Mentorship is intended to be a two-way street, but far too often it’s just one way.

As a culture, we’re obsessed with making great leaders even greater. But what we’re really bad at is uncovering the leader in all of us. We would never ignore our children, or give our parents bad advice, so why do we readily do it when it comes to mentoring emerging talent in business?

I can hear someone saying “but it’s not the same.” And I would argue “well, then, how did you get ahead?” Inclusion and diversity aren’t just nice values to pursue, they’re the future of your business objectives. Especially when it comes to building trust.

This past December, I strolled through PromaxBDA’s annual holiday party in Beverly Hills, and ran into a guy who surprised me. I mentioned that I’d seen him at the conference, and admired his work. He would later ask “Who would you like to know in this room?”

What was I surprised about? Hollywood has this stigma of it being every man for himself. But here’s a guy who doesn’t gain much from helping me out, but did something that made a world of difference for me. Most people, I’ve learned, want to be this helpful. To be somewhat of a mentor. A mentor, in this case, is an experienced professional who can provide direction to a young up-and-comer.

But according to a recent report in The Economist, young people are now an oppressed minority, held back by their elders. It turns out that the professionals who could be the best mentors aren’t stepping up, for several reasons. And since younger talent aren’t yet as skilled or able to demonstrate their value, their voices go unheard. Mentorship, as you can see, is everyone’s problem. I can hear someone saying it now: but mentorship and training is time consuming and expensive. The correct response? So is the lack thereof.

PromaxBDA’s Promo Pathway sought to answer this by creating a scholarship program for young talent who don’t normally end up at holiday parties, shaking hands with the elite. In April 2014, in search for new ways to grow, I applied to that program, moving 3,000 miles away from home. Mostly due to the program’s touted benefits of industry mentorship and coaching.

That’s when I was introduced to Nick Belperio, a professor in the program. The class was called Project Management, but it became more about building confidence in your gift of writing. After every assignment, Mr. Belperio, a former SVP at FOX Broadcasting, would send us a page worth of notes and, of course, encouragement. This gesture would become the anchor I needed. I can remember the day I considered leaving Los Angeles, and so I gave him a call. He convinced me that I didn’t come this far to quit. A week later, I’d landed the job I most wanted, at one of the top creative agencies.

But just like that night in Beverly Hills, thanks to Promo Pathway, I am consistently granted access to top executives and people I should know. I’ve gone to lunches and been in offices that some employees unfortunately have a hard time getting in. This personal access, combined with generous mentorship, continues to be a guiding light.

I’ve worked in offices where the talk about millennials is high: on how to reach and sell more stuff to them. But there is rarely talk about how we can help them move forward. For all of us, it’s healthy to remember that the work we do is a privilege. We’re not digging into soil looking for rubies or selling water on the side of the road. We’re making promos.

It takes two. One thing we mentees can remember is that the television industry is a coveted place to work, and very competitive. So finding a job in the industry will require upping your number of mentors and professionals willing to speak on your behalf. I recommend having several mentors in the industry who act as a guide in the face of your career aspirations. All of them will bring something you need to the table. It’s helpful to sharpen your skills and share your growth, as often as you can. Some mentors are brutally honest, while others are less vocal, but their recommendations are equally helpful.

For employers and would-be mentors, I recommend giving more, and not financially. Wharton professor and author Adam Grant suggests that giving is the way to get ahead. He personally opens up his digital Rolodex to students, and if they find someone they want to get in touch with, he’ll make the introduction.

Of course, the worst that can happen is you make a bad bet, investing time in someone who doesn’t pan out. But you can make bad bets doing things that are a lot worse.

Kareem Taylor (@KareemTaylor) is a voiceover actor and author of “Get Your Life!,” the little orange book that is inspiring millennials worldwide. He is an optimist and writes a popular blogs on marketing, sales and leadership at A graduate of PromaxBDA and Santa Monica College’s Promo Pathway, Kareem counts CNN, Taco Bell, Sony Pictures Television and AT&T as his clients.


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