It’s NOT “All About the Benjamen’s Baby”

Puff Daddy (I believe he is now referred to as “P.Diddy”) captured one of the human motivations for work in his number one hit, “It’s all about the Benjamen’s Baby”. While money is “nice”, Mr. P.Diddy obviously 1. did not do his ‘research’ (shocker) and 2. Was speaking about a very different generation that today’s “Gen Y” working professionals.

I’ve perused thousands of articles that talk about “what Gen Y wants in the workplace“, “what motivates Gen Y“…and here is my favorite part about them; they were all written by baby boomers or Gen Xers.

Here is my “Gen Y” advice to executives: Stop managing the masses and build your “Gen Ys” using mentorships. This is not brain surgery. All articles I’ve read have several points that most of the fancy Harvard, BusinessWeek, and other Business Journals agree on; 1) Gen Y’s value relationships (TRUE) 2) Gen Y’s want meaning in their jobs (TRUE) 3) Gen Y’s grew up in the era of constant reinforcement, hence – they want feedback; and they want it NOW (TRUE).

There is one apparent solution to managing Gen Y’s. MENTORS!

That said, as with any relationship, this is a “two way street”. CEO’s can’t just ‘assign’ mentors. The HR departments need to take the extra 30 minutes to provide questionnaires to these young employees / our future executives. And then like anything else; proteges must be matched with the mentor that “meets their needs” and genuinely care about not just the success of their protege, but their professional AND personal growth. Gen Y’s want mentors who will not only teach them the ‘business world’, but will listen to how business is affecting their life; and give advice on how to maintane both their business and personal life.

In my last post, “Does Your Mentor Ever Leave You”, I stated the best career move I ever made was to take a salary cut. I did so because I knew the two men I’d be working for would mentor me; and they did. They turned me into who I am today, both professionally and personally.

Now that I don’t work with them anymore, I am constantly taking consulting jobs where it’s NOT “all about the benjamens”, but where I see baby boomer and Gen X talent. I’ve turned down $250 / hour jobs to work for $50 / hour just so I can learn from certain executives. I wonder though – if these executives have even given a thought to how they can utilize my “want” to be like and learn from them. It would seem they have not. I would work for free in return for being mentored and taught what they know. If every executive would invest a couple hours a week to professional and personal development; giving challenges and then providing feedback; I bet most of us would work for far less money. Not only that, but we would also stamp out the “stigma” that we are ‘job hoppers’ as we would be loyal to our mentors, and thus, our companies. I know the Gen Y’s I surround myself would do the same. While we may like the ‘short term gain’ of money, we far more value the long term gain of knowledge and experience.

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  1. June 5, 2010 at 7:15 am

    What’s interesting Jamie is that many executives fail to do more mentoring not because they don’t see the value, but they are consumed by “fires,” the things that feel have to be taken care of immediately. However, if they spent more time mentoring, they might just have fewer fires. It’s a vicious circle as best as I can tell, and hard to get out, but it’s the only way. Mentoring should be the #1 priority no matter which generation you’re talking (or singing) about.

  2. June 5, 2010 at 7:20 am

    Jen – I agree, but we can also take a different ‘tact’ right? IF CEOs built businesses ‘correctly’ (unsure how to define that) in the first place, 99% of “fires” should never even get to the CEO (except for maybe in start ups) OR if the “fire” is something as large as BPs.

    I’ve frequently wondered why there are not 2 ‘sides’ to operations teams; 1 that works on future strategy / operations, projects, and processes for new initiatives…and a second part to that department that only puts out the fires on a “day to day”.

  3. June 5, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Hi Jamie,

    Sorry I’ve been out of touch lately. Business finally starting to take off.

    I love the post, and think that it’s definitely “on the money.” 🙂

    I think that on Brazen we had a discussion a while back about the conflict between the generations at work, and I proposed that part of the issue is the different values placed on the value of ideas versus the value of experience.

    How do you think this might play into the “mentorship” discussion? I have my own ideas, but for the sake of creating more discussion, I’d like to put this out there to you and hear your thoughts first.

    Thanks for sharing. I am looking forward to talking to you more sometime soon. Sorry we didn’t get a chance to do that yet.


    • June 5, 2010 at 10:54 pm

      Ok – those articles were crazy. I would be devastated….

  4. June 5, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Hey Sean! I thought I was the one who had been out of touch so my apologies as well ( ; That said, I’m thrilled your business is taking off. Mine is as well and I’m certain there are synergies between the two / things we can probably outsource to each other as I find myself in need of some “edu” specific sales / marketing / retention aid at times. My next week is booked solid, but let’s try and schedule time to speak the week of the 13th?

    Back to this conversation: I’m not ‘sure’ exactly how the values placed on ‘idea’ versus the value placed on ‘experience’ falls into this discussion, but I know there is a tie in here. I believe the way it plays into the ‘mentorship’ discussion is as follows (and I will use myself as an example): I believe because Gen Y has been ‘raised’ in a more ‘liberal’ way in terms of stating our ideas, innovations, and opinions; we sometimes do not know the right way to either 1) communicate our ideas effectively to different audiences 2) execute on our ideas. Having a “mentor” teach us how to communicate to different audiences; gen x, boomers, Corporate CEOs versus “start up” CEOs, etc. will enhance communication skills dramatically. From an operational standpoint, the likelihood is that many of the older (or more experienced) executives out there have implemented many more ideas, businesses, departments, etc. Hence, they may know that (for example) when trying to implement a new technology procedure, it is important to give “X” amount of time for ‘mistakes’….or they may be able to look at our implementation / project plan and share their experiences from the past in terms of scheduling and budgeting.

    Clearly, there are values in both ideas and experience; I think the “mentor” is the “tie in”; the mentor / protege relationship can bridge the gap and make the most of eachother’s strenghts and weaknesses pertaining to both. Thoughts?

  5. June 5, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Well said…I feel like mentoring is the best keep secret to success but the secret is unintentional….it takes, time, effort, and a lot of willingness. As I shared before my mentor is invaluable!

  6. Teri Guill
    June 10, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Agree wholeheartedly. I’m currently in a position where the pay is low, but I’ve stayed with it entirely because I’m working for/with people who I respect, admire and who have taught me a great deal. I’d guess that most people don’t find that in their first “real job” after college.

    On the topic of mentors, though, even if a mentor never leaves you, I think there may come a point where you have to leave a mentor. My move to Dallas is largely due to my husband’s plans for graduate school, but it coincides with my own need to expand my experiences, challenge myself, and find other people to build that relationship with and learn from.

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  8. Bryson
    July 29, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Awesome post so true. But hey, any tips on finding a professional mentor?

  9. July 30, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Hey Bryson,

    Here is how I would go about trying to find a mentor.

    1. First, have 1 -3 ideas about where you’d like to be in your career in its next phase. Identify people who do these things and seem likable/approachable.
    2. Get to know all you can about these people…if the work with you, ask what they do day-to-day, and how they got to where they are in their career.
    3. Once you have rapport (i.e., not right away) let the people on this list who you relate to best know that you could use some advice.
    4. Ask for something kind of specific…like looking over your resume, having a talk about careers over lunch, showing you how to do a specific thing in your job/field or to walk you through how they learned to do that specific thing.
    5. See how that goes. IF it goes well, ask another simple thing and see how that goes.
    6. If things go well, thank that person for being your mentor. It’s what that person actually is at that point. Therefore, it doesn’t sound monolithic, or have an overly serious weight to it. It becomes obvious, in a natural, organic way, and it’s based on a give-and-take relationship. You’ll have grown the roots before the stalk. The relationship will be healthier. And it won’t seem as pressured.

    Good luck!


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