Beginning at a very young age, I was always taught that finding a mentor was extremely important. This was equally enforced as I matriculated through Hampton University Business School. So much so, that they invested time and human resources to ensure a continued annual partnership with the National Urban League’s Executive Exchange Program. In that endeavor, executives from around the country visited our school, talked to us about the opportunities and challenges of working in business, and gave us insights and hope for the future.
After leaving Hampton University, I found it even more so important to find and seek out mentors who were aligned with my future goals. And, I’m not alone. According to the 14th Annual Global CEO Survey by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, 98 percent of Millennials see a mentor as integral to career development. After a few personal attempts at maverick networking, I have found a network of mentors who assist me in being my best self. Here are their top 5 attributes in no particular order.
1. They want to mentor.
This is simple. If you were forced into this mentorship relationship by your boss in order to move up in the ranks, we can tell. Only do this if you want to. Please, we’re begging you. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a room or on a phone with someone who doesn’t want any part in the conversation. We’d rather be working on a project or watching outdated training videos. Anywhere but there! I know my mentors want to mentor simply by how they match my excitement after I’ve accomplished anything, big or small. And trust me, it makes a world of difference!
2. They want and see the value in learning from me too.
I’ve been accused more than once of being a know it all. In fact, many Millennials have. However, you must remember, the success of our lives thus far has primarily been based on whether we were right or wrong (Pass or Fail). As a result, we pride ourselves in knowing a lot and being resourceful enough to find out anything we don’t. It is imperative that the mentor knows that this relationship is reciprocal. In the “new normal/post-normal organization,” information is shared and change happens in the blink of an eye. Let us help you adjust to never having an opportunity to adjust, and this relationship will grow leaps and bounds.
3. They share their experiences; they don’t tell me what to do.
Millennials are the champions of synthesis. We take in a ton of information from various sources and apply it accordingly. Through years of watching reality TV and self-help talk shows, we’ve learned to learn from what others have said and done. I’ve heard the argument from others that Millennials just want you to “tell us what to do.” This is partially true based on the way our educational system is set up; digest and regurgitate. However, what we need and what I most enjoy is that you share your experiences. Treat it like a behavioral interview and tell me about a time… Once we connect, we place ourselves in your shoes and begin to problem solve based on your imparted wisdom.
4. They give feedback in context.
One of the interesting facts that some fellow young professionals and I deduced is that many mentorship relationships mirror parent-child relationships. For some reason, as a result of some bumps in the road with children and grandchildren, mentorship relationships inadvertently become a “second chance.” Soon, the Millennial finds him/herself at the opposite end of a reprimand as if they were late for curfew. This is inappropriate in the workplace, and as Stephen Covey suggests,
“remember that between stimulus (a situation) and a response there is a space. That space represents our choice— how we will choose to respond to any given situation, person, thought or event. Imagine a pause button between stimulus and response—a button you can engage to pause and think about what is the principle-based response to your given situation. Listen to what your conscience tells you. Listen for what is wise and the principle-based thing to do, and then act.”
What my mentors successfully do is follow the affirmative/adjusting feedback model. Whether they are positively reinforcing or they are redirecting me, they take these four steps.
1. They identify the situation.
2. They share the impact of my actions.
3. They allow an opportunity for me to draw my own conclusions and recommendations.
4. They add a little value at the end based on their experiences.
5. They encourage me to be myself.
If you think you were teased as a kid, you’ve met your match. I grew up with a generation of terrorists. And again, I’m not alone in this. Many of your Millennial professionals experienced the same thing. It certainly doesn’t help that once we get to the workplace, these bullies seem to have grown up too… some are our age, many are our bosses or other Baby Boomers and/or Gen Xers within the company. Working in such an environment makes it extremely difficult to operate at full capacity. My mentors love (yes, love) me for who I am, and they encourage me to bring that person to work every day. Many fail to realize that this sentiment alone inextricably adds money to the bottom line by reducing hidden costs, absenteeism, work injuries, “quitting and staying”, and others not found on your P&Ls as an expense. So, do like Southwest Airlines, and show sum LUV!
Time, media of communication, and process are also important within the mentorship construct. However, getting these 5 basics down, regardless of time, communication, and process, will far outweigh whether or not you telepathically connect with or tweet a mentee as their preferred means of communication. What we really want to know is that you’re invested in, not obligated to, us. My recommendation: Embrace these attributes, and you will be well on your way to engaging the Millennials in your organization.