From Plato and Aristotle to Gandalf and Frodo, the historical narrative surrounding the nature of the mentor/mentee relationship is very straightforward; young people fair better in the “real world” when they have expert mentor input readily available. Whether it’s advice on how to solicit funding for a start-up, or instructions on how to destroy the one ring to rule them all, it would seem there is no better person to instruct than one who has “been there, done that.” Certainly, if you think back far enough, there was (or still is) someone in your life that played a very similar role, and their influence on your success probably cannot (and should not) be understated.
But, is it worth it?
There is no question that starting or working with a small business can provide the things young adults seem to value, while at the same time giving small business owners a window into the younger generation’s market. You must be autonomous, think creatively both individually and in groups, and help shape the organizational culture to something that works for your business, brand, and employees. Basically, small business can give to young adults the opportunity to learn how the entire business operates, something that larger companies often fail to provide because they (the large companies) are far too complex to easily understand. Of course there is some risk involved with hiring a young, book-trained person, but there’s risk everywhere in entrepreneurship, and I bet it’s all been worth it.
The point cannot be stressed enough: it is vitally important that the younger generations, lacking experience, are permitted to work alongside the seasoned veterans; there are no better role models for them to emulate and learn from. And older generations can harness the younger generation’s enthusiasm and curiosity, while helping to polish their rough edges. Additionally, since many young adults typically have fairly limited commitments, there may be no better time than young adulthood to take the leap of faith required for starting/working with a start-up company or small business.
While success is not some elusive state-of-being reserved only for middle-aged Americans who have “paid their dues,” so to speak, young entrepreneurs would do well to work with and learn from those same middle-aged Americans who have achieved it. And older entrepreneurs should participate in training them – if anyone can teach the youngins how to do it right, it’s those who’ve already done it.
Have you considered becoming a mentor? Do you have any specific concerns with regard to hiring young that you feel should be addressed? Good/bad experiences?
[CC photo courtesy of Ian Capper]