Abstract

A qualitative study of deaf graduates of Rochester Institute of Technology in New York State who became supervisors in primarily hearing work settings found that having a mentor was a primary and persistent element in their career success. In the deaf individual's early years, generally it was a family member or teacher who conveyed a belief in that individual's abilities, encouraged effort, and helped instill self-esteem and confidence. Parents were often their strongest advocates, and teachers were their advisors and facilitators. In the work setting, a supervisor or coworker often served as a mentor by coaching, advising, and teaching the individual what they needed to know to succeed on the job. In many ways, these “informal” mentors provided the foundation that enabled the deaf individual to break through what are often barriers to career success despite their skills and abilities. The various forms of mentorship and their impact on deaf college graduates are explored.