Who is your Padawan?

I’ve been part of the “workforce” now for 25 years. That means I received my first email address when I was in my late 20s. I didn’t own a cell phone until I was close to 30. And when I started traveling for business, I used printed directions and was the epitome of a distracted driver in each foreign city.

Well, a lot has changed.

Technology has caused the largest change, in my opinion. We are now expected to return an email message within one hour of receipt. I fondly remember the days of receiving a voicemail message, knowing I had 24 hours in which to return the call. The term multi-task, while probably over used, is clearly an understatement of today’s work protocol.

One thing that remains the same, however, is the need to learn from others. In the late Middle Ages, apprenticeship was a critical practice for the future of most trades. While this approach doesn’t widely exist in its original form, it seems internships have become an accepted evolution.

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on these and other work-environment topics from the perspective of a 20 year old. Not because I wish I could go back in time but because I am wrapping up an 8 month gig as a mentor to a young mind. Joining the fine mentorship program at my alma mater, Gustavus Adolphus College, I was paired with a Gustie junior studying International Management. We’ve conducted our meetings at networking functions, by phone, in coffee shops and at my office. Our get-togethers have focused on interviewing tips, resume writing, understanding the power of LinkedIn and general networking topics. During our conversations, I find myself trying to cram 20+ years of experience into her brain, all at once. “Learn from my mistakes, Grasshopper.”

If only it was that easy.

As one of the more experienced (aka. older) team members at Capsule, I’ve become increasingly aware that mentoring is serious business and quite necessary. Just as parents nurture and guide their children, a mentor’s job is to guide 20-somethings into future business leaders. Millenials receive a bad rap from time to time. But the reality is they are people like you and I just trying to find their place in the world. And a crazy world, it is.

So now, as the school year comes to a close, I am excited to extend our relationship from conversation to practical application. On June 2, my mentee will walk through our front doors and embark on two and a half months of complete immersion into the daily life of a nationally recognized brand design firm. She will be put to work on a large variety of tasks, not just answering the phone and sorting the mail. Every team member at Capsule will engage, teach and guide this young mind. She will move into her senior year with a great deal more than a bit of cash in her pocket.

I’m proud to engage with my alma mater in this program and equally proud to work for a company that supports the concept. The more these two entities come together, the brighter our future appears.

Over the next 10 years, I’d love to see every undergraduate program in the country launch a mentorship program. Every college student should be paired with someone “on the outside.”

Every young mind needs a guide. Every mature mind needs a wide-eyed, energetic young Padawan. Everyone learns and grows.

So, who can you mentor? Is there a young person in your network who needs a hand? I’m quite certain there is.

Kitty Hart 

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