Mentorships will always useful in growing your professional (and personal brands), but the mentor/mentee relationship landscape has seen a few changes since millennials have entered the workforce. I’m a proud Millennial (one of the older ones, 1983 baby!) and can attest to the clear shift in how Gen Y’ers communicate with prospective mentors. Unfortunately, the shift isn’t always for the better.
Millennials are a unique group, indeed. Instead of reaching out to seasoned CEO’s for advice, we’re more likely to chart our own course and identify mentors within our current networks of business colleagues, twitter followers and college roomies. This method definitely works, but I don’t recommend completely disregarding the older, more traditional approach to locating people who can help guide your path.
Why, you ask? Because top-level executives acknowledge that our presence is valuable, and Forbes recently reported that millennials are “undeniably the future of business”. It only makes sense that we meet these prospective mentors half-way, reaching out to them so that we’re creating better opportunities for career (and life) advancement. Here are my tips to making sure the person you want to show you the ropes is actually crystal clear on your hopes:
- ID: Jot down the names of all the people that you admire. From that list, think about the possible connections you have with each person (education, career path, region, hobbies, etc.). Being able to identify things that you have in common is helpful when breaking the ice and getting past the uncomfortable stage.
- ASK: Before reaching out to a prospective mentor, know why their journey appeals to you. No one wants their “brain picked”. Instead, be specific with you request(s). For example, “I recently saw your client on CNN and would love to learn more about pitching national news outlets” is better than “I want to learn the ropes of PR from you.” The former gives a clear ask, and shows that you’ve not only researched the prospective mentor, but you’re also following their work.
- OFFER: Two-way relationships are most valuable, so be able to articulate how you can also help the person. Seasoned mentors get asked for advice and help (and handouts) more than I’m sure they care to. Give them something in return, e.g. if you notice their social media outreach is lacking, offer a crash course on managing their Twitter page when you meet in person.
- CHILL: Don’t be obnoxious. We’re a headstrong group, for sure, but, stepping into the mentee role requires humility and an open mind. You may not get an immediate reply, and if you do, you may have to go out of your way to make the connection happen. Regardless of the outcome, be prepared to go the extra mile to show that you appreciate their time. Listen and take notes.
Being able to build relationships with individuals you want to learn from is a valuable tool that can take you far (insert obligatory “its not what you know, its WHO you know” comment). My advice to fellow millennials: keep using your natural tenacity and creativity to forge meaningful relationships, but don’t forget about the group of people who may be more accustomed to more traditional approaches.
Best of luck to ya’!
Patrice Cameau is a strategic communications consultant who helps clients understand and effectively communicate their passions. She’s worked on public relations and marketing campaigns for a host of nonprofit and celebrity clients, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), USO, the Department of Defense and 2-time Super Bowl Champion, Troy Polamalu . To read more tips of effective communication methods, visit her web site at www.patricecameau.com.