Why Every Latino Professional Needs To Be A Mentor


I remember when I was younger I would wonder how people who were my same age with similar experience managed to land jobs at name brand publications, or have their books published by big publishing houses. At the time, and for no other reason than ignorance, I figured that I simply did not have whatever je ne sais quoi they had. That I wasn’t good enough.

Since, however, I have made my way a little further out into the world and realized that so much of the artifice that is our media is constructed by nepotism. I now know that working in the right place, with the right people, at the right time, with the right coffee date, and the correctly positioned senior editor, makes all the difference in the life of a writer. What’s more, after the coffee date, the willingness of others to see someone as worthy of their time investment, in the form of mentorship, guidance, and encouragement, makes all the difference between being okay and exceptional.

I have been fortunate to have worked with mostly men who have encouraged me and mentored me and pushed me forward, nonetheless, frequently I find myself to be one of the only women/minorities in the realms I occupy. Most of the men that encouraged me were not Latino, and most of my mentors were not women, just the same as I was astonished that as I climbed upwards, I found that young people even younger than myself sought me out to serve this role for them.

The fact that Latinos do not always have friends in high places — or that once we do, these “friends” choose the safe route and say “Why don’t you try HR?” — makes a big difference in how quickly young people can get to the top. I am not saying that young Latinos who are not good, willing, hard-working, or savvy should have opportunities to which they are not entitled, rather, I am making the case that if we as professionals want to be better represented, we need to lend a hand.

I am not going to list examples of non-Latino nepotists in the media world, because I could by no means generate a fair or exhaustive list. I bet if you thought about it for just a few seconds, you could come up with a shortlist. The point is not to disparage anyone, rather to question why more of these people are not more like you, or me. Every Latino professional needs to reach out to their familial and social networks and encourage young people to follow their footsteps, or at the very least consider doing so. After all, there is really nothing to lose, except for things staying just as they are now.

I have found that when it comes to the students who reach out to me, often times simply being told that their work or their ideas are of quality is a huge step for them. Then, once you begin to introduce them to other people, to give them feedback, suggestions, encouragement, all of a sudden their world is different. They see themselves differently, and think differently, and begin to want more. But perhaps the best part is that I myself begin to see differently, and think differently, and begin to want more.

I don’t know what would have become of me had it not been for the people who reached out to me, or saw something in me, or hoped that I could rise to their expectations. What I do know is that, as a consequence of their vision, I am a better professional, writer, and person. Thus it is my own experience, as well as my observations about how young Ivy League writers make the New York Times bestseller list, that leads me to proclaim that we all need to take an active role in encouraging our youth to navigate the system. If we don’t, we will have no one to blame but ourselves when things don’t look the way we want them to.


COPYRIGHT  2012  Sara Ines Calderon