Reverse Mentoring


When was the last time you learned something from someone younger than you…much younger? The idea of youth learning from the aged and wiser has been around forever, but I often think of the lessons that those who are younger than I can teach me.

reverse mentoring

Besides helping the elderly figure out technology, young people have something to offer that is uniquely theirs: perspective. As a communicator and someone who leads a team into the uncharted waters of tomorrow, I need perspective. I often seek council of those whose knowledge base is broader and deeper than my own. And more times than not, these individuals are accomplished professionals on the top of their careers–men and women whose life experience and knowledge have grown with their age.

But when my job is to communicate across cultures, demographics, and psychographics, my focus must turn to those in my target audience. In times like these, I need those in their 20’s to mentor me. I call that reverse mentoring. Understanding the world through the eyes of a younger generation takes time, effort, and honest conversations that can only happen in the context of a relationship.

I have always said that I am a life-long learner. But a while back, I found myself surrounded by those who looked, thought, and acted like me. My personal bubble seemed to be getting smaller every day.  I didn’t call it reverse mentoring at the time, but I decided to reach out to younger people. I didn’t want to necessarily mentor them, just become a friend.

In the process, they became mentors to me. They have helped me see a different world. They have walked me through their thinking patterns and they have challenged my own biases. I don’t have to agree to understand, but I have gotten a deeper appreciation for their worldview.

What do you think about the concept of reverse mentoring?

  • I have experienced it a lot working with high school and college students. As you said, they help give me a different perspective on life and God, and tell me when I’m not being cool or funny (which happens quite a bit sometimes).

  • I love this idea. As a 20-something (my last year actually, so sad) I often get asked about technology and trends in the market place by folks older than me.

    Also, as I’ve explored the blogosphere and social media I’ve had leaders I respect reach out to me asking for perspective and advice. It’s great to have a two-way discussion where you both can share wisdom and experience.

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