When most of us think of mentoring, we imagine a wise older leader who provides us with guidance based on their decades of experience in their chosen field. Though this may be the case for many effective mentors, it is certainly not the case for all of them.
Mentoring is a personal development relationship in which a more experienced or knowledgeable person helps to counsel, advise or guide a less experienced person on a particular topic or skill. That more knowledgeable person may very well be much younger than the person they are mentoring. This has been referred to by some as “reverse mentoring.”
None of us knows everything and all of us can learn from the experience of someone else. In many cases, that person could be younger than us. I have personally benefitted from these reverse mentoring relationships on a number of occasions.
One example is when my college-age daughter helped me build my social media profile. I was about to enter a professional role where I would need to have a strong profile in order to effectively use social media for recruiting purposes. Though I was proficient on LinkedIn, Twitter and other social platforms were outside my area of expertise. My daughter helped me build a strategy and plan, including a step-by-step approach to build my profile and increase my number of Twitter followers. When we started that journey, I had less than 50 followers and I now have well over 10,000. I would not have been able to accomplish this without the benefit of the mentoring that my daughter provided.
Thoughts on Finding a Mentor
A simple Google search will return a large number of articles on how to find a mentor. Thus, I won’t go into detail here on how to do so. I will provide a couple of thoughts on finding one. It’s best to start by looking within your own professional network. Do your research on potential mentors and target those who have the specific experience you are lacking. Then, don’t be afraid to ask for a mentor/mentee relationship. Most people are flattered to be viewed as a potential mentor and once they enter the relationship they tend to be glad that they did.
Benefits of a Mentor/Mentee Relationship
Having mentored dozens of professionals over the course of my career having been a mentee multiple times, I have found both sides of these relationships to be tremendously rewarding. No one has all the best answers. Sharing our knowledge and learning from others can be fulfilling for everyone involved.
By Bryan L. Olson, Chief People & Administrative Officer, Columbia Care