How Black Professionals Can Get The Most Out Of Their Mentorship

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Gerren Keith Gaynor is a journalist, podcast host, and Senior Managing Editor of American online Black media hub theGrio. He received his bachelor’s in English Literature from Morehouse College and later earned a master’s in Magazine Writing from Columbia University. An astute writer, he manages theGrio’s roster of contributors while overseeing its daily assignments. His keen editorial acumen is derived from his extensive professional background. He has contributed to The New York Times, BET, and FOX News. Within his current position, he is driven by a Black lens and maintains, “The most crucial part of my job, however, is leading a talented team of journalists with the shared goal of representing Black people with dignity and telling our truth.” 

While his talent is undeniable, he understands that developing his professional network is a driving force behind success. “Networking has certainly been a crucial aspect of my professional development and success. Each relationship I’ve made, starting with my very first internship, led me to another relationship or opportunity.”

At BYP, we are advocates for mentorship as a tool to amplify Black representation and access to opportunities. We had the privilege to sit down and talk with Gaynor about his career journey and glean insight on how upcoming Black professionals can get the most out of their mentorship.

Build and maintain a meaningful relationship 

After graduating, Gaynor found himself without a job. Taking the initiative, he relied on the relationships he built to open up opportunities. “I started my journalism career as a freelancer because, to be honest, I didn’t land a full-time job immediately after earning my master’s at Columbia Journalism. Thankfully, I had previously worked an internship at NewsOne (Interactive One) and had built relationships.” 

Your relationship with your mentor is not merely transactional. By taking the time to find authentic connections, similar to Gaynor, you can position yourself for opportunities long-term. Research your mentor’s company and business, and discuss how their achievements are aligned with your professional aspirations. 

Understand who you are 

Throughout his career, Gaynor asserts that his knowledge of himself propelled his relationships and his work. This also applies to your mentorship. Finding your voice and identifying the skills you want to develop are critical components of creating successful outcomes for your mentor/mentee relationship. 

Everyone has some superpower that makes them who they are. Mentorship is about sharing information, so be bold and open up. Know what your experiences can bring to the table, and be generous with your knowledge. This creates a relationship of mutual respect and can enhance your relationship.

Challenge yourself

When it comes to writing, Gaynor believes calculated risks are essential. He notes, “Don’t be afraid to take risks and follow your instincts. You’ll never steer yourself wrong that way.” This insight is applicable across all facets of business, primarily when being mentored. Take the initiative to learn new aspects of different roles to become more versatile in your understanding and skillset.

Now is the time for you to explore the possibilities of doing things that may initially feel uncomfortable. Do not hesitate to look for business leaders, and consult with your mentor for help. Their insight can serve as a beacon of light that helps you become more confident, solution-oriented and resilient in your career.  

Change is inevitable, be prepared to pivot.
Like many first-year students, Gaynor entered his academic career sure he knew what he wanted to do. However, after several classes ignited his passion for writing, he was unafraid to pivot and followed his intuition. 

“While a student at Morehouse College, I thought I was going to go the law track. I also thought I would maybe become a psychologist; I was a psychology major because I was very fascinated with human behaviour, and more importantly, I wanted to understand people better — and myself, if I’m honest. I knew I was a good writer, and throughout high school, I was often praised for my writing. At the time, I didn’t see it as a career path. But then I started writing for the college paper, The Maroon Tiger, and after two years on the paper, I became the Managing Editor. Writing for and leading the newspaper at Morehouse ignited my love for storytelling and newsgathering.”

Just as Gaynor’s interests led him down a different path than he initially thought he would take, your mentorship may expose you to new ideas and ways of thinking that can transform your perspective. Embracing and being open to this allows for growth and the freedom to create unique and more aligned professional goals. 

Mentoring has the power to improve self-development and personal growth and expedite career advancement for Black professionals, yet the data suggests access to mentorship from corporate leadership is lacklustre. At BYP, we are earnestly working to change that by providing a pathway to a connection between talented Black professionals and our corporate partners.

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