You walked across the stage with your degree in hand and were fortunate enough to land a job right away. Now what? Or maybe you have several years’ worth of industry experience and you’re thinking about changing things up. Whether you’re new to the game or looking to level up, setting new career goals can be overwhelming, and it’s a lot easier when you have some help.

The Blacks in Tech (BIT) employee resource group at Capital One wants to help all its members think through and navigate career elevation. In 2021, the group launched the Rise Up mentorship program. For six months, participants are paired with mentors based on mutual career interests, current job positions and professional goals, such as leadership or exploring another role.

Eloise Hudgins, Chief of Staff, Budget and Labor at Capital One, was drawn to the program as a mentor and mentee. After two years with the company, she was looking for insight on the obstacles she was dealing with at work, and wanted to help others by sharing her experiences.

“[The mentorship program] brings a fresh perspective and fresh ideas in order to help solve issues I am facing [and] my mentees are facing,” she says. “My mentees are very good advocates for themselves. So that’s helped me to become a stronger advocate for myself.”

Hudgins’ mentor, Preston Burroughs is a director of database and software engineering who’s been with Capital One since 2012. “Preston gives really good advice. And a lot of times, I turn around and give [that advice] to my mentees as well,” Hudgins says.

Burroughs, the co-chapter lead for BIT Northeast, works with three mentees, and he agrees that these relationships are mutually beneficial. “It helps me to have these conversations,” he says, “because there are some things I may overlook that I may not have run into during my time [before becoming a people leader]. It helps me to just take a step back and think about these conversations.”

The Rise Up program provides long-term career mentoring and guidance in professional development. Hudgins says the advice she’s given and received in private helped her find her voice in public. “It definitely has given me more confidence to navigate my career more boldly by speaking up more in meetings. I tend to not want to speak up unless I know I have something that’s going to be a banger. That’s not the most important thing. A lot of times, it’s just more important for you to be heard and let people know that you do have ideas.”

Burroughs, meanwhile, learned through his mentee relationships that building confidence is an important focus in career advancement. “They have the skills and everything that they need,” he says. “Be comfortable about talking to me and then taking that to the next level.”

He also recommends having a few things in mind when looking for that mentorship opportunity: Don’t be afraid to ask questions, have a general idea of what you want to accomplish and know the difference between mentorship and sponsorship. A mentor gives practical guidance for career decisions. A sponsor expands your visibility by highlighting accomplishments and advocating for career advancement.

And the most important thing Hudgins advises is approaching the mentorship with a commitment to being the real you. “You want to bring your authentic self because your experience has helped to shape and mold you and [you can] bring that valuable perspective to others.”

To recap, if you have the opportunity to elevate your career through participating in mentorship, focus on a few things:

  • Have an idea of what you want to accomplish. The purpose of your career mentorship is to help you along the way. Having a general idea of your short- and long-term goals can make the experience more beneficial.
  • Ask what you want to know. Don’t be scared. The only way to get the information you need to move your career forward is to ask. And even if the conversation goes left, it’s still a lesson learned.
  • Know what you’re bringing to the table. If you got the job, that means you have the skills, knowledge, wisdom or potential your employer needs. So, go into your mentorship relationship seeing in yourself what others already see in you.

Learn more about Capital One and its work to build a more inclusive culture.

This editorial is brought to you in partnership with Capital One.