The Importance of Mentoring Millennial Minority Students

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West Virginia University graduate student Rashidah McCoy (right) poses with her mentor, Dr. Francine Edwards, associate director of mass communications and lead professor of the public relations concentration at Delaware State University. Photo courtesy of Mccoy.

Fewer than 20 years ago, virtually no books were available pertaining to the topic of workplace diversity. Journal articles on the topic were just as rare. Today, things have changed considerably. Hardly a day goes by that a national newspaper, magazine, blog or social media site doesn’t run a story on an aspect of the increasing diversity of the U.S. and other international workforces.

Since Millennials are quickly becoming the largest presence in the workplace, it is imperative that public relations agencies cultivate strong relationships with culturally diverse Millennials in order to continue the growth of the company and industry. Cultural diversity in the workplace improves problem-solving and decision-making, leads to new consumers and enhances product development.

An article in the Harvard Business Review stated that minorities who advance the furthest all share one characteristic — a strong network of mentors and corporate sponsors who nurture their professional development. In order to be effective mentors, they must embrace a multitude of roles — such as that of coach, advocate and counselor — to help the young professional progress and understand the challenges race can present to his or her protégé’s career development and advancement. The mentor of a minority professional must also understand how minorities tend to climb the corporate ladder differently than others.

Guidance from authoritative figures will help minority students become well-acclimated and prepared for what the industry has to offer. Millennials thrive on achievement and making the most of what they have with the least amount of effort. While this attribute causes the vast majority to coin them as being lazy, Millennials are highly driven and interested in seeking knowledge from those who have worked in the field and know how to attain success.

The saying that “creativity thrives on diversity” implies that a company with a diverse staff can experience higher levels of inventiveness and innovation. Organizations should take more chances on hiring and mentoring these young men and women as they enter the field full of innovative knowledge and the skills to make a difference.

What do you think public relations companies can do to make Millennial minorities more comfortable in the work environment?

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Rashidah C.R. McCoy is a second year graduate student at West Virginia University (WVU) studying journalism with a concentration on international pubic relations. McCoy is the public relations director for her PRSSA chapter at WVU and writes for the monthly newsletter distributed by the chapter. Add her on LinkedIn.

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6 Responses to The Importance of Mentoring Millennial Minority Students

  1. Heather Harder July 31, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

    Rashidah, this is such a unique coincidence! I sit on the Plank Center board as PRSSA National President. During our recent meeting, public relations leaders were discussing how minorities sometimes have a challenge finding a mentor in agencies. If you have any ideas for how PRSSA could help minority students find mentors in the industry, please let me know.

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    Rashidah McCoy Reply:

    Heather, thank so very much for taking an interest in my article! This topic is one that i plan to continue to research and use for my Masters thesis project. With my ongoing research, I’m currently working to look into ideas for matching mentors with mentees in the industry and developing a mentorship program that focuses on the hiring, training, and mentoring of millennial minorities. I have several ideas in the works and would be glad to share them with you and the committee! Can we exchange contact information?

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    Heather Harder Reply:

    You may find all Committee emails, including mine, here: http://www.prssa.org/about/leadership/national_committee/.

    I just got an email from a professional who mentioned a few major companies that have millennial programs, which I can share once you send me a message.

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    Rashidah McCoy Reply:

    Thank you! I’ll email you very shortly.

  2. Akeya Carter August 1, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    Rashidah, this article is interesting. I agree with the workplace diversity issues. I believe this topic of discussion reaches across many social, professional, and educational industries. As a Community Organizer and Social Worker in policy welfare, I often find it difficult to connect with other minority professionals for mentorship opportunities. Cultural Competence and Acceptance is another topic that I believe needs further discussion as well.

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  3. Rashidah McCoy August 1, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

    Thank you Akeya! I agree that it’s often difficult for minorities in any industry to find a reliable mentor, who is dedicated to the success of their protege. There is a barrier that needs to be broken and replaced with a bridge that can lead to a foundation to incorporating these young professionals into the workforce confidently. I’ll also be looking deeper into the topic of cultural competence and acceptance, thank you again for your comment.

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