There’s no way of stopping it: the so-called “millennials” are in the workforce. Apparently I’m one of them, yet I’m not sure if I count since I definitely watched shows like “Seinfeld” while they were still airing on prime time TV and I was into adulthood before owning a cell phone (the flip kind with a green screen that only called people).
Cue the concept of mentoring. In a generation of “I want it nows” a la Veruca Salt, how can an organization use mentoring to bridge the gap between the seasoned veterans of the “walk up hill both ways” generation and millennials? Even better, why do we want to?
What millennials will do is shake things up. They will tell you what needs to be improved. They aren’t part of the status quo in your organization yet, so their insight could prove to be very valuable. They may not become the VP of Awesomeness someday- most likely they’ll move on before they get that far- but their contribution may impact the forward movement of the organization nonetheless.
One of the first things that you can do as a program administrator creating a mentoring program is to get inside their head and think about what is going to truly engage these millennials as mentees. Young people are definitely attracted to technology, so using a software platform can absolutely start opening the door. However, there is still more work to do. Whether you use a platform or not, mentees can quickly lose interest if there isn’t quality content in easily digestible nuggets. Through software, you can do things like embed video content, create a sense of community as a social network might, and overall, automate the end user experience. In either scenario, you have the ability to incorporate different forms of communication and you can create a roadmap for your mentors and mentees that creates structure, is bite-sized, and is flexible enough to not suffocate your participants.
Coaching your mentors can also help to create a stronger connection with the mentees. From the first meeting they should work to build a rapport. If they are in the same location, they should invite the mentee to do something enjoyable for a first meeting – get tacos, coffee, whatever! The point is that the right environment can lead to better communication. Then, the mentor should take strides to understand the mentee’s goals, expectations, and help the mentee to create a plan of action moving forward. Getting things laid out in the beginning sets the stage for a successful partnership.
The mentor is not a preacher — they are there to guide the mentee, but not necessarily tell them what to do. Does the mentee have a goal to be in junior management by age 27? Great! The mentor can then share experiences, professional know-how, and maybe even help the mentee network in the right areas. ASK GOOD QUESTIONS! Dig deep and challenge the mentee. Peel back the layers of that little onion until there is true understanding of what drives the mentee. Only then can the mentor and the organization begin to unlock their true potential.
The mentor should also encourage the mentee to ask for help. Many people will casually throw out “come to me if you need anything,” but not really mean it. A mentor has to mean it. The mentor also needs to make sure that meetings are kept and respond to mentee communication quickly. In any mentoring program, the mentee should be driving the relationship and relaying their needs. The mentors have to be a reliable resource or the mentee will not utilize said resource. The most valuable asset anyone has to give is their time.
Finally, when pairing mentor to mentee – if you plan to match your pairs, make sure that the mentors are someone the mentee can relate to. They should have similar interests, personality, etc. If you plan to have the mentees choose, then go for a diverse group of mentors that are true ‘rock stars’. They should be people of influence and charisma. Mentor is not a far jump from an idol, they just happen to be someone that the mentee can actually talk to.
Here is a little fortune cookie to take with you:
- Some of the most influential people in your life most likely came to you at a young age. Think about it. Who changed your path?
Millennials are worth spending time on and need guidance to become future leaders. By giving them a great mentor and an effective roadmap, you will no doubt see great results!