Millennials are the most entrepreneurial generation in American history. Not only have 50 percent of Millennials started a business (or hope to), but their entrepreneurship rate is 10 percent higher than the general population. A 2011 survey by Buzz Marketing Group and the Young Entrepreneur Council also found that 35 percent of recent college graduates started a side business. While my generation is as keen as ever on the idea of working with a mentor — according to the 14th Annual Global CEO Survey by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, 98 percent of Millennials see a mentor as integral to career development — the look and feel of the mentoring relationship needs to evolve to support these new realities.
In order for Millenials to move back and forth between entrepreneurship and working for a traditional company, it’s vital that we stop viewing mentors solely as people who help their mentees climb a linear career ladder. Instead, mentor and mentee must work together to build experiences that enable the mentee to develop in several specific, vital areas for success: the ability to build mutually beneficial relationships, use high-impact and audience-centered communication, empower peak performance in one’s self and one’s team, and be adaptable and resilient to organizational change.
If you’re a young professional or entrepreneur who wants to build these skills through mentoring, here are some tips to find the right mentor:
- Raise your voice when selecting a mentor. As a mentee who needs skill development, scout for mentors who already possess those skills and who also have the right personality and coaching style for that professional development to stick. Co-create the mentoring relationship to ensure that both parties are engaged for complementary reasons, are clear on expectations and accountability, and have the ability to renegotiate the look, feel and terms of the relationship periodically, in order to keep it mutually beneficial.
- Consider having more than one mentor. One of the benefits of a mentorship is developing a relationship with someone who becomes a champion for you, introducing you to people and opportunities you might not otherwise have access to. For women and minorities who often feel left out of prestigious formal and informal industry networks, and also experience barriers to accessing venture capital, having multiple mentors who believe in you can help exponentially build a network with power players across industries and sectors.
- Look beyond your current company’s four walls. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that Millennials will have approximately nine jobs by the age of 32. While some Millennials fantasize about one day occupying the C-Suite in our current digs, most of us are realistic enough to know that we need to consistently keep our head on a swivel so that we can land feet-first in a new position, if and when we want or need to. It’s vital for Millennials to choose mentors who don’t have a stake in you staying in your current position — a cheerleader without an agenda. Then, a mentor can help facilitate your movement in and out of entrepreneurship, as you desire.
- Get ready to give back. Comprising 50 percent of the workplace by 2014, according to American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) President, Tony Bingham, and with 70+ million Baby Boomers retiring over the next 20 years, even those Millennials who aren’t launching their own businesses will be asked to take on leadership roles earlier than any generation in our nation’s history. Gain hands-on leadership experience by asking your mentor(s) how you can aid them: be it building online communities or spearheading sustainability initiatives. Buff up the necessary muscles to be an effective leader in your current and future roles.