, personally, academically, and professionally?
I was born in the Bronx, grew up in Queens, and attended high school in Brooklyn. At Brooklyn Tech, I played American football in the Public School Athletic League (PSAL), where my coaches instilled in me the importance of dedication, responsibility, and teamwork.
I first attended LaGuardia Community College, where I studied Business Administration and gained experience in entrepreneurship and tech through a number of clubs and projects. One of those clubs, President’s Society: Tech, allowed me to connect with industry professionals at Google, Idealist, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, MongoDB, and AOL to discuss emerging topics and trends in the Tech space. I then continued my studies at Baruch College, where I graduated with a Bachelors in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and Investments and minors in Information Technology and Social Responsibility.
Throughout my college career, I worked multiple jobs in the travel and hospitality industry to support myself. The summer after my junior year, I was selected for Google’s 2019 Summer BOLD Internship in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was a phenomenal experience that led to my current full-time role as a Solutions Consultant at Google, driving customer success across Google’s advertising products.
What inspired you to reach out to current working professionals for career advice?
Truly what inspired me was joining President’s Society: Tech, which taught me the importance of fostering genuine connections with a focus on improving my knowledge and skills along my academic and professional journey.
I was given the opportunity to visit Idealist, where Bradley hosted a tech leadership event for my cohort. Since then, Bradley and I have fostered a mentor/mentee relationship, through which he has shared his own experiences and continuous guidance related to my professional development. Moreover, Bradley went above and beyond introducing me to his connections across the tech sector, reviewing resumes, and sharing advice.
How has networking with others helped shape your career?
I began to quickly evolve my mindset and think multiple steps ahead about how my current academic and networking decisions could influence my future career journey. I reached out to several connections I made through PS: Tech, all of whom were willing to provide career guidance. As my head coach would say, “It takes a village.” And, as a first-generation student whose family emigrated from Guyana, I appreciated all the support and experiential wisdom I received, which helped me to then adjust my focus and make strategic, career-oriented choices.
Several pieces of advice I received that helped me both academically and professionally:
- Be open to constructive feedback
- Practice pitching your experiences concisely, especially when networking
- Know how to demonstrate the impact you’ve made in your previous experiences using quantitative data points
- And my favorite, be humble yet hungry
Do you have any tips for students or current professionals on how to network with others?
Networking often requires us to step outside of our comfort-zone, but you should always keep in mind the benefits you’ll gain from hearing multiple perspectives. Specifically, if you have the opportunity to attend a networking event or professional club, go for it.
Embody the role you have in mind for yourself, and show up ready to absorb knowledge and ask meaningful questions. Always take the time to follow-up with individuals who volunteer their time to engage with you—your relationship might blossom and they could very well become your mentor!
That wraps up the latest conversation between Robert and me, but, before I leave you to think about your own mentor/mentee relationships, here are a couple of tips to keep in mind:
1. If you’re a mentee, make sure your request is an easy lift for the person you are asking for professional advice.
Instead of “I’m looking for a mentor to help with all of my career decisions” (whoa, that could be a commitment 😬 )
try “Do you have a few minutes to tell me about your experience, and maybe look at my resume?” (whew, much easier 😅)
2. If you are giving advice, be as genuine and honest as possible.
People naturally don’t know what they don’t know. As a mentor, I know I’ve done a good job when I get the feedback, “Wow, no one has ever told me that before.” Some of my favorites:
- “Wait, so having a martini glass in my headshot doesn’t make me look fun to work with?”
- “So I should really showcase all of my personal entrepreneurial stuff?” (ahem, Robert)
- “Your resume can’t be three pages!” (this was given to me 🤣)
Engaging in a mentorship opportunity—whether you are the person seeking professional advice or providing it—is an incredibly valuable experience. No matter what side of the relationship you’re on, don’t pass up the chance to form a lasting connection with someone who can help you grow personally and professionally.