9 Lives for Women Blog

Returning to Work? Find a Young Mentor | May 29th, 2014

For many women who have been at home for a decade or more, there is a good measure of fear and trepidation about a now less familiar working world. Aside from catching up with your industry, technology has advanced in leaps and bounds, and digital and social media platforms that seem to be from another planet are now firmly entrenched in businesses of every kind.

If you’re like many returning professionals who have experienced little more than Facebook or an occasional tweet, you’re facing a steep, but manageable learning  curve. There’s only so much you can glean from your tweens or teens (who are better suited to help you out of computer snafus). Knowledge of this kind requires the help of experts who use digital media in business every day.

So who do you call? There are many courses and consultants to teach you the ropes, but a less expensive and more informal alternative is a mentor.  When you hear the word “mentor”, you immediately think of someone older and wiser, but with digital media you want a “reverse mentor” who is at least a decade or two younger in age. This is sage advice that can be found in an interesting article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal’s The Juggle, “Returning to the Workforce? Seek a Reverse Mentor”.

As the author Dawn Siff points out, a reverse mentor is a younger professional who is at the cutting edge of digital media. When Dawn was returning to the workforce herself, she found that mentors her own age did not have the deep digital knowledge she needed. Instead she found a “digital native”—a young person who has grown up in the digital world. This person helped her “learn the tone and nuance of online media culture, where entertainment, information, news, commerce, and soul-baring mingle seamlessly.”

This is a terrific back-to-work strategy and one that could easily be fulfilled through non-intimidating networking. Your reverse mentor could be a 20 or 30-something former babysitter, the daughter of a friend or a family member who is willing to give you a comfort level with digital basics. As a first step, all you need is a quick overview, a crib sheet for what can seem like a foreign language and a general understanding of how digital media now helps businesses thrive. It’s not necessary to know the ins and outs of using, say, Google+ until you know if it will be emphasized in your job.

Though mentor relationships can last for many years, your reverse mentor does not need to sign on for life. It’s likely that you can get a very general working knowledge of digital media (and learn, for example, that it’s not Tweeter it’s Twitter) in a few meetings over coffee or lunch. You’ll learn that it’s a whole new way of thinking, influencing and developing employees and customers—and this new and compelling knowledge is well within your reach. —KAS

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Photo credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net/Stuart Miles




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