Those of us who’ve been in the work world for a while know how powerful and influential a mentor can be. Simply put, a good mentor is worth their weight in gold, and can help mold, shape, and guide you toward a successful and fulfilling career journey, as well as help you build your skills, develop the right network, and set you on a path to achieving your professional goals. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to connect with a helpful mentor during the formative stages of our professional development can attest to this fact.
Traditionally, mentors are viewed as older individuals, folks who have spent a significant amount of time in their field and have gained the requisite wisdom, experience, and seasoning to effectively “pay it forward” to the next generation of workers. It’s also a well-worn facet of human psychology that we instinctively trust and look toward older people for advice and guidance, so seeking out an older person to guide us tends to fit our prepackaged mental schemas about what a mentor should be.
But does it have to be this way?
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that, regardless of industry, the ways of doing things in the work world are rapidly changing. Everything from a rapid influx of technological innovation and fresh new ways of creative thinking, to a volatile yet increasingly interconnected global economy and shifting social and cultural norms and expectations, are disrupting convention and leading to new ways of operating.
That said, since everything else in the work world is being rethought, and so many traditional standards and practices are being tossed into the dustbin of history to make way for a new modern sensibility, then maybe it’s time for old ideas about mentorship to follow suit. Perhaps it’s time to think about embracing the concept of having a younger mentor to help you succeed? There are some very good reasons for considering a younger mentor to help guide you through today’s complex and rapidly shifting work world. Let’s take a closer look at a few of these.
Age doesn’t always mean more wisdom or more professional drive
First off, age isn’t everything, and when it comes to work it isn’t an automatic badge of success or wisdom, especially not these days. The truth is, there are plenty of maverick younger professionals who have gained a great deal of expertise in their respective fields during their comparatively short tenures—valuable expertise that you can potentially benefit from.
Furthermore, younger mentors may also come equipped with extra energy and enthusiasm compared to their older counterparts (though this is another well-worn myth that doesn’t always hold true), along with novel ways of thinking and approaching projects and tasks—key variables that might be quite helpful when figuring out how to stay current in a work world that seems to be changing at a breakneck pace.
Tech savvy is necessary to thrive in the work world today
This notion can be especially true when it comes to navigating new technology that may be sweeping through your industry. The truth is, younger people are typically more adept at adopting new tools and can help their older colleagues master them effectively. Staying relevant in today’s work world is an especially important topic for older workers, so for this reason alone a younger mentor is worth considering.
In a time of career transitions, look to company experts
A younger mentor can also be helpful if you’re in the midst of a career change. The reality is, when transitioning to a new career field, which more older workers are apt do today than ever before, you often have to start at the bottom—which means that there are plenty of things you could potentially learn from someone younger who’s possibly only been in the field for a few years.
You can help out while getting help yourself
One more key takeaway involves the very nature of the mentor/mentee connection itself—and that’s the notion that at its core, it should be a reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship. Both mentor and mentee can and should benefit from their time spent together, so being older than your mentor may just help you hold up your end of the bargain. While you’re learning some new tricks from a younger mentor, you’ll be in the position to impart some of your wisdom and experience to them, making it a win-win situation from everyone involved.
A mentor is a mentor, no matter what age. If you’re looking for someone to help you find professional footing, consider a person’s experience, temperament, and company or industry knowledge before you even think of writing them off if they’re in their twenties or thirties.
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