I help companies stay relevant. I study external developments to shape communications strategies and help brands grow. But how do I keep evolving and growing personally too? How can I stay future-proof? 

Having an attitude of positive curiosity, I decided to reach out to a millennial mentor / generation Z tutor and to enroll myself in reverse mentorship. 

In reverse mentoring a junior team member enters into a professional friendship with someone more senior. They exchange skills, knowledge, and understanding. 

It is starting to become more popular in the corporate world, however among smaller sized companies or independent professionals it is rarely seen. So, I decided to give it a go! 

My goal was to be mentored on various topics and create new insights on social, tech, and cultural trends. I started by outlining the objectives I wanted to reach with this mentorship.

Step 1: outline my objectives.

  • Digital skills: I don’t mean lessons on how to use social media. I wanted to understand the use of data and algorithms. 
  • Insights on subcultures: Which brands appeal to certain subcultures and why? How do these brands create a sense of belonging? 
  • Shed new light on planning: The most difficult thing is to unlearn a certain way of thinking. In my career I have attended and facilitated hundreds of brainstorms. I wanted a new light to be shed on the plans I wrote, and search for new angles. 
  • Show me influential newcomers: What initiative, brand, or idea have they launched?
  • Grasp a millennial view on non-hierarchical work styles: In the world of the millennials and generation Z, having a degree or being a “senior” doesn’t always mean you know better. 

Step 2: outline the skills and capabilities I was looking for in the mentor.

  • Curious and hungry for knowledge and new skills
  • Open-minded 
  • Talkative and a networker
  • Having a side job as a (starting) independent or entrepreneur 
  • Social savvy

I don’t know anyone around me who currently is using reverse mentoring. I notice that there is a certain “restraint.” Most people think that the only outcome is how to use social media but it really goes beyond that. Furthermore, people still see it as if they have to deal with an intern, when it is really about the interaction. 

View it as a formal relationship for the purpose of skill sharing and professional development. 

My 22-year-old mentor and I embarked on this journey for a year. We spoke regularly and met every month to discuss one of the topics above. For me it felt like monthly masterclasses with new insights on social, tech, and cultural trends. 

It helped me further shape strategies, advice and insights for clients and to future-proof myself … the curious one!