Reverse Mentoring: How I Learned that Millennials Have Much to Teach Us

Cheryl Creuzot

By Cheryl D. Creuzot | June 30, 2015

We have an extremely competitive job market here in Houston, TX. People typically go into relatively high-paying energy, consulting, healthcare or banking jobs. Even though we’re the fourth largest city in the U.S., we have a hard time recruiting experienced advisors because we have fewer per capita than most other cities. A lot of these veteran advisors are also starting to retire out of the business, so in order for us to grow, both as a firm and as an industry, we have to hire younger professionals and train them from the ground up.

I needed to hire “millennials,” those who are currently 20 to 35 years old, who came of age at the turn of the millennium and started using computers while still in diapers. I’m a techno-phobic boomer myself, so the idea scared me.

If we wanted to hire millennials, then it seemed clear that I needed a millennial on staff to help us attract and recruit this demographic by improving our visibility on social media. I met Marrisa Marshall through my connections at the University of Houston, where she had just graduated with a degree in marketing. She’s had an immediate impact as our Business Development Coordinator and Marketing Director, and, in the four months that she’s been here, we’ve been able to bring on seven new associates.

Marrisa has built out not only the recruiting site on LinkedIn but also updated our website. (Apparently it was never even registered on Google!) Very often, the advisors in our office are speaking to a younger audience, and so she’s helped them tailor the way they communicate with this group. She even meets with some of our senior advisors at the beginning of every month to schedule their social media posts. This has resulted in a tremendous boost to our business.

She’s also helped us improve our social media presence. We have one gentleman in our office who thought that his social media knowledge was quite good, and Marrisa sat down with him and made several tweaks in his LinkedIn profile. As a result, his network has grown significantly. One small tip she shared was that having your head turned at a certain angle in your headshot makes for a more appealing and effective profile, and she said — even though it seems like bragging — each person needs to like their own Facebook/LinkedIn post in order to boost its visibility. Apparently these sites weren’t built for the type of traffic they now have, so as a result users only see a small percentage of their networks post in their newsfeed. Those are two examples of things I would never have thought to do.

It might be hard to admit sometimes, but I’ve learned there are things that Marrisa, and other millennials, can teach me if I’m open to listening. It’s not always the older generations that mentor.

Our value proposition seems to resonate with this new generation. Even though they talk about wanting work/life balance, freedom, and independence in their work, that doesn’t mean that they don’t also want structure and guidance. This is also a career that offers great work/life balance, something I certainly understand because I worked while raising three children.

One of the wonderful things about millennials is that they are not afraid to ask questions. I have an open door policy, and they make use of it. When we’re in training, they are not afraid to challenge: Why do you want us to follow a certain process? Why is this effective? When I was in my early 20s, I didn’t think to question what I was told. But I’ve learned from my millennial mentors that it’s often the best way to understand things.

These discoveries are new for me as a managing partner, but I like the new energy revitalizing the firm as a result. Sometimes, it is the little things that matter. One of our millennial associates spoke to me about the damage that plastic water bottles do to the environment, so now we have a big filtered water container and a recycling container. We all grow a little bit, every day.


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