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Mentoring a millennial broker: What you need to know

Jul 12, 2016

people-woman-coffee-meeting-large-348587-edited.jpgThere’s a wave of young employees coming up the ranks at brokerages across the country — maybe even at your brokerage — and they’re bringing a completely different style to the workplace.

Dubbed “millennials,” this generation comprises workers born after 1980. They came into the world at a moment of dazzling new innovations, and were still learning to read when computer technology leapt from businesses and labs and landed in almost every home in America. They grew up with cell phones and came of age along with the first social media startups. They were on MySpace before it fizzled and on Facebook before it took over the world.

And now that they’re in the workforce, they’re a force unto themselves: at 80 million strong, their generation will account for 75% of the global workforce by 2020, according to Deloitte’s Millennial Survey.

Millennials grew up expecting to be fully plugged into the world, and they thrive on connection, collaboration and transparency. As they rise up the ranks, they’re fundamentally changing how companies do business — and yes, that includes your brokerage.

Why millennials need you—and why you may just need them, too

So where does that put you? After years of hard work, you’ve finally paid your dues, hit your stride, and learned the trade secrets that help you find clients and close deals. You know you have valuable wisdom to share with the newest generation of brokers to join your ranks— but sometimes it just feels like you’re from different worlds.

Yet the truth is that you need each other: millennials need to hear the hard-earned wisdom that only you can share with them. And whether you’re ready to admit it or not, you may just need some of that energy and fresh perspective they bring to the workplace. Though millennials may ruffle feathers from time to time, 74% of their older colleagues still say that they bring valuable new skills to the table.

So how do you join forces with this generation to make the most of what you both have to offer? By fostering a meaningful mentoring relationship early on.

What you need to know before you start mentoring a millennial

Millennials want to contribute to your brokerage, and quickly. Don’t be offended by what can seem like brash ambition and a disregard for how things “work around here.” And don’t be surprised when they ask for frequent feedback on things you’d never have dreamt of asking at that stage of your career.

They don’t mean to overstep the invisible boundaries your generation knew to respect without question: it’s just that they were raised on collaboration, openness, and the honest, earnest belief they could make an impact even at a young age.

Remember that this a generation that grew up admiring Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, magic-makers who could pluck an idea out of thin air and —with the help of a little code and a lot of hard work — turn it into a multi-billion dollar reality. They believe it’s possible to go from zero to zillions in (what seems like) 60 seconds: they’ve seen it happen, and they want to be the next person to do it.

And with nearly all the world’s knowledge at their fingertips, this generation is constantly connecting the dots and exploiting opportunities. They’re exposed to new ideas as they’re expressed, new developments as they happen in real time. It’s a great environment for innovation — but they still need your help tethering all that boundless information to the time-tested wisdom only you can provide.

The bottom line is this: you might have spent years putting in your time, slowly nurturing industry relationships, and earning valuable business. But millennials have a different career plan in mind.

By establishing a mentoring relationship with a young broker, you can show them how to take that restless energy and use it wisely. Millennials want and need you to guide them. In fact, 63% of millennial employees say that the reason they chose to work for their current employers was because of the “opportunities for growth and development.” This rated as more important to them than salary, benefits, or company culture.

Mentoring tips: 6 best practices for guiding and inspiring your younger colleagues

Here are our top tips for working with the millennial brokers in your life:

  1. Give them ample opportunities to contribute. Try giving them meaningful challenges to cut their teeth on. Pick projects that will challenge them, push their thinking, and create opportunities for them to learn by doing. For example, you can empower them to work on the big deals, to negotiate the important contracts, and to contribute ideas that will help grow the business.

  2. Allow for failure. If you’ve followed the advice above, then the hardest thing to do next is to step back and watch as your mentee makes their own mistakes. Yes, it can be hard to watch them struggle on something you’ve long since mastered. But fight the urge to give them all the answers right away: instead, patiently guide them through the process of trying (and sometimes failing). Give them the space to arrive at the answers themselves, even when those answers are obvious to you.
  3. Share your own mistakes. Your mistakes are worth something—and now’s the time to cash them in. Being open about your own missteps not only fosters trust between you and your mentee, but it makes them feel safe coming to you when they’re feeling stuck, think they’ve flubbed a big deal, or are just not sure what to do and need your advice. Take the time to walk them through some of your biggest failures: what did you do? Why did you do it? How would you do it over again, given the chance? 

  4. Let them in on a few trade secrets. Give your mentee insights into your business and your world. How does it run? Who are the major players? What are the invisible relationships and unspoken rules they need to understand? Have these conversations often. Make sure their urge to leap in and make an impact is tempered by the wisdom and hard-won perspectives only you can provide.
  5. Tell them how they’re doing. Millennials want and expect ample, frequent feedback—whether it’s good or bad. They value transparency and openness, and will respect you for providing your honest take on their progress. Show them the ways they can improve, but also remember to celebrate their achievements!
  6. Take an interest in who they are and what they can teach you. Mentorship is a reciprocal relationship. Get to know your mentee as a person, and share a little about yourself beyond just work life. You may be surprised at what you have in common, despite your generational differences. Also remember that your mentee may have valuable things to teach you. For instance, they already have an intuitive grasp of technology: why not ask them how they think you could use it to leapfrog the competition?

We hope you enjoyed these insights and can apply them in your brokerage—and if you’ve got any of your own ideas or tips to add, please let us know! We’d love to hear how you’re connecting with and mentoring millennial employees at your brokerage.

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Topics: Best Practices

Irena Ashcraft

Written by Irena Ashcraft

Irena is a freelance writer who works with innovators, educators, explorers, and changemakers. From brave nonprofits to frontier-straddling startups, she helps clients connect with their biggest fans through writing that's fresh, relatable, and fun.

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