Millennial Think Tank: Mentorship in Today’s Workplace

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The American worker stays at one job for an average of 4.5 years. For Millennials, that number is even lower. How does a business develop future leaders if they’re not sure they’ll be around to lead AT THEIR COMPANY? What do Millennials need most out of mentorship? We gathered members of our Think Tank to discuss; joining us were:

  • Samantha Estoesta Williams, a young Millennial Community Manager
  • Judy McCloskey, a mid-Millennial working in digital media and the arts
  • Jillian Paige, a young Millennial Community Manager for a Real Estate firm

The average American worker stays on the job for 4.5 years, so companies are in a quandary about investing in young people who won’t be with them long. Additionally, mentorship has changed. When Boomers were young it was a straightforward fact that you would have a mentor who was older, and you would LISTEN to them… there was no reverse mentorship. It was a very formal, respectful relationship.

Many companies don’t have formal mentorship programs now, and mentor-mentee relationships are more fluid. Here are the insights from our discussion:

What does mentorship look like at work?

  • 2 of our panelists had workplace mentors, but none had a mentorship that was formally set up.
  • All of our panelists believed that formal mentorships helped alleviate the need for small talk and the awkward and sometimes lengthy development of a mentor/mentee relationship.
  • A structured mentorship provides a safe place for you to ask questions related to business and expect support.
  • Mentorship can be fluid; you may tap a specific mentor for a specific area of expertise.
  • Peer to peer mentorship is a big part of Millennial work life.
  • Our panelists all had greater opportunity to learn more and were given more one on one support in smaller businesses.
  • Our panelists all mentored younger Millennials at work.

What do you need out of a mentor?

Samantha knew exactly what she needed:

“If someone asked me where do you want to be in 5 years? What do you want to learn here? Make sure that side tasks given to you go in the direction you want to take your career. If people did that for me I’d never leave companies.”

  • Navigating office politics and putting your best foot forward; mentorship should be structured like “freshman intake.”
  • A lot is expected out of a new hire because they won’t be there as many years – pressure is on instantly – so an understanding mentor who helps a new hire ramp up faster is essential.

What other elements or mentoring are important?

  • Our panel all talked about gathering their own community of mentors to learn from.
  • Seeking out a “life mentor” outside of work is key.
  • Having a gender specific mentor help would help young women especially.
  • Finding a female mentor was challenging. Judy’s experience showed her that

    Some women can’t take the risk of displaying ‘mom behavior.’

  • Mentoring outside of work is important.
  • Mentorship needs to be explicit; the words need to be said to solidify the mentee/mentor relationship.
  • Members of our panel help their bosses understand how to manage younger people, but have also been mentored UP by younger Millennials.


It is clear that our entire panel highly values having mentors in their lives, and workplace mentors are extremely important. The less formal nature of society, in general, makes finding a mentor and securing that relationship more challenging if a company doesn’t have a formal structure for doing so. Putting a structured mentorship program in place would certainly help new hires get off to a smoother and faster start.

You can listen or watch the full episode below:

photo credit: Shup selfie 72/365 via photopin (license)

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