Coaching members of the workforce who are new in their careers poses unique challenges for any mentor. Protégés can bring an unparalleled amount of enthusiasm to the table but may require additional guidance around certain areas of professional development.
Here are three tips for mentoring young protégés:
Show an interest in their lives outside of work early on
All employees want to feel like their coworkers care about them outside of work.
This is especially true for workers who have recently graduated from college. They just left an environment in which they likely participated in dozens of activities, mingled with different social groups, and learned a diverse range of subject matters. Taking on a full-time job means giving up a large chunk of that and suddenly having to align much of your identity with one thing.
Employees, even ones who seem unmotivated and disengaged with company culture, don’t like being seen as just another worker. As a mentor, take advantage of protégés’ eagerness to learn and share, and ask about their lives outside of work early on in the relationship. You don’t have to be best friends or overstep boundaries, but acknowledging that they have other interests will ultimately make them feel more comfortable in the workplace and ready to turn to you for professional help as well.
Understand what success means to them
Success looks different to everyone, and managers are often too quick to assume that employees simply want to be promoted into the next level and climb the ladder accordingly.
In reality, employees, of all age groups, want vastly different things. They may want to be promoted. They may also want to transfer teams or leave the company entirely. They may want to go back to school or explore a completely different industry and career path. They might want your job or the CEO’s.
These conversations are more difficult to have. They force you to throw out a preconceived development plan, and you may have to talk through things that you have no experience with.
The additional twist? Protégés may have no idea what they want yet. While guiding them towards a fulfilling path may seem daunting when you have little to work with, this also means that they can be more receptive to what you have to say. A study conducted by SuccessFactors and Oxford Economics found that millennials want feedback 50% more often than other employees. Furthermore, young people are more interested in receiving guidance around personal development, not just managerial direction. This presents a great opportunity for a mentor to step in and make a big difference in young protégés’ professional development.
You may have to go back to basics
People who have less experience may lack certain soft skills and business acumen that have become second nature to you. Getting comfortable with any new environment and company culture takes time, but younger workers may be especially susceptible to feeling out of place. One study by Millennial branding and American Express found that soft skills are most important to both millennials and their managers, ahead of hard skills and digital/tech-savvy skills. These skills, unfortunately, are the most lacking among young candidates, according to another study.
Don’t be afraid to ask young workers what soft skills they want to get better at and suggest creative ways to help them.
Basics about business interactions that may be the norm at your company – such as responding to emails by a certain time or attending a certain types of networking event – can also be completely new protocols to a young employee.
Helping protégés succeed can be tough and take you out of your comfort zone, but the rewards are also enormous. Protégés have their entire careers in front of them, and they may succeed in surprising, amazing ways. Being a part of that success can be extremely satisfying.
Much of the concerns that young workers present also bleed out to other all other age groups, as employees are constantly reevaluating their options. The ability to help a notoriously difficult-to-engage segment of the workforce will make you a stronger mentor and manager overall.
Interested in helping a protégé succeed? Share your wisdom with rising talent today.