Mentor your mentor through reverse mentorship

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Mentorship By Richard Bradley Rzendzian, PharmD, MBA

Disclaimer: I will use the word “millennial” often in this article. I too roll my eyes every time I read or type it, but technically, it is what we are so let’s do everything we can to change any negative connotation. Secondly, I use lots of “rad” slang terms, so just roll with me, my homies.

If you are like me, you are getting older. What’s worse is that you are probably starting to notice that you aren’t as “hip” as you once were (Did you know that “cool kids” post videos of themselves making slime?).

Not to fear though, because there are plenty of people way less “dope” than you. These folks can be found everywhere (dead giveaways include flip-phones, New Balance sneakers, and AOL e-mail addresses). These people need your help!

According to a recent Microsoft News Centre Europe article, Millennials will represent over half the global workforce by 2020 and they will be working alongside as many as five generations. In an effort to bridge the generational gap and promote a more collaborative working environment, millennials must take the initiative by creating programs that are both inviting and engaging. One such program is Reverse Mentoring, in which a millennial mentors a Baby Boomer/Generation X employee on topics such as technology, social media, motivations, management styles, etc. This type of program provides seasoned leaders with insights and skills that are commonplace amongst the younger generations. It can and has been applied everywhere, including Microsoft, Target, Johnson & Johnson, and United Health, to name a few.

So, how do you get started?

One: Find a mentee
Look for someone who may interested in having a millennial mentor. The most obvious people include your own mentors or associates you work with. For our reverse mentoring program at Johnson & Johnson, we put together a survey and matched potential mentors/mentees based on their responses.

Two: Get to know one another
My mentee, Yoshanda, met me in person to discuss our backgrounds and reasons for participating in the program. Once I learned more about her, I was better equipped to help out. Moreover, she quickly identified a number of ways in which she could help improve my day-to-day work.

Three: Plan and execute
Create a plan of action and then, get it done! Yoshanda wanted to engage professionally with her co-workers. I helped her create a LinkedIn profile and explained how she could post and comment on articles to lead a discussion between her and her peers. Secondly, since she is on the road all the time, I had her download Waze (to reduce traffic tickets) and also, introduced her to a number of podcasts.

Four: Follow-up
The most important aspect of any mentor/mentee partnership is that it is beneficial. To be sure of this, schedule regular check-ins with your mentee. New things can be scary (especially technology), so it is important to remove any roadblocks and encourage participation.

Personally, Yoshanda and I attend a group call in which mentors and mentees share their experiences within the program. This not only gives us new ideas on how to make our mentorship better, but also helps to expand our network.

Although I am only a few months into the reverse mentorship program, the benefits have been substantial. Yoshanda has used her LinkedIn connections to land a new role at Johnson & Johnson. As for me, I have learned how to deal with denial. Being a sales rep means I have to face rejection every single day. Yoshanda has provided me strategies to stay motivated and to keep at it. We still meet regularly and are currently discussing the intricacies of PowerPoint. For me, the reverse mentorship is like having a normal mentor, only better because now I am giving back, too! 

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