Should Your Mentor Be Older Or Younger?

So you’re looking for a mentor but you still have questions about the mentor you need: Does your mentor need to be twice or three times more successful than you? Or could your mentor be just successful enough to show you the ropes, yet new enough to remember the hardships and the bumpy experiences?

And while you’re thinking about these questions, here’s another thought: should that successful mentor be older than you, or could that mentor be younger?

It might make more sense to have a highly successful mentor who is many years your senior. They will have many stories to teach you about how to be successful in life or business. But what if you could have a mentor who is very successful but much younger than you?

Would the “reverse” age difference be intimidating? It could bring back bad memories of what it was like to be upstaged by a younger sibling! To avoid that, having an older mentor could be the better choice.

Older entrepreneurs have the advantage for business success. They have deeper pockets to get themselves through financial hard times (and unwise business decisions) and they may have the business or industry-specific expertise to get them to success from former careers.

So, if you were to strike out on your own as an entrepreneur, it seems best to have a mentor who is older than you. This mentor will have more experience and will be able to guide you through the hard times and be more understanding of what you will be going through.

Interestingly, in my own experience, my early business mentors were younger than me. (Not that I’m old — they happened to be young.) And from where I was standing at the time, they were more successful. Let me explain.

To me, it’s not age that matters, but experience. Obviously, I want a mentor who has demonstrated success so that I can follow in his or her footsteps.

I want to learn what he found useful, or what she found difficult so I’ll know how to handle the situation when I get there. I want to learn about his failures or moments that she wishes she could do over again and how, so that I won’t make the same mistakes.

And gradually over time, I also learned that having a mentor who has similar life experiences is equally as important as a mentor with success in business.  Here I can’t wait to share three reasons why having a mentor with similar life experiences is more important than your mentor’s age.

1. Your Mentor Will Understand Your Goals and Relate to You More

One of my younger mentors, who I will call Jim, was always optimistic. When I failed to meet one of my goals for the year, he would say, “It takes time.” Those words were devastating to my ears.

He was trying to encourage me, and teach me that patience would get me where I wanted. I had been drawn to him because of his professional success at a young age in the same type of business as me. He also had experience as a business mentor, and took me under his wing. However, he didn’t understand my frustrations.

He wasn’t caving under the pressure of paying mortgage bills or becoming financially stable enough to have kids. Instead, he was in absolutely no hurry to move out from home, get married, or have kids. So his perception of time was different than mine. He saw me as impatient for success and always rushing at my goals.

In contrast, another of my mentors, who I will call Fred, was only a few years older than Jim, but he was married with kids. When he shared his story of his road to success, I felt he understood me a lot better.

If he failed in business, he had to worry about debts the same way I did because he also didn’t live at home. He didn’t have parents to support him. He also felt the pressure of other people depending on him.

For these reasons, I could relate to Fred better because if he could succeed while shouldering those responsibilities, then I could too.

2. Your Will See Your Mentor as Your Equal

These days, social media influences our perceptions. I’ve had younger mentors, some married, some single. One was incredibly younger than me. I’ve also had older mentors, most of them married. All of them projected a professional image on social media at all times. (Yes, I followed them.)

Read more: Why Your Brand and Image Matters

One of my business mentors is quite significantly younger than me, but he had more business savvy so he was teaching me the ropes. When we first met, he was dressed in business casual, and the second time he was wearing a suit. His demeanor was so professional that I liked him as a mentor immediately. (First impressions count.)

Over time however, I saw his posts on social media and discovered he was someone who acted younger than his age. He dressed younger and enjoyed activities that younger people liked. Although he was mature and ambitious, I started to see him as a younger brother.

It destroyed some of my respect for him as my mentor as well because it seemed we were not on the same wavelength in our life experiences.

Social media doesn’t always portray a person’s life realistically, but it sure can shape how you perceive someone. Another of my mentors is about my age. She doesn’t post often on social media, but when she does, it’s professional.

She posts about events she is hosting, advice for helping people, and words to bring positive vibes to your day. She has also posted photos of her trips, but those photos are well chosen.

They show off her casual, relaxed side. They also don’t shatter my image of her as a woman who I can rely on as a mentor and a friend. The places she visited were places I could go to. The activities she portrayed herself doing were activities I myself could participate in.

3. You and Your Mentor Can Switch Roles

I have read that younger people mentoring older people can be a good match at the workplace. Younger people can teach older workers about new methods of doing things as well as new technology. But I still believe that shared life experiences and relatability is important between mentor and mentee.

One of my mentors truly inspired me with his lifestory. He had to overcome many obstacles to become successful in business. I admired his courage and believed that if I persevered like he had, I could reach my business goals as well. 

Some time after he became my mentor, I had the chance to help him with some writing projects. He had never completed projects like these before, so it was a rare chance to switch roles as I become the expert.

A mentor and mentee relationship isn’t set in stone. Whether you are younger or older, you have a talent, skill, or experience that you can share with your mentor or mentee. The relationship isn’t always one directional.

Summary

Should you choose a mentor who is older or younger than you? I think most people would say, choose someone who is older. They have more experience, and when it comes to business, they can ride out financial waves better over time.

My own experience is that older mentors can be more relatable because of their life experiences. You may have more in common with them.

I’ve also had mentors who are younger. They have professional knowledge that I crave to learn, but the difference in life experience can mean it’s harder to relate to them. 

Only you can decide if an older or younger mentor is the best fit for you. 

photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio

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How To Date During COVID-19

by Victoria

Why talk about dating on a blog about entrepreneurship? Surprisingly, I’ve noticed some parallels between business and dating that has to be shared. Just like how business owners have had to pivot how they do business during COVID-19, singles have also had to change how they date during the pandemic. Creativity has been key to finding new ways to date. Here are three ways that dating has changed since COVID-19.

Getting to Know Your Date

COVID-19 abruptly ended in-person group meetings as a primary way to meet new people outside your usual social and professional circles. Gone are speed dating events and the cliché meeting with strangers at a crowded bar.

Gone are activities such as events arranged on Meetup.com where you can mix meeting new faces with an activity you enjoy, such as going on an arranged hike, trying out a new restaurant, or watching a movie in a theatre as a group.

Like the person still standing when the music stops during a game of Musical Chairs, it must be unfortunate to be single at a time like this. Or are there alternatives?

If we can become friends on Facebook with people from other countries, then there must still be ways to meet people using all that technology at our disposal. If business meetings can move online, dating can as well.

Virtual Dating

Just like businesses had Zoom meetings, singles started to meet through virtual dates and virtual chats. They could watch a movie at the same time but at separate locations and chat about it online.

Video chats can be a bit unnerving for some, because you could be face to face with a stranger and conversation is your main activity. Or only activity, which can be terribly unnerving if you’re not cut out for making conversation with a complete (or almost complete) stranger.

In a sense, virtual dating has similarities to online business meetings. Your conversation is the main focus and you’re getting to know each other a lot faster than if you’re meeting in person. You can’t welcome distractions, such as looking at the other people in a restaurant. Or returning to watching the game while you think of your next comment.

If you want to move to the next step – meeting up in person – the conversation can take a turn to some serious questions pretty quick. Early on in the relationship, you may ask about their opinions on health and safety around COVID. Do you meet indoors (riskier) or outdoors (less risky)?

If you’re going to meet in person for the first time, you are taking on an additional element of risk than you would be less than a year ago.

In-Person Dating

I’ve been to some interesting in-person dating experiences before, like the time my friend invited a couple of us to a crowded mixer full of people and loud music. I couldn’t hear what anyone was saying, and like any jam-packed singles event, not everyone at the event was single. Some were wing men or wing women.

Those experiences have been replaced with physical distancing at businesses. Safe dates now are visits to parks and going on hikes. Bringing a mask and hand sanitizer are commonplace. But just like with online dating, you get to know your date faster when you go for a walk together. You don’t have other activities to focus on, such as going to an escape room or watching a movie, and then talking about it afterwards.

The art of conversation becomes even more important, but you also move the relationship along much faster when you are having deeper conversations. Friendship and relationship building could occur more quickly, instead of one-night stands or ending the first date with a kiss.

Physical distancing has also made it more difficult to meet someone casually in person. Dating sites pre-pandemic suggest casually meeting singles while grocery shopping or going to the art gallery or other public places. Well, with COVID-19, some of those places remain closed, or physical distancing measures are in place. It’s not easy to talk to someone unless you have less than 2 metres between you. It’s also hard to smile to them through your mask if you’re wearing one.

Change In Speed

Relationships are moving at a different speed during COVID-19. Before the first in-person date, you may be asking about the other person’s views on health. Do they believe in wearing masks or physical distancing? How do they feel about getting close when meeting in person for the first time? What about when they think a first kiss is appropriate?

If you include your new date in your life, then how does that impact your social bubble? Do your friends and family have relaxed or strict rules about who to include in your in-person social gatherings? During the pandemic, if you kiss your new love or become physically close or intimate, you risk infecting your family if the one you are dating is asymptomatic. How does your family feel about the risk you are taking on?

You’re dealing with several heavy, serious questions early on in the dating relationship. Like a tangled network, the choices you make with your date affect friends and family in a way they never did before.

Summary

Our need to socialize and be with other humans can’t be ignored. When the pandemic first arrived, people were patient as companies moved meetings and some services online. Singles stayed home and kept in touch with friends virtually.

If you’re a single introvert who is happy with little to no social interaction, the pandemic won’t have much impact on your social life.

But if you’re single and hoping for that special someone, pandemic be damned, dating is making a pivot. Technology is changing how we reach out to meet people. How we communicate and what we communicate is changing how we form relationships. It will be interesting to hear “How We Met During the Pandemic” stories at future weddings as COVID-19 continues to reshape how we date.

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How To Network During a Pandemic – and Get Results

When the pandemic finally arrived in Vancouver in March, businesses started to close, work meetings moved to Zoom, and I was cut off from friends and family. COVID-19 became a sci fi movie roaming the streets of my real life. As an entrepreneur who relied on making connections to get business, I wondered, “How I could network during a pandemic?” And how could I do it effectively?

In my pre-pandemic life, I used to attend networking events. I went to networking breakfasts and seasonal events like a Christmas yacht party. I met people, collected business cards, and shook many hands. Of course, those activities seem appalling now. Like me, you’re probably wondering, “What was I thinking, shaking hands without carrying hand sanitizer?”

Like me, you’re probably wondering, “What was I thinking, shaking hands without carrying hand sanitizer?”

Life was different back then. As pre-pandemic shifted to pandemic, more activities moved online, and “Zoom” became a household word. You didn’t sit at a boardroom table for meetings; you sat at your kitchen table and stared at a checkerboard pattern of people in different rooms.

Over the next few months, I adjusted to wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants instead of a shirt and slacks. I got used to reaching out to the world through my computer instead of experiencing the world in person. In doing so, I found some effective ways to network online.

I’ll share with you my top three ways to network, starting with a platform that had existed before the pandemic.

In-Person or Online

A year ago, Meetup.com was a great place to meet new people and experience new places. However, in 2020, it became taboo almost overnight to try to make new friends by gathering with a bunch of strangers.

A friend of mine terminated her Meetup group. Until March, she had organized dining events to try out different cuisines and meet people who signed up for these events. I enjoyed the conversations I had with new people. But she closed her group because she felt moving it online just didn’t have the same feeling.

I didn’t know what she meant until I signed up for a Meetup event with a different Meetup group. Their event was an online “zoom party.” The title sounded fun. It wasn’t.

What Happens At Zoom Parties

This is what happened: one person talked at a time. There were between 14 to 16 people on the Zoom, and only one person could speak at a time or you would get a jumble of dialogue.

Also, if you’re interested in what the speaker has to say, then you’ll have a good time. But if you don’t know what obscure food or obscure movie she’s talking about, then you may wilt from boredom.

Unlike an in-person event, you couldn’t side bar to another conversation.

Unlike an in-person event, you couldn’t side bar to another conversation. You could listen to that one conversation on Zoom, or you could doodle, check your messages, or pick up your phone and wander around aimlessly until the topic changes.

I quickly learned a chat room of strangers talking about random things wasn’t fun at all.

More about Zoom later. Meanwhile, I was experimenting with meeting people on Facebook groups. I was ambitious enough to search through a couple dozen of these groups in search of like-minded people.

Tips For Finding Groups

It can be tedious to read through dozens of Facebook group descriptions to find the right ones to join. Some descriptions were so long and detailed that I perfected my speed-reading skills. As I searched through these groups, I kept some specific criteria in mind:

  1. Group member count. I like groups with a few thousand or more members because it increases my chances of making quality connections. Also with bigger groups, there tends to be more interactions.
  2. Number of posts per day. I’ve joined some writing groups that have one post every few hours. I look for networking opportunities, possible freelancing gigs, and interesting posts from other business owners. I avoid groups that don’t have an active membership.
  3. Group objective that’s in line with mine. This is the most important factor. I read the Facebook group description to see if their goals match mine. My favored groups have a lot of job postings, advice postings, or cross-promotional activities. In some cases, I’ve found links to useful websites or free online courses.

I’ve joined a handful of groups in a few months, made some connections, and found some freelance opportunities. I’ll continue to make connections in these groups, even if people start meeting in person again.

Networking on Zoom

Making connections online is a great way to expand your professional circle but exchanging messages doesn’t have the same human interaction as hearing a voice or seeing a live face. Although Zoom wasn’t the best platform for me to meet new people socially, I found it a powerful tool to meet people professionally.

I like networking professionally on Zoom. These events, or meetings, follow a very strict format with the purpose of increasing your opportunities to make business connections or find clients.

If you’re new to Zoom, it’s easy to become obsessed with looking at yourself and analyzing your imperfections.

Networking on Zoom is a little different than finding connections in person. In a way, it’s not natural. You’re staring at an assortment of faces and they are all staring back. If you’re new to Zoom, it’s easy to become obsessed with looking at yourself and analyzing your imperfections. Me for example, I keep wondering why my head is tilted sideways. I certainly don’t feel like I’m off kilter.

Zoom Call Tips

In that sense, it’s more relaxing to network in person. You’re just looking at the one or two people you are speaking to, and everyone else in the room isn’t even facing you. Better yet, it’s not as unnerving when you can’t see yourself talking to the person across from you. Somehow, we look better in our heads than in the mirror.

On Zoom, the good thing is everyone else is probably either self-consciously watching themselves or looking at the speaker. If you’re new to Zoom meetings, the hardest part may be the introductions, when you provide your name and occupation. Then if you aren’t talking, chances are, you’ll fade into the background.

To look good and sound good on Zoom, I have these quick tips:

  1. Have a strong internet connection. Otherwise, you will sound like you are underwater as your connection lags.
  2. Check if you’re on mute when you’re speaking. I’ve wondered why people ignored me when I was speaking. Or people watch you as your mouth silently moves.
  3. Check your lighting. I’ve vanished because the virtual background isn’t mixing well with my image.
  4. Sit in a place with minimal furnishings. If your background is busy, Zoom attendees will definitely be checking out your surroundings. I was intrigued by one attendee’s plentiful collection of wall ornaments.

Zoom business meetings are here to stay as people continue to work remotely, and businesses connect globally. I have extended my network reach beyond my city to people in other provinces and other countries. With in-person meetups, I was limited to those who could show up at a specific time and at a specific place. Zoom has opened up more possibilities.

Group Membership

I’ve joined business groups and connected with members. Having regular meeting times, agendas, and a directory of members makes it easier to build long term relationships. When you attend meetings on a regular basis, group members get to know you and what you do.

It’s a way to build trust, and trust is a powerful type of advertising.

It’s a way to build trust, and trust is a powerful type of advertising. Many members have formed business partnerships, referred business and clients to each other, or promoted a member’s business to someone they know.

In my case, a chance meeting at one event connected me with a business owner whom I am now working with for content marketing. All it takes is a one-time connection at any one of the group’s events.

Summary

It does take time to find the right group and build connections. I joined several Facebook and online Zoom groups before I found people I connected with. It’s a little like speed dating, but without a host. Eventually, if you put in the time, you get the right fit.

Human connections are important. Although we cannot meet in person like we did less than half a year ago, it is still possible to network during a pandemic and meet potential clients and business partners.

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