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CEOs Hiring 27-Year Old Mentors

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on June 17, 2009

I just talked with a high-powered communications consultant who told me that CEOs are hiring 27-year old “mentors” to help them navigate social media. This is a big development.

For years, companies brought in Gen Yers as interns and paid them virtually nothing for their cutting edge expertise in technology, social organization, trend spotting and other key business functions. Now business leaders (or at least a couple) are going public with this Gen Y role and actually hiring them for money.

Or maybe not. Are these young mentors publicly acknowledged or hidden from company view to save face for CEOs? I don’t know.

Do you know of any 20-something mentors to corporate chieftans? Let me know.

Reader Comments


June 18, 2009 7:26 AM

I'm not sure about official mentors. But I have noticed at 2 of the last 3 companies I've worked for (both major media companies) that the GM's, CEO's, etc., are definitely bringing on early 20 somethings in key product or strategy roles specifically to help with social media.

So yeah, I guess I sorta see it happening. :)


June 18, 2009 9:34 PM

I personally have counciled upper management on social media issues and strategies, but my salary and job description have not seen any increase as a result.

Brett Kopf

June 18, 2009 9:37 PM

I do see it happening (from a Gen Y perspective)...Here's my take.

Baby boomers know how to run a company and make money, Gen Yer's know how to use the social web, if they connect some cool things can happen.

With Twitter's case, this isn't necessarily true because a large percentage are 35-49 years old.

Great question Bruce!


June 18, 2009 9:54 PM

They're cheap :)


June 18, 2009 10:43 PM

Heck yes! Under the guise of "mentoring" programs. Along with that, they're stealing all of our good ideas and creativity, while giving us little (if any) credit in return (not to mention barely enough cash to live on).

Boohissssss corporate america.

Captain Obvious

June 18, 2009 10:47 PM

How hard is it to understand facebook and twitter, seriously?! This whole Gen Y'ers know social media and everyone else doesn't meme is a myth created by them to charge premium rates for stating the obvious to the clueless.


June 19, 2009 10:05 PM

Any specific case studies in the public realm as examples of this happening?


June 21, 2009 8:27 AM

The local Pizza Express great rip-off hiring scandal

1. advertise a job
2. ask the long list of 10 people to work a shift ( 6 hours ) in order to assess their competencies
3. Pizza Express get 60 hours free labour

Gen Y don't need to be giving web2 master-classes to fat-cats. They need respect and a decent wage.

Let the fat-cats come down to the real world and the street for a while. They will learn what they need.


June 23, 2009 3:41 AM

This is interesting. I think that older generations understand and use social media, but in different ways from Gen Y so it's always good to get another viewpoint.

Also, I've seen from my experiences (so this is not an all-inclusive generalization, just based on what I've seen, which is likely limited) that older generation Americans tend to know a lot more about social media that older generation immigrant professionals (Though users of my age are less common, I introduced my dad to Twitter).

That being said, as a student organization leader and intern, I have volunteered to expand social media efforts but was not hired specifically for that function. To be honest, paid internships are great, but are rare only because companies know we are dying to get the kind of experience and mentorship we wouldn't get in a typical paid job that hires students.

For example, I know if BusinessWeek asked me to do some social media outreach for them, I would do it in a heartbeat because 1. I adore this publication and 2. It's really cool to get that kind of experience with such a notable publication.

Student, Non-Profit Leader, Aspiring International Relations/Economics Major

Mike D

June 23, 2009 5:19 PM

Although "mentors" is a strong word to use in this context, this is true...I've been similarly "mentoring" since I was 21. I'm 23 now, and my last 3 "internships" have turned into part-time "consultant" jobs because my bosses, while extremely successful, have absolutely no idea about social media, new tech, or the power of the internet in general. However, I don't think what I'm doing is anything new, because truly innovative companies have always brought in young "stars" to seed new ideas and strategies, foster innovation, and help old men save face.

In the end though, it's a real blessing, because I can network with CEO's and Company Presidents, be looked up to by very rich men, and can dedicate decent time to my studies. Sure beats the heck out of working at Burger King*.

*By the way, I've worked at BK. Not knocking the company or anything, but it sucks, even as a college job.

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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