Mentors for Hispanics: Challenges & Options

Yesterday I received an email from a former colleague regarding a career-related issue. By the end of the day, I had traded close to 10 emails discussing his options as well as providing some long-term career advice. During our “virtual” conversation, I encouraged him to seek out a mentor within the organization. I also asked if there was anyone within his organization that would be suitable. Unfortunately, he said there are relatively few Hispanics in leadership positions and even fewer Hispanics in executive positions. Thus, his sources of mentors were limited to external contacts. The situation is representative of the lack of mentors for Hispanic professionals.

There is no question that being mentored is a crucial step in career success. My former collegue recognizes the importance of these relationships, however, is frustrated by the lack of potential mentors within his company. This is a general problem in most organizations, however, it is more prevalent for women and minorities. If career and leadership development of women and minorities is a goal of any organization, then all its members should have access to career enhancing processes, including mentoring. An infinite number of studies show that mentors provide career enhancing information, advice, protection, sponsorship, feedback, and role modeling. Additionally, mentors provide psychological support such as being sounding boards or facilitating socialization opportunities.  

Whereas Hispanics face many unique challenges in mentoring, organizations can leverage characteristics of the Hispanic culture to provide several unique opportunities for mentoring, such as collectivism and community. For example, group mentor meetings can also be a source of alternative mentoring. Senior leadership can offer mentoring “circles” periodically, where junior people can ask questions and receive feedback on technical knowledge, networking, interpersonal skills, and career information. Other recommendations might include:

Expanding the possible sources of mentors – A basic problem is the lack of Hispanics in leadership positions who could become possible mentors.

Increasing the chances of mentors and protégés initiating a relationship – Potential mentors and protégés must be given the opportunities to meet and decide if each should invest time and effort into developing a mentoring relationship.

Enhancing Internet resources for mentoring – Organizations must exploit this valuable resource through virtual mentoring.

Encouraging the development of Hispanic professional organizations and specialty communities -  Hispanic professional organizations can be a source of potential mentors.