Mentor vs. Advocate: Why It's Important to Have Both
By Khadejah Stegall
Khadejah is a part of the TLC College Ambassador Program and attends North Carolina A&T University.
It’s important to self-evaluate your professional journey and think about the people that helped you get there. In my college career, I’ve had many mentors. Some mentor relationships do not last forever and that is okay because some last a season. During your career, you will get told how it’s important to have a mentor and while this is important, it is also important to have advocates to vouch for you and your work ethic. I believe both relationships are extremely important, but people who have served as advocates to me really got me to the next level in my career journey. Let’s talk about why mentorship is important and then we will get to why advocates will take you to the next level in your career.
A mentor is there to guide you through your career journey and give you advice. I realized that mentorships are built off friendships first. It’s kind of awkward to go talk to someone that barely knows you and ask them to mentor you. A lot of times, when people try it this way, it’s usually a one way street and mentorships just don’t work that way. It’s important to be a good mentee and learn how you can help your mentor so it can be a mutually beneficial relationship. Some of my mentors have started businesses so I supported by purchasing something or engaging/sharing content they are creating. You can learn from your mentor’s career mistakes, get advice on how to land your dream position and gain insight on corporate politics.
Mentorships are essential and can help you navigate your career. Advocates are equally important, if not more important. Advocates know your work ethic and are willing to put their name on the line for you. I had an advocate when I applied to a fellowship in Japan I found out about last minute and needed a strong recommendation letter. I had an advocate when I was referred to be an assistant to a producer that has worked with brands such as Cosmopolitan, CNN and Viacom. One key opportunity that made me realize advocates will advance your career is when I was chosen to interview former President Obama on ESPN. There was an aspiring filmmaker on my campus I always wanted to get to know, but we never had a chance to hang with each other and I didn’t want to force the relationship. We eventually met through a mutual friend and had the chance to interact together in a very social setting so she learned I was likeable. She knew of my work ethic because we were in the same department. She worked the special taping of former President Obama and recommended me to be chosen to ask a question on national television because the producers wanted the “best of the best” students. It was up to me to send a bio and come up with a compelling question to ask, but she was able to vouch for me through an authentic relationship we created and knowledge of my diligence.
Whenever you go into the workplace or even in college, set an example of how you can be a great resource to a team and what you can offer. Once you form relationships with people willing to advocate for you, you will find that is how you advance in your career.
Khadejah Stegall is a college mommy blogger that inspires others to achieve the impossible through the power of Jesus. She enjoys family time, eating vegan meals when it's convenient and mentoring others on professional development. To be inspired by more posts, follow her blog at khadejahstegall.com.