Won’t You Be My Mentor?

A recent survey of millennials found that more than half believe they would benefit from having a professional mentor, but only about one-third said their bosses or supervisors were willing to serve in that role. Fortunately, there’s more than one way to seek out a career coach.

In more millennial news, another study has found that a significant number of managers find members of generation Y to be unrealistic, unproductive, and easily distracted.

Roughly half of the surveyed managers in the Millenial Branding study reported that members of generation Y have a poor work ethic and unrealistic expectations for compensation. The surveyed millenials, on the other hand, seemed to look up to their managers, reporting that their supervisors could offer experience (59 percent) and wisdom (41 percent).

Relationships do not blossom overnight.

Along those lines was this group’s desire for mentorship. But while a large percentage of millennials thought they could learn from their manager’s experience and advice and 53 percent reported that a mentor would help them be more productive at work, only 33 percent said their bosses were willing to be a mentor.

The desire for career guidance is not relegated to young professionals; even CEOs want to be coached. Yet, both generations can struggle to find someone to offer advice and perspective, especially absent the structure of formal mentoring programs at work.

One possible solution is to take the reins yourself, like Lauren Hefner, director of communications for the National Grocers Association, did when she was searching for a mentor in the association industry. Hefner reached out to then-ASAE Foundation Chair and American Industrial Hygiene Association Executive Director Peter O’Neil, FASAE, CAE, for recommendations, and he offered himself as a mentor.

A 2011 LinkedIn survey of almost 1,000 U.S. female professionals found that one of the main reasons women had never served as a mentor was because no one had ever asked them. And 52 percent of the surveyed women said they’d never had a mentor because they had never encountered the right person.

If you’re unsure whom to go to on your own, you can turn to associations, many of which, including ASAE, offer formal mentoring programs for their members.

Take the American Society of Journalists and Authors, whose Peer-to-Peer mentoring program Associations Now profiled a couple of years ago. The program helps connect the association’s members—independent writers, many of whom work alone on a freelance basis—to colleagues across the country.

“Since freelancing can get pretty lonely, we thought it would be good idea to try to link those who write on similar topics, such as business, lifestyles, health, or travel,” Mickey Goodman, ASJA board member and director of the mentoring program, told Associations Now.

Realizing it needed to establish a more formal, systematic mentoring program, the Indiana State Bar Association developed a Mentor Match program that includes required activities for mentors and mentees and incentivizes people to join by providing continuing education credits.

Another important component in establishing mentor/mentee relationships, whether formal or not, is patience. “Relationships do not blossom overnight, even in the age of social media,” Ted Wanner, continuing education specialist for the Texas Library Association, told Associations Now.

Taking the time to establish a personal connection is just one of many tips for being a successful mentor.

Do you have mentor, or are you yourself a mentor? Let us know how you got started.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!