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When is the last time you’ve had a true mentor in your professional career? Our younger generation of leaders would be lucky to even name one. Why is that?
The thought was ignited during a recent family discussion. It started with the challenges we’ve all encountered while working with the millennial generation. Surprisingly, I found myself enthralled in the discussion. Even though technically, I’m considered a millennial myself, I don’t identify with their mindset as I was born in 1984. My mindset aligns more with the Gen X group, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t sympathize with millennials. Being on the cusp of such a generational gap allowed me to provide a little insight for family members who were further removed. As we all shared experiences, what seemed to work and what seemed to fail miserably, I started to think about how times have changed…
When I graduated from college and made my way into the workforce, I was fortunate to have had many mentors. These people didn’t have to take me under their wing, but they did. They invested their time and resources in developing my true potential. They had a hand in molding me into the individual I am today, which is such an impressive thought. The older I get, the more I see the practice of sincere mentorship fading out, but why?
Let’s face it, being a mentor isn’t the most glamorous job, and many don’t want to do it. Maybe it’s because they don’t have the time, or they feel it just “isn’t their job.” After all, why would they want to volunteer their valuable time and pour it into someone they don’t understand? Even though the benefits of a mentor don’t present in monetary means, it reverberates in such a positive way throughout our society as a whole. Why not invest in such an act?! I believe every generation has a responsibility to pave the way for the next in a meaningful way. We do this by making an effort to understand those around us, relating the best way we can, and helping by providing insight through experience to those who lack it.
Now, back to millennials. Instead of banging your head up against a wall trying to understand their way of thinking, how about we try to understand what made them the way they are? Communication plays a huge part in this role. Growing up, many millennials were told they could be anything they wanted in life. Well, as we all know, life happens, but most millennials were never taught how to cope with the curve balls that life throws their way. Some may even shut down instead of engaging in problem-solving processes and figuring out ways to adapt. These skills, among many others, can easily be taught through mentorship by those with experience. However, the idea of mentoring all millennials to solve the communication gap is easier said than done. Even in our demanding, always-connected world, I believe there are steps everyone can take to preserve this sacred practice. And as millennials, it’s important to be open-minded and welcome the knowledge of those who have come before us.
I challenge those my age and older to invest their invaluable knowledge and professional expertise in a millennial who’s willing to receive it and use it. This type of sacrifice can bridge age gaps, increase productivity, develop meaningful relationships that lead to trust and better collaborations, and the list goes on and on.
Meaningful discussions and connections are few and far between these days. With the evolution of technology and social media, communication has taken on a more “surface level” form, only highlighting aspects of what most “choose” to be known. With that, deep and meaningful relationships are harder to establish, much less keep. As a mentor, we see this tragedy unfolding before our eyes, but to a mentee, this “highlight reel of a world” is all they’ve ever known. This is why it’s so important to educate, guide, and support those that come after us. By passing along the importance of connection, caring, and investing in one another, it’s the only way to keep this extremely important aspect of life at the forefront, so it’s not forgotten.
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Anna is an author and writer who is passionate about the art of storytelling. She enjoys connecting with small businesses in her community while taking their marketing efforts to the next level of growth.