Mentorship for all – young and old

It’s a rollercoaster and it’s scary!

This is what the rapidly changing world of work can be for those of us whose careers have been in an office from eight-to-five.

For younger people, this technology-driven world is familiar and offers an opportunity to work as a nomad or remotely.

The wisdom of elders

I have just finished reading a new book by Chip Conley called Wisdom @ Work. Chip was invited as a 50-year-old to mentor the young “tech” team who were starting Airbnb several years ago. This book captures lessons he learnt about equipping both young and old for this new environment.

Chip says: “As we’ve moved from grains to brains, many of us have lost appreciation for the value of the expertise and experience that only comes with age.”

Chip mentored these young entrepreneurs on leadership, hospitality expertise and emotional challenges faced when building and leading teams. When he attended their strategy sessions, he found their “tech” speak confusing and new to him.

At the same time, he needed to acquire a range of digital literacy skills. He labelled himself a MENTERN. He mentored them privately, and he interned with them publicly to fast-forward his learning on this evolving work environment.

Know yourself

This new world calls for us to examine our own lives, to identify possible gaps we have and where we can find the help we need. The best-case scenario is where we each learn from the other.

You may need help with technology skills and, at the same time, offer guidance as a mentor to a younger person. Trade with each other; this may be a family member or someone in your community. It may be trading your industry expertise for help with new developments in your industry, say, an older engineer with a younger engineer.

There are wonderful ways in which young entrepreneurs can be matched with older experts in their fields, and this combination takes the business thinking and success to a much higher level. The greatest challenge lies in respecting and understanding each other at the start of this process. The older mentor needs to be humble and open to learning, and the younger person needs to be willing to be teachable, open to sharing and growth. The right dynamic from the beginning can have remarkable results and form a strong partnership.

I love Chip’s reflection on this kind of partnership. “We know what a mentor relationship looks like as, historically, wisdom flowed downhill. But, today, for the first time, we are seeing the power of an intergenerational transfer of wisdom that flows in both directions. This offers the elder the opportunity to be raw again by being receptive to learning in a new way.”

His book is a great read and a chance to challenge our thinking and make a difference. We certainly need one another. The human factor is key. You are unique and have a valuable contribution to make. You may need to adjust your mind-set somewhat. An exciting adventure awaits.

Lynda Smith is a Retire Successfully Retirementor, and CEO of the Refirement Network (“Don’t retire, refire!”). She recently introduced her innovative Fifty Plus-Skills to the South African retired community – and it is proving to be a popular way for retirees to seek work and for companies to hire experienced personnel.

Comments (2)

  • Nice summary, Lynda. I’d appreciate hearing what you (or your readers) identify as social policies needed to support older workers, especially those who will need to earn some income after retirement.

  • Sounds like a great read, Lynda – many thanks. Will add it to the reading list.
    We’re looking forward to learning more about it in Kim’s workshop/presentation on Menterning in June.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to our Newsletter
Subscribe to Inflight

Subscribe to Retire Successfully Newsletter and Weekly Tip


By clicking Submit, you consent to the processing of your personal information by Chartered Wealth Solutions in accordance with our Privacy Policy.


This site is brought to you by
Chartered Wealth Solutions