I was having an authentic conversation with one of my favorite Millennials Wade* and he calmly stated… “Why do I need a mentor, I have Google?” Wade went on to share that if he needs anything he would rather not bother people or have to listen to others with more experience speak for 40 minutes when the answer could come right to his fingertips using the world renowned search engine.
Technology has evolved to a great level, and it is fascinating to consider the role of mentors when we have disruptive technologies like Google, YouTube (have you seen the Vox videos, they helped me understand throughout the whole election!), Podcasts, SlideShare and more in our daily lives. We are tethered to our cell phones and Mac computers; we are now use to searching for life’s greater meanings and lessons online.
Before you discount this thinking which several other Millennials we spoke to agreed with, just think of being a parent. Some kids come to ‘us,’ while others look for their answers through friends, snapchat and search engines. Google has transformed the way we get information regarding every aspect of life. Some suggest that Google itself serves as a mentor by finding relevant answers to every problem in less than a few seconds. Issue… click… click… click… solved!
“As a millennial, my experience in seeking wisdom bridges the gap between the in-person mentoring relationships of my earliest years and my reliance on having infinite information at my fingertips today. I know it’s safe to say my generation perceives the process of developing answers to be much different than others; we’re more effective researchers than pupils. Our worldview relies on the immediacy of information and the ability to cross-check multiple sources, and both are limited in traditional mentoring relationships. It takes longer to build relationships to get answers, and there has to be a reciprocal initiative on both sides; that’s simply not how things work most efficiently to my generation, ” states Wade.
Wade’s colleague Jenna* (who has benefited from some key 1:1 mentoring relationships) joins us in the conversation and adds some neat perspective:
“Perhaps it is pride, rather than fear of a lengthy social interaction, or the anxiety of judgment from a coworker. For millennials in the workplace, Google can be the preferred route due to the guaranteed outcome of endless results and the timeliness of receiving an answer.”
“I agree with Wade and Jenna,” announces one of the most competent interns I have ever worked with, Samantha from my team at Twomentor. “As a millennial I think we get a bad reputation and get crapped on by older generations all the time, so why would we want to go to them for advice when they think we are lazy and unmotivated. Also, Google doesn’t give you the ‘that is a stupid question’ face that older people seem to always give us. The best mentor relationships for me have come after I have proved myself to a boss or professor. But I would never have asked them to be a mentor before they showed an interest in my work. There is no question that I have benefited immensely from my mentors but our relationships were almost never engineered by me, it evolved holistically.”
Samantha also points out that she is used to having people come to her for advice and mentors seven or eight of her peers in college. “Everyone comes to me for help so I don’t know how to ask for help. I am so used to being the one who gives, so I don’t know how to take from others,” she said.
I cannot help but admire some of the self-determination in these perspectives, YET I don’t think we as a whole can deny the need of having a mentor(s) in our lives. A recent PricewaterhouseCooper study states that 98% of millennials believe working with a mentor is a necessary component in development. Are they taking advantage then of mentors, or just trying to make us Generation Xers and Baby Boomers feel better? I also reflect a lot on Simon Sinek’s talk about careers, technology addiction and a more isolated workforce. That corporate must take the time to teach our younger workforce ‘the ropes.’
“I agree with Jenna that not looking up to a mentor may be a pride thing,” states Ana who is on a prestigious fellowship program in Washington, DC from Sonora, Mexico. “Throughout my life, I have taken counsel from my mentors for major projects and life decisions. Being mentored has helped me stand out in school activities, university, and has opened doors to many opportunities. I just recently graduated university and with the advice of my mentors I got several job offers in my city and even one abroad, which I have decided to take. Not only has mentoring helped me in my academic and professional career, but it has also boosted my confidence in the way that I always get the final word and the trust of my mentors”
Fundamentally, no one can figure everything out on his/her own. Everyone needs someone who can assist and guide them through the many stages of development personally and professionally. Help is not just a four-letter word, and asking for help shows courage and a person who wants to engage and grow. Many young entrepreneurs follow their instincts and gut feelings to make their business successful, but, if we observe, some of the most successful people in the world sought out both online learning and mentors. Steve Jobs was mentored by Mike Markkula (an executive at Apple). Jobs then mentored Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg. Larry Paige, Sergey Bren Eric Schmidt, mentored Marissa Mayer. I am sure Oprah mentored Gail and visa-versa.
“We are humans and we respond to multiple stimuli including the notion of colliding with one another. The mentor, mentee relationship provides that collision opportunity where the unexpected becomes real. With Google it is only as good as the question you ask, you think you know what you want to know. The mentor chips away at that big question to refine, clarify and get to the essence of what you seek.” shares Jill Klein, Assistant Dean for Digital Initiatives at American University.
“Mentoring is often where we learn how to ask for help, a core leadership discipline. Google is a great source for answers, but it’s an asynchronous transaction. If you are really looking to be challenged and want to learn how to think, solve complex issues, resolve conflicts, or negotiate, then synchronous learning may be more appropriate. People are always more important than technology. Collaboration – working together at the same time – and asking a fellow human being for help requires trust. It requires building a relationship, not just executing a transaction,” states Heidi Musser, former cXo, TedX speaker and master Agilist.
I decided to pick up the phone and connect with my new friend Tracy Wilk who spent 13 years working as a Financial Director at Google and now has an executive coaching business to add some Silicon Valley perspective. “The best mentors are those that are not passively answering my questions as if I were doing a Google search but actively listening and actively understanding my strengths and weaknesses and interests. These kinds of mentors can then provide relevant guidance informed not only by their knowledge of me but also by their knowledge of our environment. And the great mentors actively look out for opportunities for me and advocate for me. These relationships are particular valuable as Silicon Valley is truly a small place. Many people find most or all of their jobs through connections.”
Tracy brings up some great points about how people really get jobs, also echoed by Ana’s recent job offer. Experience is such an expensive asset and it is crucial for a business to flourish and ensure continuity. Having a mentor in your life is a guaranteed way to gain relevant and real life experience from others. If you have the right mentor (or sponsor- someone who champions you to others) in your life, the chances of your career making progress by leaps and bounds can be highly amplified. Being an executive or entrepreneur, if you are provided with quality mentorship, it will have lasting effects on you personally and on your business. As an entrepreneur myself, my mentors pulled me out of isolation, fast-tracked me in using tools and technology that saved money and time, and helped me design a scalability plan through their stories! They also told me whom I needed to be meeting with and gave me phone numbers, emails, and made phenomenal introductions. I cannot deny the huge impact mentors have had on my life and the impact of mentoring others in the past decade. Google cannot understand you and your emotions (yet), or hold your hands in tough times (yet), or pull you out of depression when things don’t go your way but a mentor can!
What do you think a Mentor, Google, or … both? Let us know what you think here!
Julie Kantor is CEO of Twomentor, LLC and passionate about building and elevating a diverse skilled workforce and mentoring cultures.
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