What Six Qualities Do Millennials Want You to Have as a Mentor?
We spoke to a dozen working millennials and asked them what they look for in a mentor. Here are the top six tips on mentoring from Millennials themselves!
Give Practical Feedback and Actionable Steps
Millennials are programmed for trial and error. They have grown up adapting to new technologies and learning new skills from watching YouTube videos. They want something to try NOW. Erik Borresen, a teacher at the Carmen Schools of Science and Technology, 27, explains that “Hands on experience is the best way that I learn.” Millennials want the band-aid ripped off. If there is something they can be doing better, tell them. Jenna Gebel, a second year MBA candidate at Wharton, wants “Candid, practical advice.” Give them an avenue to fix the problem. Michelle Sheahan, Associate Director and Budget Manager at Georgetown University says that the key is to “Provide constructive feedback. Be willing to openly discuss ways in which your mentee can improve” Alisha Glennon, 31, Vice President of Development at Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), wants you to “Use personal examples, point out concrete mistakes you made and the lessons learned.”
This might seem obvious, but be willing to text. Millennials are phone averse and often don’t even listen to their voicemail. In fact, this trend is so strong that some major companies, like Coca-Cola, are ditching their phone systems all together. Millennials are quick to respond to text messages, where it could take hours or days for a return call. Want to grab a quick coffee because your schedule opened up? Text! Otherwise you could miss the window of opportunity. We also have learned from Christopher Mims in the Wall Street Journal that to Generation Z (teens and early twenty year olds just entering the workforce) “Email is for connecting with old people, the digital equivalent of putting on a shirt and tie.” For our youngest generation, even email is outdated. Mentors must keep up with the changing technologies or they won’t be able to connect with young colleagues.
Don’t be afraid to get personal with your mentee and talk about things outside of work. Millennials want to care for and by cared by coworkers. PGi research tells us that 71% of millennials are looking for a second family at work and a staggering 88% want their workplace to be social. Almost every millennial interviewed touched on this point. Preya Nixon from the National Utilities Diversity Council, wants a mentor who “Encourages discussion about personal life AND professional life.” Jenna wants her mentor to help her “marry my professional and personal goals as a female professional.” Cynthia Bell, 26, Sales Operations Manager at Industry Dive, needs to “have almost a friendship with (her) mentor” for the relationship to be effective. Quintus Cunningham, a college senior, echoes this sentiment, “I want to feel cared about by my mentor, not just me as a student or employee, but me as a person.” Mentors, go ahead, let your guard down, tell a story, listen to their stories, offer follow-up questions the next session or a quick text of encouragement here and there. It will go a long way!
Millennials are not easily fooled. They are quick to fact-check or corroborate a story on their smartphones and have been honing this skill since the middle school. To have a successful mentoring relationship – be authentic. Our millennials interviewed kept coming back to this topic. Dylan McGuire, 23, Marketing Coordinator at Bowie Gridley Architects explained, “True mentorship comes from being able to explain actions and truly care that they get it, not just show/tell someone what to do. It needs to all feel real and honest for it to truly stick.” They want you to talk about your mistakes and why it was important that you made them. Be candid. Ryan Reese, 31, Director of Student Life at The Field School says, “Mentors shouldn’t sugar coat.” It’s important to give honest feedback in real-time. Talk about company norms and expectations. They will appreciate getting the heads up from your as opposed to reprimanded by a manager. Nervous about delivering hard news? Be sure to set up this ‘norm’ at the beginning of the relationship. Madeline Conicello, a middle school teacher, said that she and her mentor had a code-word for tough feedback, they called it a ‘band-aid moment.’ “When she told me that she had a band-aid moment coming or I saw band-aid on the agenda, I knew tough feedback was coming. I was prepared. I also knew she was telling me to help me.”
Focus on Self-Advocacy
Millennials are independent. In fact, Red Brick Research shows that 79% of millennials would consider leaving their jobs to work for themselves. This autonomy and entrepreneurial spirit has great benefits, but at what costs. Many millennials have trouble navigating and negotiating within their own company, so they leave. Teach your mentee how to advocate for themselves and work within the company. Michelle says, “Discuss explicitly ways in which your mentee can negotiate and promote themselves in the workforce. If you can provide specific numbers for industry standards or based on your experiences, that is invaluable.” Salary, bonus and raise norms are especially important for young professionals as they enter reviews or contract negotiations. Bennett Pang, biologist, 26, wants to know how you got to where you are. “I have one version of how to get ahead in my mind, but my guess is that there are loads of other avenues as well.” Show your mentee that there is no right path to success, rather many different ways to achieve.
Learn from your Mentee (Reverse Mentoring)
There are advantages to being a mentor and not only the “feel-goods” you get from helping others. Several studies have shown great benefits to the mentor including higher retention and an increase in promotions. Sun Microsystems followed 1000 employees over five years and found that 25% of mentees and 28% of mentors received a raise, compared to only 5% of managers that did not mentor. Are people promoted because they are wearing their mentor ‘hat’? Of course not. They are promoted because they themselves are getting better. Millennial mentees have a lot offer. They are creative and focused, motivated and energetic and, not to mention, rulers of the Twitterverse. Use them! Ask them questions, lean on them. Millennials need to feel valued. Cynthia wants a mentor who “Understands that I can be a resource too! I’ve posted jobs on behalf of my mentor and connected her to other people I think she’d find interesting.” Some of the millennials we spoke to simply want the mentor to treat them as equals. Caila Driscoll, 26, high school math teacher, wants “Conversations to feel like two peers discussing something, where each has valuable input, rather than one older, more experienced person, telling the other what to do, I think it builds mutual respect and understanding.”
In the end, every mentoring relationships will be different, but if you want the inside track to connecting with millennials – use these six tips!
Written by Bridget McKeogh, Senior Research Associate, Twomentor