What is Reverse Mentoring? It can be loosely defined as the process of a less experienced (often younger) employee offering guidance to a more experienced colleague. The practice is really not that new, but it is highly neglected and misunderstood. A recent article discusses the value of tech-savvy twentysomethings helping older managers and you can find a wealth of information on topic in a simple online search.
Imagine a world where executives partner with newly hired, tech-savvy millennials to learn from each other and better share the workspace. While traditional mentorship is a one-way flow of knowledge from older to younger, this idea puts value in what a younger employee can teach his older coworker, or even boss.
One of the challenges of reverse mentoring is the mention of “Intimidation.” I hear both parties can be hesitant to share experiences. That means we all need to lighten up and get over ourselves. Just like there are differences between civilians and Veterans, we should recognize that we are all unique and have something to learn from each other. I am not a civilian, I am a Veteran; I’m not a twentysomething, I am a Gen-Xer. And while I wasn’t born with a smartphone in my hand, my digital expertise has grown from the help of some important reverse mentors.
Together, my wife and I have five kids, 30, 28, 27, 19 and 18. Whew, I am tired just typing that. They live in Boston, Denver, Dallas, Greater New Orleans area and Mobile, Alabama. All of my family is in Texas, my wife’s family is in California. Needless to say, technology is our friend. We are in contact daily via text, Instagram, Facebook, and FaceTime or Skype. We share Mothers’ Day gift openings and birthday party memories via technology. And when we go visit each other, we sit and stare at our phones in beautiful places that we later post to brag about how much fun we’re all having.
Then there is online college and universities, eLearning and opportunities to build knowledge and professional networks via social media, such as LinkedIn. If not for reverse mentoring at college, and the military advisor “walking” me through class, I would have been intimidated by online learning. But they used something I was comfortable with, a phone, and handheld me through the first week of class. After that, I was up and running, ending with a degree I had so long procrastinated on.
So, get a mentor, and be a mentor. We can all have more than one. I mentor a millennial and learn as much from her as she learns from me. I also work with peers of similar experience levels and those that are more experienced than I. We are all on Twitter, we all use technology and we all use each others’ strengths. Whether seeking a new position at VA or improving our knowledge of new equipment, together we make a difference.