Is mentoring only for the young?

I’ve discussed many aspects of mentoring in the past.

In an earlier post I’ve addressed the question of whether you need to be an expert before you can undertake the role of mentor.

In this post I’d like to look at the target market for mentoring.

The most common image of mentoring is the “elder” guiding the “young buck” as he negotiates life’s journey. Pictures of mentors typically show lots of grey hair and the odd wrinkle or two!

Let’s look at why you might seek out a mentor. In most cases you will be attempting to smooth your path by anticipating obstacles, acquiring appropriate skills and generally preparing yourself for your journey ahead in some new endeavour. So in this changing world, are we limiting the potential benefits of mentoring by restricting the circumstances in which we might consider engaging a mentor?

I think this is often the case.

I am building an online business, so may well be looking for mentoring from someone who has experience and knowledge in that space. Chances are they will be a lot younger than me! So what! If they can help me get to my goals quicker than I could on my own then why would I baulk at engaging a mentor who is significantly younger than me. The concept of reverse mentoring has gained currency in recent years, but to me this smacks a bit of ageism. The suggestion seems to be that if I am a mentor (and am therefore old!) only then can I be mentored by my younger mentee in some form of reciprocal arrangement.

Why can’t a mentoring relationship involving a younger mentor and older mentee exist in isolation?

I can imagine that a younger mentor could usefully help an older mentee in areas such as use of technology, managing younger employees and building a business that might have a cross-generational appeal.

So let’s bring the concept of mentoring out of the restrictive closet in which it currently exists.
Mentoring opportunities exist everywhere to share knowledge, to support personal growth and to avoid the unnecessary repetition of avoidable mistakes.