Mentoring Younger Employees
Much has been made about the difference in generations between Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials in their approach to work. Many Boomer and Gen X managers, those born between 1946 and 1976, are perplexed about how to effectively mentor Millennials, those born between 1977 and 2000, and help them develop their full potential in the workplace.
Do Millenials want advice and guidance—what Merriam-Webster defines as “a trusted advisor or guide.”? The good news is that the answer is a resounding “yes”!
Several Millennials that I know, including some on our staff, actively seek out mentors. Two things stand out to me about this. First, Millenials don’t feel compelled to find a mentor within the company. The ones I observed actively sought out outside guidance. In general, Millenials are willing to go where they feel they will get the most bang for their mentoring buck. They don’t see themselves as being tied to one company for their entire career, and are instead interested in developing a larger business and personal network. Second, we Baby Boomers weren’t as proactive about seeking advice in our early careers. We viewed the business world as a more “dog eat dog” world. Perhaps our business and personal lives would have been easier if we had chosen a mentor. (For those of you who had/have mentors, more power to you!)
So, if Millennials are interested in being mentored, how can we do this most effectively?
Older mentors have to recognize that not only do Millenials have something to teach their mentors (usually in the field of technology), but they expect their mentors to recognize this and ask for their opinion. If we don’t, we risk having them think we don’t value them as people and thus having them discount our advice because of this.
We also need to ask lots of questions before we start dispensing advice. To most effectively advise, a good mentor will spend a fair amount of time digging into the Millenial’s goals and aspirations. Where are they trying to go, both in terms of career/work and personally? What is important to them? Because technology has made personal life and work life almost one and the same, truly understanding goals and aspirations first will enable you to offer the guidance they need. And, more importantly, this guidance will be listened to because we will have established that we care first.
So, if you have Millenials in your workplace, and you probably do, remember that they want to be mentored and will appreciate it if you recognize this and work to make a mentoring relationship possible for them.
Wes is president of TMR Direct, an inbound and direct mail marketing company. He frequently covers topics about integrating offline and online marketing efforts, marketing strategy and transforming businesses. Connect with Wes on LinkedIn and Twitter .