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Mentoring a Millennial is a Win-Win for Everyone

Mentoring a Millennial is a Win-Win for Everyone

The shifting personal and work values of the newer generation are creating an opportunity for a bilateral beneficial relationship between manager and millennial. Mentorship is something millennials crave, but are not receiving.


A study found that only 2% of college-educated Millennials received career encouragement from a mentor at work. That number should be a wakeup call for mentors and entry-level workers as well. With Millennials poised to be the largest sector of the workforce this year, we need to define mentorship, teach new workers how to ask for mentors and encourage potential mentors to get out there and find a younger worker to take under his or her wing. Millennials not only find value in a older and wiser influence, but a mentor can learn from the relationship as well.

Millennials Demand Mentors, but Aren’t Great at Asking

Generation Y cares about career and personal development at every point in the employee lifecycle. 70% of millennials rank the opportunity to learn and develop on the job as a top professional priority, and 65% of millennials say personal development is the most influential factor in their current job. They see their job as a way to grow and develop into a better employee and a better person. A mentor can fill this role to provide guidance, feedback and development. This new work generation welcomes any and all feedback and will jump at the chance to be mentored.

Where they’re lacking is the ability to ask or even define what mentorship looks like. Generation X and the Boomer generation aren’t interested in overseeing every aspect of a young person’s career. They expect millennials to come to them with a problem and a multitude of solutions or for advice on a project nearing completion, not one they just started. Prospective mentees should keep this in mind as they search for career guidance. 

Mentors also frequently feel they have to do all the work in a mentoring relationship. Entry level grads should “do the legwork” when it comes to reaching out to potential mentors. If you want an in-demand mentor, you should reach out, schedule the meeting and arrange your schedule around his or hers; not the other way around. Consistent follow up and a grateful attitude go a long way.

What You Get from “Reverse Mentoring”

A mentorship is rarely one-sided. Millennials have strong values and unique insight that can be used to round out a mentor’s work-life:

The dominant trends for millennials point towards sustainable work, valuable work and work-life integration. Money is not a sole motivator and redeemer, and a higher-purpose value is apparent. From spending time with millennials, mentors can gain insight on their own intrinsic values. Learning more about what really matters to you in regards to work, balance and sustainability could have a positive impact on your work life as well as the company. 

By sharing their life lessons with younger workers, mentors get a chance to relearn much of the knowledge that hasn’t been used in a while and practice patience, listening and a unique insight on how the next generation views the world of work; all things that may come in handy in the mentor’s everyday work life. 

Remember This 

Millennials will welcome any and all feedback but need to grasp the difference between a boss and a mentor. In fact, 80% of millennials say they wantregular feedback from their manager. This does not mean annual performance reviews, but on-the-job immediate feedback, good or bad, on what’s being done. We’ve all heard about the attention spans of the so-called “now! generation,” well it transfers over to how they want evaluation as well. Little comments on a job well-done, or something to improve upon for next time can go a long way. Millennials must understand that mentors are not their supervisors and will not be providing regular feedback, but giving advice and commenting on solutions the mentee has already figured out on his or her own. 

74% of millennials surveyed said confidence in their leadership was a key driver of engagement. If mentors can pinpoint a strength to recognize and focus on, all the better. Gen-Yers want to put in a good job and want to be engaged. A little trust, a little empowerment and a chance for them to put in their own ideas, and the results may just surprise you. Mentors should strive to instill confidence in their charges, especially when they bring well thought out solutions to the table.

Don’t Look Past the Women 

A Bain&Company survey reports that women lack meaningful recognition and support from managers during their mid-level career period. This talented and educated workforce has a great need for leadership and mentorship from above. Want to know how beneficial women are in your workforce? Read this. Women benefit from mentorship as well as men and have a unique viewpoint on the workforce, past and present.

You Don’t Need a Label

Mentors don’t need to label a protegee to begin to invest in their growth and potential but beware of crossing the mentor line if you are not a young person’s immediate supervisor. As for millennials, if you have someone in mind to be your mentor, offer to buy them coffee or work on a project with them. If you have a connection and can gauge whether their life will accommodate your “sitting at their feet” then move forward with more regular meetings. You don’t have to ask the actual awkward question, but phrases like “I’d love to learn more from you.” or “If you have time, your story is fascinating to me. How did you get where you are?” can be a little less daunting. All millennials are trying to find their place in the world and in the workplace. Don’t believe it? “What Career Should I Actually Have” quiz on Buzzfeed has over 18 million hits.

Have you ever thought about developing a mentorship program? The right training can augment a successful mentorship program. Give us a call, and we’ll set you up with Cyber Train to get you started. 

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