The Importance of Mentorship
As a baby boomer, I have started to think not only about retirement, which is looming over the horizon, but also about how to better relate to the 20 and 30-somethings who are waiting in the wings and how to help prepare them to take on leadership roles.
At the George Gund Foundation, I have become the mentor for participants in our Gund Fellows program, an informal position that has offered me the chance to work with some extremely bright, energetic and talented young people. It has been incredibly rewarding and has been a growth experience for me as well as for them. Being able to “payback” by passing along my experience and knowledge has been fulfilling, and they have exposed me to new ideas I might otherwise have missed.
And yet, I find not enough members of my generation willing to extend themselves as mentors or even consider these young people as peers for peer-to-peer learning. On two occasions recently, “emerging leaders” I met in my work as a program officer, have expressed frustration that they either have been put-down or not taken seriously by older, more-experienced co-workers. In one case, a young person was told by a more senior co-worker that she was not considered a colleague because she did not have the experience of the older worker. Needless to say, she was deeply offended.
It seems to me that my generation has a responsibility to help prepare the next generation of leaders by being open to mentorship opportunities—both formal and informal—and remembering what is what like oh-so-many- years-ago when someone extended a welcome hand of friendship, learning and sharing to us as we started our careers.