What Does Career Mentoring Mean to a Millennial?

Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

The average millennial stays in their job less than three years. According to a recent Deloitte study, 64 percent of millennials plan to say ‘goodbye’ to their current job by the year 2020. Millennials are clearly not afraid to move on!

However, that same Deloitte study discovered that Millennials who are at their current job or organization for longer than five years are two times more likely to have a mentor. And according to Price Waterhouse Cooper, 98 percent of millennials feel that working with strong mentors is very important.

What’s the takeaway? If you want to retain your millennial employees, mentoring should be a key part of your strategy.

So what does mentoring mean to the millennial generation? Many might believe that millennials (born between 1981 and 2000) are likely to reject the idea of a mentor but in fact millennials really do value the feedback from other generations. They view their career as a key part of their life and place an emphasis on finding and doing work that’s personally fulfilling.

I recently interviewed a millennial and he said to me that a mentor-mentee relationship is extremely important. He shared, however, that many mentors feel that being a mentor simply means telling them how they did something.

That approach is going to be a big turnoff to millennials who value a collaborative workplace. They want to connect with the world and their peers and be inspired by creative ideas. They want a mentor who is going to challenge them to think differently!

Baby boomers are catching on. A baby boomer I recently interviewed said to me, “It is our responsibility to mentor the young people in our lives, however mentoring is not just about handing them a book. It’s also about telling them what they have done right.”

In my many conversations with different generations in the workplace, I’ve identified three types of mentor-mentee relationship. Here’s how they apply to the millennial generation.

Coaching

Coaching is a task-oriented relationship when the mentor is there to help the millennial get their feet wet. Perhaps they are new to the organization or in a new position within the company. This is the time to work through aspects like understanding the corporate culture or developing a soft skill.

Mentorship Relationship

Not surprisingly, millennials may have many mentors. Given their adoption of social media, they might be part of groups that connect via social media in what’s become known as micro-mentoring.

There’s also reverse mentoring, when the millennial mentors a more senior person, typically about something technology related. Reverse mentoring is a great way to open the door between a millennial and someone who’s been in the organization for a long time.

The key piece in this relationship is that the mentor in the mentor-mentee relationship holds the mentee accountable for meeting their goals.

Sponsorship

In a sponsorship, the mentor-mentee relationship is kicked-up a level. It’s truly a one-on-one relationship at a higher level. Typically, the mentor has a high status with the company and it’s their goal to help that millennial reach the next level of their career.

The sponsor also acts as an advocate for the millennial within the organization, helping the millennial identify skills and talents they need to achieve the goal.

The potential for collision, conflict and confusion between the generations has never been greater. Mentoring the millennial generation is not an easy task, but it can be rewarding for both parties involved, and it can help ensure we don’t ignore the generational differences in our workplace.