Kate Williams is director of the libraries at Southern Crescent Technical College. Contact her at kewilliams@sctech.edu.

Kate WilliamsAs a college administrator, you may have thought about mentoring one of your junior millennial employees but are hesitant due to negative generational stereotypes. As a millennial who is currently in a mentor-mentee relationship with a baby boomer, I want to plead our case and explain the top five reasons we need your help.

  1. We’re painfully aware of what we don’t know. Millennials don’t think that they have all the answers — they think that they can find all the answers on social media. In the workplace, however, we quickly learn that Reddit doesn’t have the necessary information when it comes to developing the interpersonal skills we need to succeed. We quickly learn that higher education is a tricky place with departmental loyalties and rivalries that run deep. Mentors are invaluable to us in learning how to build new and effective collaborative partnerships while showing respect for those who have gone before us.
  2. We’re idealistic but easily become jaded. One of millennials’ best traits is our optimism. We think we can change the world and make a positive difference in people’s lives. But once we enter the workforce, our optimism, so carefully nurtured in college, can be crushed quickly by relentless bureaucracy. We need mentors who both encourage our optimism and teach us how to navigate bureaucracy effectively because once we become jaded, our tendency to change jobs kicks in. Millennials don’t inherently lack employer loyalty. We seek meaning and inspiration in our jobs and are willing to go elsewhere to find it.
  3. We need help understanding and navigating The Establishment. You’ll have to forgive us and remember that we’re young — we don’t have the knowledge and the experience that you do when it comes to understanding the history and politics of higher education. We need you to help us understand the status quo and teach us how to pick our battles wisely. Millennials can be a great force for positive change if you help us channel our energies effectively.
  4. We’ve been told we can be anything. And, therefore, we have no idea what we want to be. Millennials need career guidance and help in focusing our many interests and passions. We think that we are supposed to have our career in line by the time we are 30 but suffer a mini-crisis when that birthday comes and goes and we’re no closer to being the organic farmer/tech upstart CEO/professional knitter that we planned. Mentors’ advice will help reassure us that it is OK to explore our professional areas of interest as long as we do it in a focused, systematic way that builds our skill sets, broadens our field of experience and moves our career forward.
  5. We’re not as bad as you think. I swear we are not as bad as you’ve been told. We came into the workforce during a recession, and we watched our parents’ and grandparents’ retirement funds disappear before their eyes. We are fully aware that we will have to work hard all of our lives, but because of that, we place tremendous value in having a work-life balance and meaning in our careers.

My mentor relationship has been invaluable to me in many ways. I’ve grown as a leader, focused my career goals, and built a strong professional support system as a result. In the future, I plan on paying this forward and mentoring someone who is just starting out in her career. As a millennial mentee, I would encourage all college administrators to consider mentoring someone like me. You’ll find out that, contrary to our reputation, we’re pretty amazing — or at least that is what our moms tell us.