Rik Nemanick, an adjunct lecturer in organizational behavior at Olin, poses this scenario in a new Harvard Business Review article:
You’re 15 months into your first job out of college when a senior leader from human resources asks to meet with you. About mentoring … him.
At the meeting, he says he wants to improve your firm’s recruiting practices: “I think you could teach me about what young professionals are expecting these days. I’d love it if you and I could meet over the next few months, and you could ‘mentor’ me on what to do.”
How do you respond?
“Reverse mentorships can be incredibly valuable,” Nemanick said. They promote diversity, help bridge generational gaps and can help you hone your leadership skills.
But they also create dynamics that can pose hurdles and potential risks for the junior employee.
In traditional mentoring, the mentor holds a more senior position and uses their wisdom to guide a junior colleague. When the roles are swapped, it’s called “reverse mentoring,” and it takes work.
“Being a reverse mentor can feel intimidating, especially if you’re new to the workplace,” writes Nemanick, who is the author of the book “The Mentor’s Way.” That book is the culmination of more than 20 years of mentoring training and consulting.
Find out about reverse mentoring in Nemanick’s article, “Are you ready to mentor a more senior colleague?”