As a millennial, we get put into a lot of buckets – overachieving, whiny, impatient, entitled – but there are countless articles describing the power that millennials have in the workforce. “The workforce is changing!” “Less time and loyalty to firms!”
While town criers have a busy job shouting this news from the rooftops, the rest of us are behind a desk living this reality. It’s become apparent that everyone – from the employee to the employer – is trying to balance a cohesive culture with a bottom-line approach. As a female, there are more hoops to jump through – from being expected to take notes and clean up around the office to the constant bitchy/walkover personality issue, it adds another layer to our onion of fun.
The first time I was really placed into a full-time employment entry-level position (I had been a working student up until that point), I was on a team of five other women. We were all fresh out of college, wondering what impact we’d make in Corporate America, reading the passive aggressive email chains and answering the frontline phone lines. We came from the same sort of background – a liberal arts education, graduated with some sort of cum laude, and moved to the outskirts of DC to start a life. Though our details are different, the story is the same. Opportunity walks through the doors of each and every company every day, and it’s up to the company culture and management to adequately handle that opportunity.
Fast forward three years later, we’ve all moved on from that division, from that office, and in most cases, from that company. Our opportunity left because it wasn’t adequately managed. What was the one thing that could’ve kept us all within that division, at least a little longer?
When I say pure mentorship, I’m not talking about the formalized, scripted program with paperwork that goes to direct supervisors and HR. I’m not talking about check-ins or tag-ups. I’m talking about a genuine support system from a company veteran that takes opportunity under their wing and uses coffee breaks, after-work drinks, email, phone calls, or any of the other numerous communication vehicles to provide support and guidance through a usually tumultuous time.
Broadly speaking, as a student, I never learned how to build and keep a network in college. I never learned how to follow up on an issue without nagging and bothering that person. It wasn’t until I became a desk jockey that I learned these nuances – and it would’ve been nice to have someone transparently and completely on my side during that time.
I’ve found that this experience is worst with women than men – whether we read into communicative nuances and tones more, whether we tend to be more indirect while writing or speaking, or whether our superiors feel the need to micromanage us and Mother Hen us – we need more help. We need more guidance. We need more trust. In this dog-eat-dog world that the town criers scream of, we need a reason to stay at a place of employment longer than 6 months, aside from “I can pay bills” … and that reason is already employed with the company.
Of course, it needs to be a win for whomever decides to take a risk with the New Person and provide an informal mentor. They need to have buy-in to carve time out of their day, and provide guidance – not do the job for the New Person.
To really dig deep and create a culture that’s cohesive in an organization, trust, confidence, and guidance really go a long way.
Do you have a mentorship program in your organization? Have you found that informal mentorships are better than formal mentorships?