Millennials Want Mentors, But They Want Them Their Way

Woman mentoring woman over coffee

For years, society has vilified millennials for their perceived sense of entitlement, intrusive addiction to technology, and presumed laziness. Yet, if you look around the workplace right now, you’ll probably notice that this “apathetic” generation is taking up a lot of the desks and chairs. Millennials aren’t going anywhere, but our outdated opinions about them need to clock out. This generation is anxious to succeed and they seek out opportunities to learn. With the right mentor, a millennial has the potential to be a great leader.

More than one in three (35%) working Americans are millennials. And unlike other generations, their entire life has been shaped by technology. Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Gen Ys have difficulty relating to their disparate upbringing and life experiences which may contribute to the sheer amount of criticism unfairly dumped on them. Whatever your take may be, this age has a lot to offer companies and those who want to mentor them. Millennials are ASKING to be mentored. Moreover, they are demanding it as part of their employment, and good on them!

Millennials aren’t going anywhere, but our outdated opinions about them need to clock out.

A responsible employer gladly provides and encourages mentorship because it helps the mentee, the mentor, and the employer. But what exactly are the millennials needing and how do we bridge this extraordinary generational gap?

First, as a mentor, you need to know your audience, or in this case, your generation. Understand how they learn and what speaks to them on an emotional level. When you appreciate what brings meaning to their life and work, you just may have a future leader in the making.

Millennial leading group of older generation through a presentation.

So, how do you mentor a millennial?

Don’t micromanage. As a mentor, you have your own responsibilities and tasks to complete. Set an example of not micromanaging your mentee by…NOT micromanaging. Show them what needs to be done, how to do it, and then give them the autonomy to do it themselves.

Allow mistakes. Mentees (even millennials) make mistakes. Let them fail. They need to in order to learn, bounce back, and go back at it again. You’ll be doing them a lifelong favor.

Communicate openly. Provide feedback, make it constructive, and do it often. They are familiar with a little handholding and respond well to open dialogue. Take advantage of their open ears.

Create meaning. This group is exceedingly altruistic! With a strong commitment to social justice and community service, an effective leader will show up inside and outside of the office to demonstrate that these principles matter personally and professionally.

Have respect. Millennials are highly educated. They worked harder than any other generation, academically and financially, to matriculate and graduate from college and university. Show them that you appreciate their efforts and their intellects.

Encourage transparency. Be honest with a millennial mentee and they’ll be honest with you. They want to know that their opinions are being heard and not echoing around in a vast and empty chamber.

Lead by example. Take an inventory of your own leadership traits. What have you done recently to improve your skills and personal development?

Be honest with a millennial mentee and they’ll be honest with you. They want to know that their opinions are being heard and not echoing around in a vast and empty chamber.

The goal of the mentor/mentee relationship is to provide guidance and support at the beginning of employment, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Developing a long-term relationship with a mentee can result in the development of someone with an aptitude for leadership. The millennial/mentor relationship is no different. It may require new techniques and strategies, but being a good leader means having the ability to pivot and acquire new tactics and approaches. Taking on this new challenge just may cause you to gain respect for a generation that’s been criticized for all the wrong reasons and force you to grow in ways you never anticipated.

About Bill Treasurer

Bill Treasurer is the author of The Leadership Killer, Reclaiming Humility in an Age of Arrogance, which he co-wrote with Captain John “Coach” Havlik, Navy SEAL (Retired). For the last two decades, Treasurer has worked with thousands of leader across the globe, at such organizations as NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lenovo, UBS Bank, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Learn more at: www.LeadershipKiller.com.

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