Often, new and young entrepreneurs are advised to seek out a mentor. Their eagerness to learn and humility when asking for help can be a huge asset in their entrepreneurial journey. However, they shouldn’t always have to do the leg work to forge a successful mentorship. Rather than waiting for an up-and-coming professional or budding entrepreneur to contact them, established business owners and leaders can be proactive and give the next generation a leg up by sharing their experiences, insights, and assistance.
There are several opportunities for successful leaders to pay it forward, and it doesn’t have to be through one-to-one mentorship (although that can provide amazing insights and opportunities for both parties). Whatever the time commitment they’re able to give, leaders can and should find ways to help the next generation as they begin their journey. Below, 15 members of Fast Company Executive Board share ways to do just that.
1. SHARE LEADERSHIP LESSONS WHENEVER AND WHEREVER POSSIBLE.
If you could ask your future self for advice, what do you think your future self would say? My guess is that you will have some valuable advice and words of wisdom. Leadership challenges that you have faced will inevitably, in some shape or form, challenge the leaders of tomorrow. It is our responsibility to share our lessons where and whenever possible to cultivate the leaders of tomorrow—and learn from them. – Eric Schurke, Moneypenny
2. INVITE THEM TO LUNCH OR COFFEE.
As leaders, we have the opportunity to open the door. By taking the first step, we not only show we value their potential, but we also set the stage for a candid and empowering mentor relationship. Extend a lunch invite or set up a virtual coffee with a potential mentee. Check in and see how they are doing. Learn about their career goals and listen for challenges, then offer to help guide and share what you’ve learned. – Chris Denny, The Engine is Red
3. TEACH THE RESPONSIBILITIES THAT COME WITH LEADERSHIP.
Leaders can be an inspiration to future generations by embodying values that bring greater humanity to the workforce, combined with a strong purpose. We need to teach emerging leaders that leadership comes with great responsibility and that employee experience and well-being cannot come at the price of success. And with a strong purpose, we can inspire the hearts of employees and customers. – Andreea Vanacker, SPARKX5
4. HOLD “OFFICE HOURS” FOR YOUNGER ENTREPRENEURS.
After a 30-plus-year career as a serial tech entrepreneur and former venture capitalist, I hold regular open office hours to mentor younger entrepreneurs. After starting “The Startup Diversity and Inclusion Pledge” in 2017, I started exclusively mentoring people who are underrepresented in the tech community, with an emphasis on mentoring women and Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs. – Stephen Straus, KUNGFU.AI
5. FOLLOW HIGH-POTENTIAL YOUNG PEOPLE ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
When it comes to reaching out to new, younger profiles, making ourselves accessible can be challenging. My advice is to follow high-potential young people on social media and to react to their activity in a personal way. Proposing an introduction or sharing a quick story can help to build trust. Also, it only takes a couple of minutes! – Remy Thellier, Syntony GNSS
6. FOSTER A COMMUNITY BY HOSTING EVENTS.
Help foster a community by creating an ongoing event related to your business, and invite the new kids on the block. Meet regularly and provide educational content through featured speakers. These events can be a fantastic networking opportunity for folks at all stages and give everyone an opportunity to reach both up and down within the network you have created. – Matt Picheny, Picheny
7. MAKE YOURSELF AVAILABLE TO HELP WITH SPECIFIC CHALLENGES.
Mentorship can fall into a “Prince Charming” story trap: one ideal mentor advising throughout a person’s whole career. It’s a lot to ask of the mentor-mentee relationship. Let “specificity” spark the relationship instead. Mentors can help manage the dynamic by making themselves available for challenges on specific topics, like nurturing diverse leadership or finding successful angel-round funding. – Monica Landers, StoryFit
8. SHARE THE STORY OF YOUR JOURNEY, AND HELP THEM TELL THEIRS.
The easiest things business owners can do to help next-gen entrepreneurs is to give them much-needed perspective on their own (unvarnished) journey, help them tell their own stories through interviews and employer brand content, and get their younger employees much-needed coaching on the life skills and mental models they need to get ahead in modern life. – Yuri Kruman, HR, Talent & Systems Consulting
9. PROMOTE SOMEONE INTERNALLY.
Mentorship is great, but there is nothing more powerful than companies putting their money where their mouths are and promoting from the inside. Be the company where someone can start in an internship or junior role and move up the ladder when they show they add value. Seeing how a business works by being part of it gives nascent entrepreneurs the skills to succeed in their own startup journeys. – Esther Kestenbaum Prozan, Ruby Has Fulfillment
10. SHARE YOUR THOUGHT LEADERSHIP.
There are so many young people looking for opportunities to learn and grow. You don’t necessarily need to reach out to anyone because most likely they are already around. The best thing you can do is to share your knowledge. Consider building thought leadership, developing your social media profile, etc. Those who need that knowledge will grab it right away. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
11. PARTICIPATE IN STARTUP ACCELERATOR PROGRAMS.
Besides sharing online content that can easily be accessed by the next generation, I also tend to mentor and advise young founders in startup accelerators and hubs. The amount of value you can provide them with just a little of your free time is remarkable. – Yoav Vilner, Walnut
12. SHARE YOUR CONNECTIONS WITH THEM.
Successful leaders can help give the next generation a leg up by sharing their connections. Advice is often given, but making mutually beneficial connections from your well-developed network can change the course of a new entrepreneur’s trajectory. Think about who might be an early customer, a source of press or social amplification, or an investor, and lend your credibility to make the connection. – Alexandra Cavoulacos, The Muse
13. CREATE A TWO-WAY DIALOGUE.
Mentorship isn’t just about helping to pass on knowledge—it is a mechanism for continual self-improvement as well. Creating a two-way dialogue between people in different phases of their careers opens up doors for collaboration, networking, idea-sharing, and improvement. You never know what spark may come from those who are coming up behind you, so stop and listen to what they have to say. – Becca Chambers, Ivanti
14. PARTNER WITH A STARTUP.
If you are a successful business owner or executive, you can partner with a startup and offer practical assistance such as financial, legal, or HR guidance. Startups are very lean because resources are thin. Founders wear many hats and need advice, including operational help. Involve your employees and co-host hackathons or social events. In return, the startup will bring you energy and agility. – Ximena Hartsock, Phone2Action
15. RECOGNIZE THEIR ABILITY TO ADD MUTUAL VALUE.
Have the next generation engage in a two-way mentorship with a more experienced colleague where they share and grow together. The next generation is incredibly gifted and equipped with a native understanding of technology, which allows for remarkable problem-solving. Recognizing their ability to add mutual value will do wonders for their growth and provide their partners the same benefits. – Joe Watson