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  • Lark Tibbs, University of North Carolina

Mentorship in the Millennial Generation

As a young child, my parents always encouraged me to “question everything.” When I was seven, they realized how literally I took that statement. To alleviate some of my curiosity, and to give themselves a break from my millions of questions a day, they got me an encyclopedia for Christmas.

The older I get, and the further I delve into the business world, the more I find myself relating back to the bright-eyed, curious little girl I once was. Adulthood, unfortunately, does not come with a how-to guide or a set of instructions. For this chapter of my life, I’ve found the best navigation to be mentorship.

I’m eternally grateful for the ways that my mentors, Tyler, John, and Jordyn have poured into and developed me. Tyler and John are both professors at my university and Jordyn is a former colleague turned friend.

You don’t know everything and that’s ok

When you start your first real job or do any type of “adulting,” no one expects you to immediately have all the answers. But as my mom used to say, “you’re not dumb for having questions, you’re dumb if you choose not to ask them.”

Whether I’m curious about how to prepare for an interview or what to wear to an event, most of my “business world” questions require the input of another human being. Although websites like LinkedIn provide an abundance of information, you can’t get feedback from reading an article… the internet can’t tell you how to tweak your resume or perfect your cover letter.

As millennials, we have all grown up with the internet just some connections just cannot be replicated. I, like just about every woman, have spent hours sifting through Pinterest for inspiration for the perfect interview outfit… and even after seeing thousands of combinations I still found myself at a loss as I couldn’t figure out which clothes of my own to pair together. After a quick FaceTime call to Jordyn, I was certain that I had found my winning look. The internet provided access to an abundance of information but when it came down to getting relevant advice for my situation, Jordyn’s feedback is not something that I could get from a simple Google search.

When crafting a resume or cover letter, I love to get inspiration from resumes I stumble across on LinkedIn as well as the website of the company… I would recommend that everyone does this… but I also love verbal feedback from my colleagues. I always ask my mentors to serve as a second set of eyes and provide critiques. Their verbal feedback is always personal to my ordeal and includes their insight from past professional experiences.

Mentors have the ability to point out areas of growth and provide constructive criticism or praise; both are necessary when en route to becoming your best self. The priceless and irreplaceable value of a personal connection with someone who can serve as your own personal guide to professional growth, Google, stylist, cheerleader, teacher and friend. Who wouldn’t want a person with a vested interest in their growth?

Your network is your net worth

Apart from being a great source of human capital, mentors can serve as a great resource in terms of expanding your professional network. As the phrase goes, “you’re only as good as the company you keep.” We live in the age of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” And knowing the right people can open some pretty big doors .In fact, Nearly 70% of people credit their network for their current position which means landing your dream job could be at the sake of your professional network. I can largely attest for this as my mentors have worked to introduce me to hiring authorities and professionals throughout my community and beyond as well as, always encouraging me to get out of my shell and build my own network. In fact, my upcoming summer internship at Google was largely made possible through my own networking skills. I met a Product Manager while studying abroad and after a great conversation and connecting with him on LinkedIn, he recommended me for hire for their cutting edge, internship program. Mentors operate in a similar fashion; they utilize their network to boost your net worth.

In elementary school, I used to always try to hang out with the girls who were well behaved and did well on their spelling tests as I thought by being in good company, I would become a better student (and maybe stop losing recess time for talking when I wasn’t supposed to). I keep that same mindset when building my professional network.

Surround yourself with people who can bring you up. A good mentor can do just that… literally and metaphorically. By pursuing a mentoring relationship with an individual with strong tenure in your field, you’re providing yourself the opportunity to learn from their experience as well as exposing yourself to their network.

Pass it on….

Stay humble and always be mindful of how other people have helped you to develop, then try to be that vessel for someone else. Invest your time, share your knowledge and be a resource to anyone that you can. Someone was once a pillar in your own development, pay it forward and keep building.

At the conclusion of my freshman year, I applied for a job working in professional development with a resume filled with grammatical errors; it did not contain my university and was in the kindest terms… a hot mess. The hiring authority, Tyler, determined to iron out my soft skills, decided to look past my own lack of professional development and hire me for the position. Tyler quickly turned from my boss to a mentor and dear friend. To say that he took a chance hiring me is an understatement. Under his wing, I have experienced an extensive amount of growth, experience and exposure, all which have developed me into the budding professional that I am now.

As millennials are rapidly growing to become the largest generation in the workforce, it is vital that we stick together as well as utilize our unique insight to grow those around us. Everyone just needs one single opportunity to be pushed towards their potential. Whether you let a peer know of job opportunities, connect them with your colleagues, help them prepare their resume, or just provide insight… allow yourself to water someone else’s garden.

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