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4 Ways Baby Boomers Can Educate Millennials in the Workplace

Mar03
Millennials are ready to listen. In fact, they've been ready to listen. The generation much maligned for their selfishness and disrespect for authority turns out to be starving for guidance.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 14th Annual Global CEO Survey revealed that 98 percent of Millennials consider mentorship a critical factor for success. And who better to deliver this guidance than the generation nearing retirement? As Baby Boomers leave the workplace for the comfort of retirement, their decades of accumulated expertise leave the workplace with them;  much to the detriment of the business world. If you’re nearing the end of professional career, consider taking one of your Millennial colleagues under your wing. Here’s how.

1.  Make the First Move

Young professionals want help, but they might not know how to ask for it; especially in the intimidating workplace. The generation known for overbearing helicopter parents has rarely been without someone looking over their shoulder. Advice has always been readily offered, whether they wanted it or not.

To reach your Millennial colleagues, avoid coming across as patronizing. Rather than offering unsolicited advice, older professionals should look for common ground with their younger peers and use that as a lever to open a dialog.

Of course, more experienced professionals should prepare to meet some resistance. But through a little persistence and a lot of understanding, Baby Boomers can educate Millennials in the workplace.

2.  Be Prepared to Mentor as a Team

Recognize that the Millennials in your office may not follow the same career path you once took. They’re much more likely to change their careers often or start their own businesses. And contrary to popular belief, they work hard at it. In fact, a 2011 study by Buzz Marketing and the Young Entrepreneur Council found that 36 percent of recent college grads had started a side business in addition to their full-time job.

With their varied interests, entrepreneurial spirit, and lack of faith in the current state of traditional career paths, Millennials need more than one mentor. If, say, you’re an experienced sales executive, you can provide a lot of sage advice on your areas of expertise. But don’t be offended if the Millennial you’re mentoring looks elsewhere for advice about hiring, taxation, compliance, technology and more. Remember, it’s not you; – considering that many in the workforce have experienced nothing but life in the post-2008 crash economy, many Millenials feel as though they’re always on the precipice of being let go. Keep that in mind when approaching them as a mentor.

3. Teach Workplace Patience

Whatever it may be, Millennials want it now. After all, they’re the “Always On” generation who have had access to their every question with the click of a Google search. Keep in mind that a generation raised on instant access to communication, entertainment and information isn’t known for its patience. This expectation of immediacy doesn’t stop with their personal lives; it extends to the workplace, as well.

Millennials can learn a lot from their older colleagues, but nothing is more fundamental – or more necessary – than learning the art of patience.

Professionals nearing retirement spent most of their careers relying on paper mail and the telephone to communicate. They left work at work – not because they weren’t engaged, but because it didn’t follow them home and chirp at them from the nightstand. They didn’t expect to move up the corporate ladder at the speed of light.

Learning to wait – to put in the work and learn the ropes slowly with no expectation of an immediate reward – is a necessary skill that many Millennials are lacking, which can help their careers both in the short- and long-term.

4.  Help them Cultivate Relationships

Millennials often have enough social media connections to fill a stadium, but to truly advance in the professional realm, today’s young professionals should network the old fashioned way: in person. Unfortunately, they’re not very good at it as it’s a fairly foreign concept when digital communication has been their main mode of communication.

Baby Boomers, famous for their zealous approach to building relationship capital, can teach their young colleagues a great deal about the value of face-to-face relationship building. It may be hard to imagine a 20-something tech geek on the golf course, surrounded by executives and people with those gold watches given after 25 years of service. But it’s even harder to imagine that the young whippersnapper wouldn’t learn a thing or two about building relationships in the process.

Leave a Legacy: Mentor the Newbies

There’s no greater way to leave a professional legacy than through mentorship. If you’re counting the days to retirement, take the time to share your knowledge and wisdom with a younger colleague. So forget what you’ve heard about Millennials and reach out. Beneath the headphones, there’s a capable young professional ready to learn.