As a young professional it is often difficult to find our place in the world of work and be afforded the opportunity to innovate, suggest changes or even challenge the status quo. However, some young professionals often portray an attitude of entitlement, disregard for authority and even walk around “strutting our stuff”. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the mature public officers who are threatened by young, idea driven individuals who know how to use technology and they think we are there to take their jobs. One will also find mature, long standing public officers with a wealth of knowledge and experience that are eager to share but can’t because a twenty-something year old who just started to make money, feels that no one should tell him/her how to do their job! “I have a university degree, hello… better recognize!” There needs to be a balance, so then, how do we create one?
In this era, technology, ideologies and the economy are constantly changing and organizations need to place greater emphasis on efficiency and effectiveness within their working environment. The denominator in the efficiency/effectiveness equation is the human resource factor. Our diverse society and cultures afford us the opportunity to have a unique blend of individuals in the work place and how that is addressed will make or break any organization. One of the critical things to be addressed is creating an enabling environment that fosters a cohesive working relationship between the mature and younger employees.
Every single organization should have a mentorship programme. Despite being young and having the qualifications, that is not the end all to getting the job done. Experience is needed and that is the one thing the “old schoolers” have that we don’t. Organization’s policies should be so tailored to accommodate the mentoring of new recruits into the culture of the organization and in their specific job functions. What takes place then is the transfer of knowledge and experience that allows for growth and speaks to the succession planning procedures of the organization. Young professionals in turn have to be willing to be mentored. We have to respect and be open to the points of view of the older and more mature staff. The fact that they “have been there…done that” means they can teach us a thing or two or ten. There is no need for convincing arguments to speak to how much we can learn from them.
Guess what? Young professionals have a lot to contribute too! Respect goes both ways. In as much as “an old broom knows the corners”, a new one would be able to reach areas that have not been swept in a while. Our ideas, opinions and suggestions are just as important and need to be respected. The “old shoolers” can learn a thing or two (maybe three) from us as well. There is no rule of law that says any mentorship programme that an organization implements has to be one-sided. Its focus should be on bringing the two ideas together and marrying the qualifications with the experience for the benefit of the organization achieving its objectives/goals and ultimately its mission.
The mentorship prgramme can be part of the orientation package and can continue for six months to a year. An environment must be created where even though the programme formally ends, the mentoring continues. Once this bond has been created, it will auger well for productivity and cohesive working relationships. The effort must be made by both parties (young and old) to balance the scale.
Kennethia Douglas is the Founder and President of the Tobago Society of Young Professionals—a non-profit organization that is providing opportunities to develop professionals of tomorrow. She works full time as a Project Management Specialist and has a bachelor’s degree in Public Sector Management and a Master’s degree in Project Management and Evaluation both from UWI.