Mentoring and Work Ethic

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Much has been written about generational differences in terms of work ethic. While it’s easy to over-stereotype, the baby boomers are generally known for their professional dedication, having put in the necessary time and energy to build a strong career foundation, sometimes at the expense of non-career-related goals. Millennials tend to have a different value system, seeking a greater work/life balance from the outset of their careers.

Although there are pros and cons to each generation’s approach, no one value system “wins.” Most people’s attitudes toward work are deeply ingrained, a product of their upbringing, and aren’t likely to change radically. The challenge arises when a senior adviser brings on a junior adviser with a different mindset—or, more specifically, when a boomer accustomed to a 60-plus-hour work weeks hires a millennial who believes that such a schedule detracts from valuable time for family, friends, and personal interests.

In the worst-case scenario, the difference causes enough of a rift as to render the two advisers incompatible, despite similarities in other critical areas, such as intelligence, relationship skills, economic outlook, or ethics. At best, the advisers will reach a compromise somewhere in between.

The boomer adviser may go on working whatever hours he or she chooses, but expecting the junior adviser to put in the same amount of time may not be a reality. And who knows? It may not be the best thing either.

If you’re a boomer, think carefully about the work hours you expect your junior to log. If you’re a millennial, think carefully about the time you want to invest in your career, both in the short term and the long term. Some junior or associate advisers are willing to do whatever is necessary in the short term in exchange for the opportunity to gather a mentor’s knowledge and experience.

As simple as it sounds, be sure to discuss your approach to work at the beginning of a mentoring/associate adviser relationship. As with any partnership or employment situation, it’s almost always better to discover expectations regarding work hours and work ethic up front. In the long run, being true to your own value system tends to make for the most meaningful experiences.

Joni YoungwirthJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.

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