Age_Gender_Ethnicity

Interest in mentoring has been steadily growing for the past decade. Several factors are contributing to this.

Factor #1: Boomers are retiring.

Baby boomers (76 million strong) are retiring from the workforce. Generation X (only 46 million) can’t fill all the vacancies in middle and upper management. Millennials (projected to reach 80 million, with immigration) lack experience. Millennials (a.k.a. Generation Y) have access to and more comfort with knowledge and data than any generation preceding them. But that doesn’t mean they know what to do with it.

Pairing Boomers and Gen Xers with Gen Y employees can be a tremendous win-win for organizations and smart secession planning.

Five lessons we can learn from the greatest generation (GrowingLeaders)

Mentoring and baby boomers (About.com)

In fact, “reverse mentoring” switches the focus, putting Boomers with Millennials so they can learn technological and social media skills.

Factor #2: Diversity is increasing.

Besides generational diversity, there is gender and ethnic diversity. Mentoring is an effective way for members of minority groups to learn to navigate political workplace waters.

In fact, women who have made it to the C-suite often credit men with helping them understand the rules of knowing how to get there.

Some people aren’t comfortable with cross-gender mentoring relationships, but those do allow for greater gender insights. Historically, the men who have been most willing to mentor women have daughters, wives, and/or mothers they deeply respect.

Why men still get more promotions than women (HBR)

Women need champions not mentors (Quartz)

Male mentors have a tendency to “sponsor” protégées. Female mentors have a tendency to “develop” and “nurture” protégées.

Factor #3: Workplaces are team-oriented.

This requires strong emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills–skills enhanced by mentorships.

As the need for self-awareness and effective conflict resolution skills increases, the desire for relationships that can help us become more self and socially aware will increase.

And Factor #4: Mentoring is effective.

It’s true that many mentoring programs are stronger in theory than practice. But mentoring…when done well…has been proven effective.

It’s a practice as old as time and it’s likely to remain a practice far into the future.

8 ways to expand your mentoring network (Journal of Accountancy)

In 1978 the Harvard Business Review published an article called, “Everyone who makes it has a mentor.” Numerous other studies and surveys point to a high number (70+ percent) of executive-level employees who credit mentoring as a contributor to their career trajectory.

It just makes sense. You can hack your way through a forest on your own, and it might take you years. Or someone can show you how to save time and avoid pitfalls, and it can cut your learning curve in half…or a third…or a fourth, depending on several factors, like how much you needed to learn and how skilled they were at teaching you.

When it comes to generational, gender, and ethnicity issues in mentoring relationships, it’s hard not to sound stereotypical.

Bu there are both advantages and disadvantages to building one-dimensional relationships. If a female Asian protege chooses to approach a female Asian mentor because their ethnicity is the same and she feels more comfortable asking her questions, there is nothing wrong with that. This mentor will have insights that no male, non-Asian is going to have.  But…the protege also forfeits the chance to gain a new perspective.

So when it comes to age, gender, and ethnicity, I recommend constellation mentoring. In fact, I recommend that for everyone. Approach one mentor who shares your gender, and approach one who doesn’t. You’ll gain valuable insights from each relationship.

For a list of good mentoring resources, see How-To’s.
Click here for more on diversity.

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