Commentary: Mentor the next generation to success

Commentary: Mentor the next generation to success
July 26
02:00 2018

By Algenon Cash

Several years ago I created a summer internship program named “Developing Excellence” and recruited talented students from area universities to participate in a 10-week comprehensive program.  I also routinely made time available to mentor students, which has been one of the most rewarding uses of my time since launching my professional career.

It’s funny how time demands can stop us from doing what we may enjoy most.  The busyness of life caused me to discontinue the program a few years.  Recently, Wake Forest University invited me to speak with graduate students pursuing a finance career, and it reminded me how important it is that successful professionals make time to mentor the next generation.

Many people choose not to mentor students because they may not understand the process involved, so use the following helpful tips when you have the opportunity:

1. Approach each student individually – Not all students are built identically, some may be extroverted, while others are more introverted, not to mention all students will come from a diverse background of experiences.  Take time to fully evaluate yourself and understand your own learning and teaching style, then be sure your style aligns with the style of the mentee.

2. Communicate expectations in the beginning – Once you’ve properly identified each other’s style, and then collectively set expectations for the mentoring process.  Have a clear understanding of what you and your mentee would like to achieve.  Also be sure there are no hidden expectations. For example, your mentee may believe he or she will receive a job offer at the end of the process – if that is not the case, clarify up front.

3. Be genuinely interested – A mentor/mentee relationship must be deeply personal to be effective.  You can give advice to anyone, but when you truly know a person, then your advice can be more customized and contextual.  Getting to know your mentee on a personal level will help you develop a stronger relationship that endures well beyond the scope of the mentorship.  Be an active listener.

4. Share your experiences openly – Often we enjoy telling stories about past successes, but avoid mistakes.  Your mentee cannot truly learn the pitfalls of life with stories that always have a happy ending.  They also need to hear about circumstances when things did not go according to plan.

5. Build your emotional IQ – Mentoring a developing professional not only requires mental intelligence, but quite a bit of emotional intelligence as well.  Learn how to ask solid questions, read body language, stay open-minded, and control your emotional responses.


6. Celebrate achievements – If you’re an outstanding mentor, then you should witness your mentee develop right in front of you.  Don’t just be an observer, be a cheerleader.  Encourage your mentee by acknowledging and overly celebrating milestone achievements in their growth and development.

7. Be a coach – The best coaches understand how to motivate their players to the next level.  They don’t judge, they listen.  They don’t react, they respond.  They help their players to plan properly and only give advice when absolutely needed – most coaches have the unique ability to help their players self-discover their own faults.

You’re already successful and outright amazing – find someone in the next generation and share a piece of yourself. 

Contact me with questions and feedback, good luck!

Algenon Cash is a nationally recognized speaker and the managing director of Wharton Gladden & Company, an investment banking firm. Reach him at

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