Mentor a Millennial. YOU just might learn something

Baby boomers are frustrated by Generation X’ers because they are not committed to their organizations and are all about “work life” balance.

Generation X’ers (and probably baby boomers) are frustrated with the Millennials because they are “all about me” and want the world delivered on a silver platter.

Millennials are frustrated with Baby Boomers because all they do is work and expect their teams to do the same.

OK, pick whatever stereotype you want and insert it into this article for your own dramatic effect. This just in: It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because it’s not changing. People don’t change that much over time and whether you like it or not, each the above three generations make up about 30% of the workforce. So all of you are no longer a majority or a minority. All groups are equally represented in terms of numbers. I don’t have to tell you which one is growing the fastest. The millennials that you are bashing will account for 65 million workers by 2018 and will take over the top spot. Said another way, they will go from being your employee, to your peer, to your boss in the next 10 years. So we better figure out how to work together. Here is the important part. No one will deny there are generational differences. Well-designed studies prove that collectively, these groups answer work and life questions differently. Here’s the point: We need to learn to leverage those differences into success as opposed to bashing them into failure.

If you are not mentoring someone, you need to. I am in the middle of a handful of mentor/mentee relationships and as the “mentor” I hope my mentees are getting as much out of the experience as I am. I will tell you that I waited too long in my own career to seek out a mentor. To be asked to be a mentor is a very flattering thing. My recommendation is that you find one mentor within your organization to help you navigate the Company and one mentor outside of your organization to help you with unbiased input on your career and life. I also recommend that you find someone at least 10 years behind you in your career and help that person along on their career journey.

3 pieces of advice for mentors of millennials

  1. Your mentee might just be smarter than you. Get over it. Better yet, try to learn what they know. I can promise you the things in their college textbooks are beyond what you learned in college. Their comprehension of how the world connects is so much more relevant than what you are used to, it’s a little scary. Even if you don’t believe that, realize that there are more of them in the workforce than you, so you might want to listen
  2. Teach don’t preach. One thing that I have learned over the last 30 years is that for the most part, people don’t change. All of your pulpit speaking on how the “next generation is all about me and has no work ethic” will get you no where. For you to share why you are the way you are might help your mentee apply that learning on his/her own, which is far more effective.
  3. Learn to leverage. The generational differences that exist need to be viewed as a lever to create synergy through diversity. Millennials are not only your employees, they are your customers. Embrace the diversity of generational thinking to maximize your impact.

3 pieces of advice to millennials being mentored

  1. Your mentor probably has more EXPERIENCE than you, learn from it. Notice I ddn’t say knowledge. You know this from your parents, teachers and coaches; they love sharing their stories. You will face some of those same situations in your career and you might as well learn from someone who has seen the movie.
  2. Ask your mentor about his/her failures. It goes without saying that you should learn the secrets to success. But as long as you are sharing secrets, here is one for you to consider. Folks that have been in the workforce for a while are quite afraid of sharing their failures with their peers. It’s a security and pride thing. But we love to share our mistakes with younger people, if it will help them avoid crashing the car like we did. Plus, it’s always fun to ask someone to “tell me about your biggest failure” and watch how they respond. You will find how authentic the relationship is real quick.
  3. Remember you will always be part of a team. Being goal driven is a critical skill, as it as always been. Chase the team (organizational) goals as much as you chase your own personal goals and you will be blown away by your image improvement and career progression in the organization.

Be a mentor. The generational knowledge transfer is world changing. Here are two great resources I found on the topics above.