Mentoring in a world of Covid

Who will you reach out to today?

With new starters in the industry spending more of their careers working from home than in the office, dentsu X's Deniz Karaman looks at the value of mentorship, and how you can reach out during the pandemic.

Once again, young people have been let down. As the virus rages through our population, it is no secret that one of the many tragic and real consequences of this pandemic is that youngsters have been hit the hardest. Their opportunities for employment and training have been reduced, muddying their pool of prospects before they have even had a chance to get started. In the UK alone, one-third of 18 to 24-year olds have lost their jobs or been placed on temporary schemes with no guarantee of a return to regular employment, according to the think tank Resolution Foundation. That was more than any other age bracket.

Unemployed and isolated

The picture is similar across many parts of the world. In Europe, youth unemployment has been rising since March. Figures in October 2020 showed that 18.4% of those aged under 25 in the region are unemployed: a near-3% drop since February. Across the pond in the United States, there were far fewer opportunities available to college students who typically spend their summers working or undertaking internships. This resulted in 1.8 million fewer 16 to 24-year olds in employment, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Those lucky enough to be in employment, have now spent more of their working lives alone in their bedrooms, detached from the usual happenings of a workplace designed for efficiency and productivity and unable to engage with their colleagues in healthy ways that allow for learning and growth. This is likely to have stalled the progression of many junior employees who benefit greatly from office camaraderie, and even small, subtle interactions over lunch or a cup of tea which strengthen relationships between colleagues, shape office dynamics and unlock creativity.

Shift to a virtual world 

In an odd turn of events, although we are physically separated from each other, the shift to a virtual world has in some ways, drawn us closer together. Barriers that once existed between people like cities and borders have now been eroded by tools like Zoom and Teams, and there is a beauty in being able to connect with colleagues and fellow marketers anywhere around the world, in anytime zone, as we shift to a world where living online has become the norm.

There is an element of magic in this. We are all now more open to connecting virtually, and with this comes great opportunity to form unique mentor-mentee relationships. At a time where young people’s career development opportunities have been stifled, and in the absence of the energy and vibrancy of an office space, forming mentor-mentee relationships has become even more imperative for young people to learn and continue their development.

This pandemic has shifted attitudes and behaviours and connected us all virtually. It has demonstrated that a mentor doesn’t have to be restricted to someone you already know or someone within close proximity. It can now be anyone from anywhere. This means that learnings across markets, age groups and levels of experience can now be exchanged comfortably and conveniently, just a Zoom call away. There is a goldmine of knowledge for young people to tap into; experiences that will only enrich agencies as learnings are shared.

Boosting morale with mentoring

What’s more, mentoring boosts morale and inspires, as well as allowing a space for social interactions to occur where they have now, for most of us, sadly diminished. These are things that we could all do with a little more of in our lives, regardless of age or experience. I therefore call on people to engage with their junior colleagues and to pass on what they have learned as well as for young people to seek out these opportunities and implement the learnings of those before them. We are living in a period where it is perhaps more important than ever before to nurture young talent and to pass on what you have been taught by those before you. Nothing, of course, can replace the real-life flesh and blood experiences of our old world. Yet, opportunities for connection and mentorship are out there waiting to be realised and can remedy some of the pain points that we are collectively experiencing. As an industry that prides itself on being progressive, open and rebellious, we should be raising the bar and leading with example regarding our endeavours with young talent.

So, who will you reach out to today?

Deniz Karaman is a New Business and Marketing Executive at dentsu X. For more on mentoring and well-being join the monthly IPA Training Forum or visit NABS.

Last updated 21 April 2021