The days of senior managers (predominantly male and often over the age of 40) imparting their decades of corporate experience on new recruits are coming to an end in many avant-garde organisations and accountancy firms.
‘Reverse mentoring’ where millennials and 20-somethings turn the tables and coach senior-level managers is a growing trend and finance firms, such as KPMG and PwC, are now using reverse mentoring to bridge the generation gap and help Baby Boomers get to grips with Gen Z and Gen Y.
Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyds of London, is a case in point. Beale meets regularly with a 19yr old mentor and says it has really helped her to think differently about things, and given her a completely different perspective.
How can millennials become a mentor and encourage their company to invest in such a scheme?
Sophie Robson, founder of Millennial Matters blog for young people working in financial services, says many companies run ‘be the difference’ days which let employees support a charity/initiative of their choice, which could be a good starting point.
“Find out who’s responsible for this in your company – in some companies it might be HR, but others might have their own dedicated outreach/engagement programme,” says Robson. “Speak to them about opportunities they might be able to hook you up with or check out their websites for any useful contacts. For example, the girls’ network, which arranges female mentors for disadvantaged girls.”
Many financial services firms also run mentoring programmes, including the London Institute of Banking and Finance and the 30% Club, but overall, mentoring in the accounting sector is, says Robson, quite ad-hoc.
Utilising social media could be another effective way of creating opportunities, Robson advises. “Update your preferences on social media. LinkedIn, for instance, gives you the option to list mentoring as an area of interest,” she says.
Emily Cosgrove, co-founder of The Conversation Space coaching and mentoring consultancy, says it’s also worth seeing if there are any online chat groups or a community of mentors and mentees that you can join. “You can look outside the organisation to see if there’s anything that might work for you,” she notes. “It’s also worth asking people you respect if they know of any good programmes running. They may already even be mentors themselves.”
Make sure, however, that as well as looking externally you also look inside your organisation. “Ask your peers, colleagues and line manager if there’s anything already happening along these lines in your company,” says Cosgrove.
Do you have the necessary skills?
You also need to consider if you have the right sort of skills to be a young mentor. Being a good, emphatic listener, being able to build a rapport and being authentic are all essential parts of coaching and mentoring.
Hayley Smith, owner of Boxed Out PR and young mentor at the Central Research Laboratory, which specialises in Fintech accelerator programmes, says: “You need to be valuable. You will be asked questions that you need to be able to answer, or at least know where to look, so you will need to do your research or have a network that you can refer to.”
Sharing skills, experience and information in mentoring both inside and outside your organisation is, says Smith, vital. “I think experience is key when it comes to mentoring and you have to be able to share it (the good and the bad) with colleagues and other mentors.”
Start off with some taster sessions
It may also be worth asking your manager or HR team if you can run a ‘taster sessions’ to give you an idea of what mentoring might entail, Smith advises. “Taster sessions can give you an idea of what business owners want and it will give you a rough idea of what is required from you and if you are suited to it,” she says.
Chloe Walton, mentoring expert and head of strategy & conversations at The Conversation Space, says you also need to ensure you have a decent support network in place and a clear objective. “You need to establish what you want to achieve, the roles and responsibilities and what the needs are between the individuals from the start,” she notes.
“For a good mentoring relationship to work, it needs a framework and to be supported, otherwise it just becomes a nice cup of coffee and a chat.”
Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.