How do we help mentor the next generation of Christians as they move into the workplace and start on their life journey? Have expectations changed over the past few decades? How has new technology transformed the conversation? What techniques, words, and actions seem to be most effective in 2013?
I recently read an interesting article, The Misery of Mentoring Millennials, from Bloomberg Businessweek online. There are several intriguing aspects to this article, one of which was this excerpt:
According to Jeanne Meister, co-author of The 2020 Workplace, younger workers seem less respectful of more experienced colleagues and don’t feel compelled to follow in the same path as their superiors. “Millennials can be bold and hungry when it comes to getting what they want,” Meister says. “And today’s new mentorship models are more like Twitter conversations than the long-term relationships of days past. They’re short-term and quite informal. And they end before it becomes a chore for either party—like moving on from a just-OK date.”
The article also reports that younger workers seek out a group of advisers who can help in different areas of life rather than a single mentor in their professional field. The desire is to have a personal advisory council to traverse the new “road less traveled.”
Assuming this generalization is true, it seems to me that there are many positive aspects to this new normal. While I still believe that trusted long-term mentors and extended family relationships can provide counsel in more “sensitive” areas that require a deeper level of knowledge of a person’s background, younger workers are also much more open to advice and direction from a wider audience.
For example, my wife and I recently met with a young Christian couple over coffee. Going into the 90-minute “get-to-know-you” discussion, we were concerned that they this new introduction would be awkward or even seem unwanted or forced. But contrary to our expectations, we had a delightful time that was both relaxed and mutually edifying. As we reflected on the evening afterward, we were most surprised at how open the two of them were to talking about their careers, family, church, kids, and more. They really wanted to hear about our experiences and get advice on several matters.
My point to baby boomers (and really anyone Gen Y and older) is this: Don’t assume your “short-term and quite informal” mentoring is not wanted. The truth is that these relationships and interactions are often very important to millennials, especially when they are looking for community in a church, neighborhood or organization which is away from the town or state where they were raised.
The best part of our recent conversation was discussing priorities regarding how we spend our time, what we watch, dreams for the future, particular gifts and our ministry involvement. These topics transcend all age groups and the Bible informs our worldview in each of those areas.
Mentoring Millennials: What About Technology?
So how does this trend or mentoring relate to technology? What can the “older folk” offer to the Facebook-savvy crowd that was born with the Internet, and now live with cyberspace always in their hand? Back to that Bloomberg article:
…Catherine Carlozzi, a speech and business writer in Cedar Grove, N.J. “I had to teach one mentee that it isn’t acceptable to call in the late evening with a routine question. I’ve had to explain to others that texting on your smartphone in a situation that involves your seniors suggests you think you have more important things to do,” she says. She’s adapted by using Facebook messaging, texting, and Skype.
There is even a trend called “reverse-mentoring” where the younger person mentors the older person regarding how to use technology and communicate in the 21st Century in the Internet Age.
But more than that, there have always been technical advances that came along. Electricity, cars, the light bulb, the first television, video games and the first IBM PC are just a few of the inventions over the past 100-plus years that transformed our society. Each “next generation” grew up with these revolutionary new inventions as just another part of their daily lives. And the 50-plus crowd would watch and marvel and say, “What will they think of next?”
So it is today. Along comes the latest smartphones, cloud computing or Internet TV. Next will come real artificial intelligence, glasses with computer screens and much more.
And God is still Lord over it all.
And that 20-something millennial across the room is perhaps more open than ever to connecting and engaging and learning—if only for a few hours.
My advice: invite him or her or them over for desert. And be friends on Facebook.