Helping the Young People at Work


Helping the Young People at Work

by Olivia McKay
October 21, 2020

For a lot of people, starting your first office job can be a really intimidating experience—especially if you’re the youngest person in the office. When I started my first professional job out of college, most of the people in my office were older than me by more than a decade. One of my colleagues who was closer to my age, however, made sure to reach out to me and told me I could come to her with any questions I had. No matter the relationship, having someone who you can have powerful, honest conversations with can be life-changing! During Let’s Talk Month, we encourage folks to start conversations that can impact young people positively, no matter the topic.

Having someone you can relate to honestly and connect with is extremely valuable for professional development. Having a mentor to be able to ask “dumb” questions allows for much more personal growth. From not knowing what to wear to how to answer an email, everyone is doing something for the first time at some point. Whether you’re an executive or still working your way up the ladder, it’s important to remember that everyone started from somewhere. And no matter your role, one of the most important things you can be for a young person at your office is a reliable resource.

When I reached the point in my career where I managed my organization’s high school and college student interns, my main goal was to be a dedicated and approachable mentor. Being a dedicated mentor at work means more than just acting as someone’s boss. To be an effective mentor, you have to create an environment that thrives on feedback. During my check-ins with my mentees, I always ask for honest thoughts on the work they do and if there is anything they are interested in that they haven’t yet worked on. Asking questions (about work or life) as a mentor is just as important as answering them. Being an approachable mentor means making sure that your mentees know that you’re there to guide them through a variety topics.

Most importantly, everyone deserves to know how much their work is valued. Always take the time to explain why things are important and the impact that they have, even if the work or assignments aren’t the most exciting. In my office, spending a few hours folding mailings for donation letters could result in a big donation coming in–and when that happens, I make sure to tell my interns and thank them for their hard work. The most powerful experiences I’ve had as a mentor are those in which my young people can tell that they’re making a difference and that their contributions matter to our organization’s overall success. 

If your organization doesn’t have a formal mentorship program for new employees, be the colleague that starts a conversation about one! If you’re a young professional, reach out to the young people that are just starting at your organization—or possible even at their career. Even if it isn’t a formal assignment, having an extra person that they know will support them will help a new addition to your team feel included from the start. If you’re a young person at work who wants a mentor, make sure to use your voice and ask for one! Use Let’s Talk Month as an opportunity to approach an older relative, mentor, or friend and start a conversation. Or, if you have young people in your life, reach out to them and check-in. Start a powerful conversation today and talk it out. 

Olivia McKay is the Operations Manager for the Arlington Chamber of Commerce in Arlington, VA. A graduate of James Madison University, Olivia is passionate about reproductive health access, community involvement, and engaging with local nonprofits.