How work mentors can help LGBTQ+ people overcome imposter syndrome and thrive

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Having a mentor at work can provide invaluable support for individuals facing self-doubt and imposter syndrome, offering them guidance, confidence and the opportunity to thrive in their careers.

New data from the online mentoring platform PushFar reveals that nearly 80 per cent of millennials view mentoring as a key component of having a successful career. A further 94 per cent of employees surveyed said that they would stay longer at a company if opportunities to develop their career were on offer.

For the LGBTQ+ community, as well as other marginalised groups, mentoring can be a way to instil confidence and promote authenticity. A report from the job site Indeed found that nearly a third of queer employees have experienced imposter syndrome at work. For the transgender community, that figure rises to 64 per cent who say that the psychological condition has negatively affected their careers.

PushFar’s data found that while almost 60 per cent of people in the UK admit to having experienced feelings of self-doubt and imposter syndrome at work, only 15 per cent sought out a mentor to lend support.

A work mentor can provide a ‘safe space’

Mentorship can benefit those experiencing imposter syndrome by providing them with a supportive and experienced guide who can help them challenge their negative self-perceptions and develop a more positive view of their abilities.

“Being part of the LGBTQ+ community can be a challenging path,” says Ed Johnson, PushFar’s founder and chief executive. “That’s why mentoring is so vital.

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“It provides a safe space for those seeking guidance, understanding and a listening ear from someone who has trod that same path and been in a similar situation.”

Mayur Gupta, the chief executive and founder of Career Accelerator, an organisation dedicated to advancing the professional lives of diverse young people, believes that mentoring for the LGBTQ+ community is especially important because “often young queer people have to learn about being different and address prejudices on their own and with limited support”.

He went on to say: “The best way to learn about a topic or skill is by finding someone who has knowledge and expertise in this area and learn[ing] directly from them. It’s often more effective, engaging and impactful than trying to do it all yourself.”

Abigal, who took part in one of Career Accelerator’s mentoring programmes, described talking openly to a queer person in a professional setting as “awesome”.

“I could envision myself in more roles dedicated to project management,” she says. “The ‘cold’ and ‘hetero’ corporate idea of those roles did slightly shift speaking to my mentor.”

The benefits of having a work mentor

Aside from the obvious benefits of guidance, support and advice, there are other benefits that can inspire career growth and development.

Increase confidence

Feelings of self-doubt are not uncommon in professional environments, but gone unchecked they can prevent people reaching their full potential. Johnson says that while confidence can’t be taught, “a mentor can provide you with reassurance and remind you of your successes, helping you to believe in yourself”.

Gaining new perspectives

Everyone has a different work experience. Mentorship can create a shift in how one views situations: being able to hear and appreciate an outside perspective is invaluable within career development.

Improved mental health

Having someone to discuss work with, in confidence, is incredibly beneficial. The opportunity to communicate with someone about the challenges they face can reduce stress and anxiety, creating a workforce with greatly improved well-being.

Career growth

The workplace day-to-day can cause distractions and result in people not appreciating what they have already achieved. A dedicated mentor can help track your growth and highlight how much you’ve accomplished, while also providing insights into growth opportunities.

“Mentors are brilliant for encouraging self-reflection, helping you take a step back and identify how far you’ve come,” says Johnson.

How to find a work mentor

Today’s world of social media means it has become easier for people to find a work mentor who is just right for them. Aside from LinkedIn and dedicated mentorship platforms, those seeking a mentor can find that perfect fit from within their current organisation or maybe even a former colleague.

Additionally, mentors can be found through networking events and even by speaking to family and friends.

When searching for that perfect fit, the first step is to find someone who the mentee admires, respects and “actually wants to learn from”, Gupta suggests.

“They should find someone who has achieved something that they want to achieve in the future so that they can learn directly from their mentor about this,” he says.

“They should also feel comfortable building a trusting and safe relationship where they feel they can be authentic, disclose challenges and anxieties as this can lead to a really productive and empowering working relationship.”