Plot Twist: Young Professionals can be Mentors, Too!

As a young professional, you’ve likely heard all about how helpful a mentor can be for your career. Seasoned professionals can provide advice for navigating the job search, give you an inside look into what their job is really like and help you develop crucial skills. But what might not be as obvious is that the mentor-mentee relationship is a two-way street. Mentors can often learn a lot from their more junior counterparts.

Reverse mentoring is a popular practice for many executives. John Donahoe, former eBay CEO, used the technique and often shadowed younger entrepreneurs. Sri Shivananda, vice president of global platform and infrastructure at PayPal knows that younger members of the organization “have the keys to trends and information” to which he wouldn’t otherwise be exposed. You can read more about Shivananda in this recent Fast Company article.

Reverse mentoring isn’t a new idea, and it’s not only practiced by CEOs. It’s happening all over the place – even right here in the local PR community.

Xerox is in the process of testing a reverse mentoring program right now, in fact. They’ve identified a small group of emerging leaders and paired them with senior executives from different areas of the business with the goal of sharing new perspectives and improving learning opportunities at the company. Pairs meet on a monthly basis, and the program has already been deemed a success by those involved.

Why is reverse mentoring important?

One consensus is that reverse mentoring programs help professionals continue learning throughout their careers. Falynne Finagan, head of global social media at Xerox, says, “Learning on the job isn’t just for younger or more junior employees – professionals of all levels can benefit from gaining advice outside of their usual sources.” Another local PR expert, Mike McDougall, APR, Fellow PRSA and President of McDougall Communications agrees. McDougall says that he “wants to be able to gain new ideas, unique insights and useful skills from multiple people – including newer practitioners.”

The benefits extend further than the individuals directly involved, too. According to Finagan, “reverse mentor programs open the lines of communication in a way that can really make a difference to a company’s culture.”

What are the pros learning?

New technologies are often referenced as a key learning for executives who have a reverse mentor. According to McDougall, “it’s about exposure to newer, non-mainstream content delivery channels – and just as importantly, understanding which are falling out of favor.” And that’s not all that young professionals have to offer. “Employees in their 20s and early 30s have a unique perspective on the workplace,” says Finagan. “Their voices can help shape HR policies, leadership programs, recruiting and much more.”

Do you have a mentor? Check out PRSA Rochester’s Advisory Network to begin developing valuable connections with experienced professionals in the Rochester area. After all – some of those professionals may be counting on you to teach them a thing or two!

Jim Mignano

Jim Mignano is an Account Executive at Text100 and a College at Brockport alum. He is currently serving as PRSA Rochester’s President-Elect and also volunteers with the Young PR Professionals group. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or learn more about him in PRSA Rochester’s Advisory Network.

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