When I first entered the business world fresh out of college, I thought I knew a lot. I had a college education. I had already read several books about business and leadership.
I was assigned a mentor at my first company. He sat down with me on a regular basis and taught me a lot about consulting, business and career management. The most important lesson he taught me was how much I had to learn.
It’s different today. Millennials may have a lot to learn. But they also have access to so much information, that there is already a lot they know. Now that my generation is in the mentoring role, we are learning that Mentoring millennials requires a different approach to mentoring.
1) It doesn’t have to be that formal
Years ago, mentoring was a formal process. There was often a formal program. The green new employee was introduced to the older wiser professional. They would meet once a week in the office of the more experienced person. The old guy might have a list of things he wants to teach the youngster. He may even have some constructive criticism on actions the younger person took over the past week. All in the name of improvement.
Today’s world is much less formal. We dress more causally. We act more casually. Today, instead of being assigned a mentor, a young new person may come up to you and ask you to be his or her mentor.
In fact, they may just ask you for some advice. The M-word may never get mentioned. But it’s mentoring all the same.
Related post: Making Time to Mentor
2) Make it a dialogue
Rather than sitting down and spewing out all of the information you think the mentee needs, ask her what she wants to learn. Early in one’s career, they may not know what they don’t know. But they may have unanswered questions. If you only focus on what you want them to learn, you may send them down a path that doesn’t interest them.
Additionally, your knowledge may be out of date. Teaching them what you wish you knew when you were their age may not be relevant.
3) Don’t assume that they are not business savvy
When baby boomers were fresh out of college, we had college degrees in hand and were ready to conquer the world. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we had a lot to learn about business. We had book smarts, but we had a lot to learn about business from our mentors.
The baby boomers will learn that mentoring millennials is much different. Many millennials have already started a couple of small businesses by the time they have graduated from college. They are also so embedded in the internet, that they understand things like ecommerce, search engine optimization, and mobile commerce better than the elder generation.
4) Update your own skills
Many of the millennials you deal with have never known a world without smartphones or the internet. They have a comfort level with them. When a new app comes out, they intuitively know how to work with it. If they don’t understand it at first, they are not intimidated by it. They play with it until they understand it.
Because of their comfort level and willingness to experiment, they understand technology better than most baby boomers. This is an excellent opportunity to learn from them. While you are meeting with them and sharing your knowledge and experience, put your ego aside and ask them a few questions. If you don’t understand Twitter or Snapchat, ask them to explain it to you. If they started their own internet business in college, ask them to share their experiences and lessons learned.
Learning from mentoring millennials can be a two-way street.
5) Don’t assume that mentoring millennials implies monogamy
In the old days, you had a mentor and he was your mentor. Today, millennials will turn to multiple people for advice. You may be their mentor for sales techniques, but someone else may mentor them on office politics. They may turn to someone else for a different point of view on sales.
Don’t be hurt if a millennial is turning to other people for mentoring. Getting multiple points of view will allow them to consider additional pros and cons to make better decisions.
Remember that the mentoring relationship is for the benefit of the mentee, not the ego of the mentor.
What advice to you have from mentoring millennials?
I welcome your questions and comments.