When we hear the word “mentor,” I think most automatically assume that the mentor is older than the person being mentored. Wisdom and knowledge don’t automatically come with age and experience. Oh yes, I have had many mentors throughout my 55 years who were older than me. Looking back, the common trait possessed by these wonderful souls was a great sense of humor and perspective.
Over the past 10 years, while working at GLCYD, the role of mentor has taken on new meaning to me. Our CEO, Amy Quinn, is almost 15 years younger than I am, yet she has guided and encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and given me opportunities to embrace things that are important to me and that further the organization’s mission. She sees the strengths that we all possess and capitalizes on them. Not only is that good business management, it is also the true meaning of “human resources.” I value her counsel and respect.
Fifteen years ago, while chaperoning my nieces on a trip to London, I met a young man of 19. We became fast friends and our relationship has been unique. The lives we lead are extremely different. My life took many twists and turns in the first five years after I met him. And he was always there for me, sharing his honesty (even when it hurt a bit), along with his loving friendship. He is an avid traveler, well on his way to visiting 40 countries by the time he turns 40. He has his PhD and is currently working in England. I learn something from him every time I talk to him. He makes me think, laugh and wonder. One of the most loyal friends I have ever had.
It’s easy to get out of touch when we fear change and underestimate our own capacity for it. Victoria Leonhardt, our Marketing Associate and resident Millenial, is a great source for business trends, communication and information. Some of our practices become outdated and we’re so set in our routines that we don’t take the time to consider whether something is necessary or useful. She asks good questions as to why and how we are completing certain processes and has helped streamline many of the things we do here. She is very open minded and kind, hilariously funny.
As more young people come into my life, the more I feel tuned in to our world and its future. I don’t have to wear the clothes they like or watch the shows they watch, but it is fun to dish and giggle with younger people about pop culture every now and again. Even small children have something to teach us. Observe them, listen to them, look into their eyes when they are talking to you. Their focus and resiliency are a constant source of wonder.
Instead of seeing the Millenial generation as just a source for technical assistance, take it a step further and hear what they have to say about everything. There will always be generational differences, but the latest trend seems to be geared toward people looking at what we have in common instead of what our differences may be. You may be surprised at what you can learn.