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Why you should be friends with the youngest person in the room

Ashley Neal
October 26, 2020
Why you should be friends with the youngest person in the room

It’s common in many association sectors to emphasize seniority and experience when brainstorming new ideas, evaluating previous projects or making decisions that could affect the organization. But, as proven during “Making connections through non-traditional mentorship,” a SURGE Connect panel discussion, fostering relationships with and respecting the input of younger members and peers benefits association professionals and their organizations. 

Whether it be putting policies in place to connect new hires with established employees or just making a mental note to bounce ideas off of the young professional in the next office, being friends with the youngest person in the room should be a top priority. Just as established professionals can impart the wisdom and skills needed to succeed, newer additions to your organization bring innovation, experimentation and fresh ideas to their peers.

“I've discovered that the younger teams are probably hungrier than even we were in learning,” said SURGE Connect panelist Jean-Guy Talbot. “For them, it's not as much as people think about making the big bucks as it is about making a contribution to feel as if they're worthwhile.”

Emphasizing and utilizing more than just a typical top-down relationship structure has begun moving to the forefront of leadership development in many organizations. In fact, non-traditional mentoring may be the future of mentor-mentee relationships as we know it as younger generations’ willingness to contribute makes having these relationships so beneficial.

“I think that era of the mentor being the career parent — the older, wiser, senior person, usually within your organization, who provides encouragement and support and takes an interest in your career development — is over,” said panelist Victoria Taylor.

While it is easy to understand the benefits of befriending young professionals, organizations must also emphasize the necessity of bridging the gap between mentor and mentee in a more laid back environment. Gone are the days of matching programs and single-mentor careers. Now, each and every encounter with other professionals regardless of age, experience or title is an opportunity for growth.

“That's a really important point because if we are going to think that the only person that can mentor us is someone that we are linked to, matched within a formal program, we're going to miss a lot of fantastic advice and support in our careers,” added Taylor.

Association professionals should never underestimate young professionals and should start reaching out to them for advice, camaraderie and ideas about upcoming trends. 

Who knows? — they might just know more than you do.

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Ashley Neal

Ashley Neal joined the Sidecar team as Community Coordinator in March of 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic began to shut down life as we knew it. Having to adapt, overcome and predict the changes needed to survive in the new normal, Ashley now has the skills needed to juggle any obstacle thrown her way. A soon-to-be graduate from Southeastern Louisiana University in the field of Strategic Communications, Ashley spends her days balancing her work and education with her love of dogs. Taking her three dogs — Scooby, Pipsqueak and Moose — to restaurants, hiking trails, vacations and even participating in dog shows and sports is the highlight of her weekends.

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