A recent editorial piece written by Phyllis Korkki of The New York Times caught my eye this week, as the titled offered a very intriguing question and response: “What Could I Possibly Learn From a Mentor Half My Age? Plenty.”
The article discusses the benefits of reverse mentorship and chronicles her process being mentored by a young editor with more social media and technology experience than she. The line about Millennials having already played the role of “personal technology consultants” tickled me as I recalled my own experience showing my dad how to use Snapchat a few months ago, and even remembering how I had to create his Facebook profile back in 2008.
The benefits of reverse mentoring go beyond learning a new skill. As Korkki writes:
“My experience with Talya taught me far more than the basics of a new form of video storytelling (which was already asking a lot). Along the way I learned important lessons about the strengths and weaknesses of the middle-aged brain, and how learning new things can keep it in top working order. It also made me realize that organizations and individual workers could do a lot more to bridge the gaps between generations. Each age group has untapped resources that can benefit others at a different stage of life.”
If you are an experienced worker or have experienced workers in your business looking to add new technology, consider setting up formal reverse mentoring with a younger employee. Trying a new form of social media without any context or help will be frustrating, and younger employees could help you build skills and discover new ways to improve your job.
“Before the mentorship, I had been ready to dismiss Snapchat out of hand. I came to understand that it is more creative than I realized. It’s fascinating to string together photos and videos, along with captions, drawings and emojis, into a story. Snapchat’s constraints — the 10-second limit to individual segments, the 24-hour existence of stories, the inability to edit — were a bracing mental challenge. They stretched me as a journalist and a person.”
The other benefit to setting up a reverse mentoring relationship is that it gives a younger person a solid mentor as well: someone with a wealth of experience in our industry whop can help them navigate a career path and understand how to better serve customers.