We typically discuss the importance of networking in the context of mature individuals ready to take the next step in their business interests; however, I argue that we should be talking more about the importance of networking across generational age-gaps.
To be honest, science has already told us that the human frontal cortex isn’t fully developed until about the age of 26 years old (A good article on that here – Understanding the Teen Brain). Why is it still appropriate to use a young persons’ immaturity or lack of emotional control as an excuse to avoid dealing with them or providing quality mentorship? Given their emotional instability and lack of quality decision making skills, this is the MOST important time to grab a young person by the shoulder and openly guide them in the right direction.
I get it…it’s not always easy dealing with a sometimes irrational or unpredictable young adult, but as mature adults and lifelong educators of the youth (youth who will eventually grow to educate other youth) we should all subscribe to a patient and tactful approach in our dealings with them.
So what do we owe our children and how do we give it to them???
We owe them Openness
The young adults of today crave authenticity and real life experiences. Gone are the days where kids are told to get out the house and be back before the street lights come on. During those times, every day was a unique life experience. Due to various factors, today’s youth have been sheltered and protected by both their parents and readily available social media. Therefore, many of the things that seem common to us are only as real as a video or word of mouth for them. We owe them the openness to share with them “the real” of life and what we do. They will respect you for you honesty and openness, leading to the ability to better communicate with them and the development of a more productive mentor-mentee relationship.
We owe them Altruism
As a function of the development of the young adult brain, we owe them patience and the ability to see the best in them even when it doesn’t always come out right on their end. When dealing with young adults, it should be expected that they will have awkward moments of communication and weird emotional patterns. They are still growing and developing the level of maturity that you expect. As we know in education, your perception of them and their abilities tends to rule supreme over their outcomes. In other words, if you see them as a promising scholar and set your expectations and belief systems to that standard then they too will believe in their ability to reach that standard. To the contrary, if you have low expectations of their abilities then they will also meet those standards. We owe our children the highest standards, a strong belief system, and the patience to help them see it through. We do it for them because we love them and we want to see them be happy in their future endeavors.
We owe them Pro-Bono Mentorship
Too many times, the barrier of entry to establishing a relationship with a good mentor is too high. In a way it feels like you have to make it on your own before people will agree to mentor you. True mentorship outside of academia is dead or dying. We owe our children to bring it back! In the south, we would say something like, “I’m the adult; young people should reach out to ME!” I don’t know who made that up or where it came from, but I think its crap in 2018. Mentorship can be time consuming or burdensome in some ways, but being open and honest about your availability and time commitment can go a long way. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own accomplishments and awards that we expect for everyone to be begging us for our time and attention. To a young adult who is new to networking, slightly socially awkward, and seeking authenticity that type of attitude WILL be extremely off-putting. We own our children a ladder of open mentorship, for free without expecting any sort of gratification in return. Most young adults, especially the ones grinding to make a positive path for themselves, won’t have the resources to buy you lunch or buy a plane ticket to meet you in Aruba or to buy a nice suit for your meeting. Have the patience and understanding to meet them most of the way if they have demonstrated a commitment to learning from you.
The keyword for this article is PATIENCE. We owe our children patience. See the best in our young people and try to understand the worst. We need to open ourselves to them and share with them our life lesson with authenticity. Give them our time and honest mentorship. Every child starts riding a bike with training wheels, but we are putting our young people on two wheel bikes with a push and calling it mentoring.
Honestly…we can do better than that.
Share your thoughts and comments below. I would love to hear some young adult perspectives on this topic too.