Deepali Vyas is the founder of Fearless+that connects teens with college and career opportunities and a new resume format that builds soft skills.
How can young people find mentors? The way we think about connection is different now than ever, as our world – from the classroom to the C-suite – becomes increasingly virtual. This can lead to more accessible but sometimes less personal connections. What does this mean for mentoring?
Accessibility for youth
I have seen the benefits of mentoring firsthand. I was on a video call with Bob Iger a few years ago during his first tenure as CEO of Disney. Bob had written a book The trip of a lifetime, which my son happened to read. In the early months of the pandemic, when we were all working and studying at home, my son walked by my office while I was on this video call and asked if he could ask Bob a few questions. Bob graciously agreed and the two chatted briefly.
My son, who, to be clear, doesn’t usually read CEO memoirs, was immediately inspired and motivated. His eyes lit up and I saw his worldview expand. I was happy for him to have this experience, to be able to talk to someone so successful, iconic, and whose years in the workforce lend themselves to actionable lessons and insights.
Then it occurred to me: Why should my son have this opportunity when so many others don’t? So many kids have the curiosity and the motivation, but not the access. After all, my son didn’t really do anything to earn this personal interview; he didn’t sign up for a business information seminar, write a personalized letter, or even go outside. All he did was ask because the opportunity was right in front of him.
How can mentoring be more accessible? Most twelve-year-olds wouldn’t consider it possible to have a one-on-one conversation with one of the most powerful executives in the entertainment industry. But here’s the thing: Mentoring benefits everyone.
Benefits of mentoring
A staggering 87% of mentors and mentees report feeling empowered and more confident as a result of their mentoring relationships, and 84% say these interactions serve as a source of inspiration for both parties. Harvard Business Review also found that compared to non-mentors, mentors reported lower levels of anxiety and more fulfilling work (they also found that mentoring increased the meaningfulness of their work). According to another study, employees who participated in a mentoring program were more likely to receive a raise than those who did not.
Clearly, the benefits of mentoring are tenfold. And reaching people earlier can increase those benefits. So how do we adapt mentoring to fit our increasingly virtual cultures? And how do we offer and provide mentoring opportunities to younger people who can use the insights of more experienced professionals throughout their careers? As someone who founded a platform for teens to connect with career opportunities, these are the kinds of questions I think are important for industry leaders to consider.
Social media platforms
It should come as no surprise to learn that TikTok is where most kids spend their time, connect and learn. A recent Pew survey found that 67% of teens use TikTok, and 16% of teens report using the app “almost constantly.” It’s a huge source of information that many kids absorb, and it’s not just about dance trends and vegan recipes. TikTok offers information on everything from cleaning up “hacks” to larger knowledge bases about global events and systemic inequality. The format is seamless and revolves around short, eye-catching videos that are algorithmically curated to match each user’s specific interests, potentially connecting them to deeper information and connections with other professionals in the field.
TikTok is also incredibly affordable. Short videos are almost always available at your fingertips via WiFi or cellular data. The best part? I do not want to study. The ultra-specialized algorithm allows users to dig deeper into their interests with ease, providing them with both a huge variety and highly specific people, perspectives, interests and skills.
I believe we should take lessons from social media to make mentoring accessible. Virtual mentoring can be more generally programmed or one-sided (eg, a diverse collection of specific mentor videos that mentees can view) or technology-enabled personalized mentoring.
Inclusion of mentoring
Mentoring can be asynchronous and synchronous. Asynchronous mentoring can be further personalized or depersonalized. This kind of mentoring can come in the form of emails with an advisor or personal financial advice from social media influencers on TikTok, for example.
Synchronous mentoring is always more personalized to the individual when an aspiring mentee seeks formal or informal mentoring with face-to-face conversations in person or screen-to-screen. Several platforms are emerging that offer on-demand access to experts or mentors, such as Intro or The Expert, although there may be a paid component to these interactions. Other mentoring opportunities may come in the form of interest groups and academic or professional settings.
While we often think of virtual relationships as impersonal or isolating, there is a great opportunity to democratize access. Technology has the power to enable personalized mentoring for young people interested in any field. Imagine how easy access to personalized mentoring could change the way you think as a teenager. Would that make you braver? Confident? Curious?
We have a chance to find out. Our current social climate may mean fewer opportunities for in-person mentoring, but potentially many more virtual connections, allowing younger professionals to hone skills for future careers.
Mentoring can be extremely valuable anywhere. This can be someone with experience in your chosen field or someone who is not in your field but with similar values or life experiences. It might even just be someone you can relate to, feel comfortable with, and trust. Everyone deserves the chance to have a guide. After all, we are constantly inundated with media anyway. Why not take this time for information that can help you?
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