The Younger Mentor

In the new generational workplace, Baby Boomers are working alongside Millennials, a generation or two estranged from each other. But I believe that both groups can learn from the other, and the best way to do this is for the older worker to seek out a younger mentor.

In my book 50 Plus! Critical Career Decisions for the Rest of Your Life I noted that the older you are, the younger your mentor should be. This younger person can give you insights into the latest trends in your business, how to use technology more effectively, and the new rules for how today's businesses operate.

It isn't difficult to find a younger mentor -- but don't ask formally, which can be off-putting. Here are a few ideas on how to accomplish this:

  • Look for a younger colleague where you work -- and reach out for advice. Let that person know how much you appreciate his or her time.

  • Take a night class -- look for a young professor or a student in the class with whom you might be able to connect. The Learning Annex is good place to start.
  • Work with a trainer -- many people seek out a physical trainer who can be a sounding board and is able to motivate them. I've been surprised recently by the number of people who have quoted their personal trainers to me. Not only will you feel better physically, you will be motivated to think differently.
  • Join a group that includes young people -- this could be a professional organization or possibly a charity that attracts younger people. Let them know that you are looking to learn from them. I am sure that they will be flattered.
  • Be informal -- ask your younger mentor to have a cup of coffee with you. Let him know that you value his opinion.
  • Keep up with the latest books, movies, and television shows that are of interest to a younger person. It will give you something to talk about and shows that you aren't lost in the past.
  • Be lavish with praise -- give people full credit for every contribution they make, however minor. It is the best way to keep the discussion alive.
  • Don't dwell on the good old days or something you accomplished 10 years ago. Ask what the younger person perceives as the challenges facing your industry today. You may be surprised at the response.
  • Many of us have been fortunate enough to have mentors, who helped us in our careers. A younger person can help you tremendously so that you remain relevant in the workplace.

    Mentoring is a time-honored way to impart information and to link one generation to the next.