Community Engagement February 18, 2021

Five Tips for Creating Successful Mentorship Relationships for Black Youth

By Jonsaba Jabbi

Last November, SKETCH held its last SKETCHTalks event of 2020 with a focus on the topic of Creating Effective Mentorship for Black youth. We were fortunate to host a panel moderated by TD’s Q Kirk and three panelists including, BDP Quadrangle’s Osemele Airewele, Onyx Initiative Co-Founder Nigella Purboo and BMO’s Earl Davis.

They shared their experiences seeking mentorship while navigating academia and their respective work forces.

Here are five tips that emerging young Black leaders can apply while seeking and creating successful mentor relationships.

  1. It’s always important to know who you are, what you like, don’t like, what you want to be and where you see yourself. Once you do that, then you will be able to seek out people whose career trajectories mirror your future career or life goals. As our moderator Q Kirk suggested, “Do a self-assessment on yourself and understand who you are, what you’re missing today and then find someone who is different from you who shows that need as their strength.”
  2. Look into your community and build a team of people who are different from you so that you can learn from each other. It never hurts to have more than one mentor (the more, the merrier!). You can have several mentors for many different areas of your life, depending on your goals. Panelist Earl Davis applied this strategy of “building a tribe of mentors” as a young Black man navigating the finance world. “I was able to speak to people who had similar problems,” he says, “It gave me more time to learn, to say no, to learn from mistakes and allowed me to be in a position where my profile increased because I was taking advantage of opportunities,” says Earl. Don’t be afraid to reach out to potential mentors! This includes calls, messaging through social media and (virtual!) coffee dates. Even if you get rejected, there is always someone who will say yes.
  3. Both Osemele and Q both shared that a lot of the mentorship they received was from observing or learning from looking at others from afar. Sometimes, you don’t even have to know your mentors personally for them to mentor you in some way. Their life alone can serve as a playbook for your own goals. “A trademark of a good mentor is someone who helps you become the person you want to be,” noted Osemele Airewele.
  4. Mentorship is a very reciprocal relationship, there is always something a mentor learns from their mentee and vice versa. Get to know your mentor as a person and not only for what they can give you. Remember that you’re building a relationship that will ultimately last for a long time. Nigella reminded the audience that “mentorship helps mentors and mentees become better versions of themselves.”
  5. Earl reminds us that, “you don’t have to wait to be mentored to become a mentor.” Regardless of whatever stage you may be in your life, you can be a mentor to someone. There will always be someone younger than you who needs something that you have. There are several ways you can become a mentor, one of them includes volunteering at various organizations such as Boys and Girls Club, Big Brother Big Sister, Junior Achievers and more. As Earl puts it: “You can always start being a mentor from now, start right now and you’ll always do it.”

A special thanks to Q, Earl, Nigela and Osemele for your time and wonderful insights into how mentorship plays an important part in elevating young, Black leaders into new positions of leadership in all sectors.

Mentorship is a huge part of the Spotlight Scholarships for Black Artists. If you’re a young Black Artist seeking mentorship and space to professionalize your art practice, click here to apply for a Spotlight Scholarship.