MENTORING – A TITLE ISNT ENOUGH FOR MILLENIALS
In a meeting with a management team I advise, the HR director said, “I have to leave the meeting for a call, I’m going to fire my mentor.” When she came back from her call she said it had gone well, it sounded like the mentor was as relieved as she was to stop meeting. I asked her tell me about her experience.
She thought a mentor would be a great way to advance her career and had applied for, and been assigned a mentor through her professional association. It was a big deal to qualify for the program, it took 3 months to be matched and she had to take an orientation course in preparation. It seemed like a wonderful idea at the start but after 3 months of meetings, twice a month, she realized it wasn’t working, she was dreading the meetings and didn’t want to continue. I asked about her anxiety and what didn’t work for her in the arrangement.
After, reflecting for a few minutes, she explained that in spite of their mutual desire to make it work, they just weren’t connecting, it was almost like they spoke different languages their perspectives and approaches were so different. The meetings were directed by the mentor and they were following a structured program, but she had some specific challenges she wanted help with, that the mentor didn’t seem to want to spend time on. The problems weren’t specific to HR, there were some legal issues, leadership and team management and communications problems she wanted help with and it seemed that her mentor didn’t feel comfortable advising her on those issues. So in spite of everyone’s best intentions she felt that it wasn’t giving her what she’d hoped for, particularly given how much time it was taking, every meeting took about 3 hours, traveling to meet, the meeting, traveling back to her office. So she decided to end it.
Then I asked, “what would you change to make it work for you?” She said, “I don’t just want advice, I really want to learn by doing, so I’d like a mentor who can help me in solving real problems. It would be great if I could have several mentors and get different perspectives. I’d like to be able to meet online, skype or google so we don’t have to travel unless we really want to. My mentor was 25 years older than me, I’d like to be able to choose for myself and have more flexibility in when and how often we meet. Overall I’d like it to be flexible, make my own choices and set my own agenda, so something that fits better with my crazy schedule and my work in a small company where I have to deal with every type of problem imaginable.”
I admire her courage in making a tough decision and acting on it, so I offered her my online credentials, I said, “setup your virtual group of mentors and put me in it, and when you have a problem, let us know and I’ll help you when I can”. I’m not an HR professional, but have experience in most of the types of problems she described. So it’s an informal relationship, she feels my experiences will help her and I’m more than happy to share it if we can do it in virtually. This works for both my millennial friend and me, as a zoomer; we are bridging the generation gap by simply working on problems together (me and her other friends, no titles required).