Mentorship Is Not a One-Way Street - Deepstash

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The Case for Reverse Mentoring

The Case for Reverse Mentoring

Reverse mentoring describes a situation in which a younger or early career professional mentors a senior colleague. While the overarching goal mirrors that of a traditional mentorship — advancing the professional growth of the mentee — because the roles are reversed, this model shows everyone that experiential learning is just as valuable regardless of your age or expertise.

Junior employees gain more access to social networks and build their leadership skills. Senior employees gain a fresh perspective and expand their knowledge around new trends or technologies. Everyone becomes more engaged.

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Figure out what you have to offer

Mentoring is most successful when you take the time to think about what you are qualified to teach, what other people in your organization may be interested in learning from you, and how it overlaps with your company’s business objectives.

Before pursuing a reverse mentorship, think about:

  • What lessons are you willing to share?
  • What challenges is the company facing that you might have insights, information, or expertise on?
  • How can you communicate your knowledge to someone else without overwhelming them or making it about yourself?

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Voice your desire

During your next one-on-one meeting with your boss, you could say something like, “I have learned a great deal from the senior colleagues in our organization, and in return, I’d like to take the opportunity to share some of my skills within the organization.”

When it comes to sharing your idea with colleagues and peers, your best bet is to reach out to like-minded, curious individuals who may be interested in collaborating or taking you up on the offer. 

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Set clear expectations

How you actually begin a mentoring relationship will largely depend on who you collaborate with. Make your intentions and expectations clear from the start. Together, you should discuss:

  • What’s the objective of this mentorship? Is it to help them build a new skill or to learn more about a different generation?
  • How will the mentoring be implemented? Should it be a one-time activity, last a few weeks, or be a long-term commitment?
  • How will you measure your success? Is there a goal they are aiming to reach? How often will check in on progress?

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Be patient and humble

Recognize that reverse mentoring may be uncomfortable for some people, especially those in positions of power who are not used to being in the passenger’s seat. If you find a senior leader struggling to lean into their vulnerabilities, guide them with empathy.

Ensure them that your conversations will be confidential and that you understand this may be hard for them. Reiterate that the goal of the mentorship is to learn from each other without judgment. Essentially, model the behavior you want to see from your mentee. 

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Treat mentoring like a continuous learning opportunity

Mentoring is always a two-way street, whether it is reverse mentorship or the traditional kind. While you’re mentoring a senior colleague, use the opportunity to learn more about how things get done on their team, gain new perspectives on how decisions are made and build your credibility as a young professional.

Place them in your shoes by asking how they might handle the various challenges you face. Know that this isn’t about showing off but a genuine intent on both ends to share what you have learned and benefit the other person.

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