Giving Compass' Take:

• Andre Perry reports that only about a third of youth have a mentor to help them figure out their career and life choices, significantly disadvantaging them. 

• Philanthropists can be great mentors. Do you have time to engage with disadvantaged youth? 

• Learn more about how to increase access to mentorship

"I started to work side jobs in college to earn extra money; now all I have are side hustles,” said 31-year-old ride share driver Andrea as she whisked me to the Chicago O’Hare airport. Andrea, who earned her college degree in English literature in 2012, is a temp in a law firm and drives people around on weekday mornings and through the weekends. Before that, she worked as a packer in various warehouses in the Midwest. Andrea estimated she has worked at least 10 to 12 jobs since graduating from college six years ago. “I’m still planning on being an attorney,” she said, though I’m not sure if she was trying to convince me, or herself. “It’s just taking me a little longer than I expected.”

Andrea’s circuitous path to becoming a lawyer doesn’t come from a lack of drive. She lacked mentors in high school and college. If she had had them, they might have advised her on which jobs to take and recommended her for positions that could have forged a more direct path to law school and eventually, a career as a lawyer. Working in the gig economy as a contractor with a ride-share company precludes the kinds of deep relationships that lead to professional advancement.

The non-profit organization Mentor, which works to ensure that everyone “has the supportive relationships they need to grow and develop,” conducted a national survey in 2014 of youth aged 18 to 21 and found that one in three reported growing up without a mentor of any kind.

Schools and businesses can meet halfway to close the mentorship gap. Some companies already encourage their employees to mentor young people through formal or informal programs.

Read the full article about the need for mentors by Andre Perry at The Hechinger Report.