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Mentoring the Next Generation of Millennials

Every few decades a new generation enters the workforce, fresh with new ideas, enthusiasm and an entirely new way of doing things. For a long time it was the Baby Boomers and then Generation Xers who dominated the labor force. But now the generation that is most prevalent in our professional worlds are the Millennials. As a matter of fact, the U.S. Census Bureau has projected that this group is poised to overtake Baby Boomers in sheer numbers this year. 

As the majority of mentors are well aware that they are sharing their wisdom and experience with a younger crowd of new professionals, there are some that may not fully appreciate that they are coaching and directing an entirely different generation of individuals who have been shaped by an entirely different set of experiences, priorities and expectations as well as values.

There are a great deal of benefits to mentoring between these different generations, and with some insights into their mindsets and goals, both the mentor and the mentee can enhance their own perspectives and share experiences that will enable them to make new goals and meet meaningful milestones.  The following are some tips to help make the most out of your mentoring partnership:

Understand the age.  Every generation brings a collective set of ideas, beliefs, perspectives and more importantly – experiences that have formed the way they conduct business today.  For example, as the generation becomes younger, their reliance and expertise with technology becomes greater.  As such, an older generation mentor must be willing to accept that the communications between the partners may be more electronic than they had anticipated.  

Introduce mentees to additional contacts and mentors. Millennials today are very plugged in and thrive on a wide array of contacts through social media outlets.  By introducing them to members of your circle of influence, they will be able to broaden their relationships and learning opportunities.  Millennials are open to relationships (even virtual) at all levels and welcome opportunities to learn from anyone – regardless of level and rank - who can fill that gap.  

Diversify their learning experiences. Millennials are curious and have a number of learning tools at their fingertips. Work with them to find avenues they may have not considered when looking for opportunities to sharpen or develop skills. Millennials also love to collaborate (thanks to their social media presence). Find opportunities for them to contribute to projects and plans.

Be open to a new perspective.  Younger generations tend to think quite differently in terms of professional advancement.  As older workers have historically set a path for success by ascending to the next level (usually within the same organization), the newer generations seem to find their nirvana in each new experience that may or may not lead them to the next level.  The newer workforce is also more in tune with "balance” and how their personal and professional endeavors can complement one another.  The successful mentor will want to encourage the younger mentee to get the most out of every experience in the growth process.

Let them take the lead.  Millennials put a premium on finding meaningful work and showing how their work makes a difference. Mentors will want to capitalize on this trait and find opportunities for the mentees to showcase their talents and shine. Even giving them an opportunity to contribute to one of your special projects would be both rewarding and beneficial to your mentee.

By taking the time to research the differences and similarities of all the generations and how they affect each other, both mentors and their mentees can learn a little more about their partner and discover a bit more about themselves as well.    

This article was published in The Training Connection, Inc.'s August 2015 Newsletter.

© 2015, The Training Connection, Inc., All Rights Reserved.

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