By Scott Yasko, VP of Business Development, Preferred Medical
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but how old are you?” It was 2011 and I was sitting in my first meeting with C-Suite executives as a clean-shaven 26 year old. I had been interrupted mid-sentence by someone with a title that starts with ‘Chief’, and the topic was light years away from anything I was expecting. After I replied the executive went on to say that it was meant as a complement. I impressed this person because I was able to talk about the pain points of the industry, while also reflecting on how they had shifted over the last decade. I had only been in the industry for about 6 months at the time, and I remember attributing the complement to that fact. They were impressed because I put in the work to read vociferously everything I could about this new realm I had entered. It wasn’t until years later that I realized the question was more likely rooted in what I discussed last week. Everyone in that room had at least a quarter century on me, and it was extremely rare to see someone my age in their world.
That was the first time I recall someone inferring about my age, but it definitely would not be the last. There were countless instances over the next couple of years where either in similar situations or after I had finished a speaking engagement, people would casually ask me how old I was. I always answered the question, but generally brushed it off in order to stay on topic and keep the conversation moving. Presently, as I reflect back on those early days, I realize how I had erred, and I find irony in that it has taken both age and experience for me to come to this conclusion. Nevertheless, there were a handful of these people, and some have since retired, that I should have leaned on. I should have leveraged their interest in my youth to flip the script and ask for help. I should have been more interested in what was in their heads rather than what was in mine. I should have sought out a mentor.
Mentorship is a concept that is not discussed enough. As a society, we spend the entirety of our youth learning from those who know more than we know, or have more experience than we do. It seems obvious. Children are young and impressionable as well as new at this thing we call life, and in order to grow into their potential, they must learn how to do so. For them, this knowledge and training may come from a teacher, coach, counselor, parent, upper classman, sibling, or any other of the numerous relationships a child may have with someone who simply knows more than they do. Because these opportunities are so abound, however, we are never taught how to seek out a mentor. Or conceptually, that mentoring is not just meant for the youthful and inexperienced. A mentor can play many important and diverse roles, and mentorship is something that should be aggressively sought after by anyone striving to be successful at their job.
There has been extensive research on the concept of mentorship that takes many different angles to reach the same conclusion. To put it simply though, mentors have two roles: support and challenge. They support by being a cheerleader and counselor, and they challenge by being a coach and a critic. Moreover, for young professionals entering a market with 50 sets of rules that are constantly changing, the value of a mentor in workers compensation cannot be understated. Whether on the side of the insured or a vendor partner, it is nearly impossible to cover everything you may need to know in a 30 to 90 day training window, and that is why it is so important to have a constant sounding board. Don’t understand the new closed formulary being developed in your home state? Call your mentor. Discouraged because your boss is emailing you at 11:00 PM and expects a response immediately? Shoot your mentor a text saying you need advice. The role is already vast and varying, but in our space, it seems that much more crucial because of the complex environment that we operate within on a daily basis.
So how do you find a mentor and who should be mentoring whom? There is no right or wrong way to find the right person. People tend to find value differently. The traditional mentor/mentee relationship hinges on age and experience, but there is no hard and fast rule that says your mentor must be older than you. Yes, there should be something to gain from the relationship so a mentor must know more, but some people may be more comfortable with a contemporary from their own generation. Others may need a divergent perspective and so the best mentor for that person could be someone who is a different gender or race. You could even have more than one. The most important thing to remember is that there is value in the relationship on both sides, and that as an industry, we are grooming our young talent to get better at their current gigs so they can move up the ranks and help the next generation be better when they arrive. We cannot however, reinforce this cycle if it is never started.
And so I suppose this is a second call to action following last week’s call to millennials. I am not excluding the younger generations however, because as I mentioned, knowledge, not age, is the cornerstone of being a mentor. However, I do need to challenge our industry veterans now. It is easy to get caught up in the minutia of the day to day. There are deadlines, budgets, new initiatives, etc., and so I realize how easy it can be for mentorship to fall down that priority list; but our vets have to be proactive. Seek out and challenge young talent. Be on the lookout for mentoring opportunities. The person does not even have to be part of your organization, but if your eyes are not actively looking for potential, you will never find it. Just as important, is being open to the opportunity when a potential mentee approaches you.
So yes, millennials and Gen Zer’s, the onus is on you as well. There should be no expectation that a mentor is going to show up at your cubicle and jump out of a giant gift box yelling, “surprise! I’m about to teach you everything I know!” Take the situation into your own hands and have the conversation that may feel awkward in your head – it is okay to ask someone directly to be your mentor. I think some may be surprised at how receptive people can be when you are flattering them (because yes, it is definitely a flattering ask). No one has ever gotten to the top alone. There is always someone to thank, and so we should all be doing a better job of seeking those people out that we will end up thanking later.
Mentorship is going to be key to attracting and retaining young talent in the workers compensation industry. We have to get this right, and we have to start now in order to have any chance at successfully overcoming our current and future talent gaps. I advise our industry vets to start today, and to start within your own organization. I guarantee there are some diamonds in the rough that you had no idea existed. Let us ensure that we provide them with every opportunity to thrive, and let us make it an impossible decision for them to leave an industry that has given them so much.
About Scott Yasko
Scott E. Yasko is Vice President of Business Development at Preferred Medical. His responsibilities in this role are vast and varying, helping to create the strategic focus of the organization while also working to optimize internal processes. In the marketplace, he represents Preferred Medical as a subject matter expert and trusted adviser. Yasko has been in the workers’ compensation industry for 10 years, and in that time has held roles running the gamut of managed care including experience with pharmaceutical peer reviews, utilization review, IME’s, medicare set-asides, urine drug testing, Pharmacogenetics, and much more. It is this expansive background that he has leveraged to become a modest industry contributor via speaking engagements, publications, and continuing education courses. Scott earned his Bachelor of Arts in Business Management from Robert Morris University and his MBA from Georgia Southern University.
About Preferred Medical
Preferred Medical sets the standard in Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM) by managing workers’ compensation claim costs and driving better clinical outcomes. Preferred Medical’s service offerings are tailored to individual client needs and focused on communicated objectives. They are a single source solution provider offering PBM, ancillary, and medical cost management solutions, dedicated to providing clients with the best, most responsive customer service in the industry.