Our last post was a series of tips for millennials to improve their networking. Now, we’re going to give you the other side of the coin and offer tips for older generations trying to network with Millennials. Networking across generations can be difficult, not just because of the technology gap, but also because generations spread so far apart have entirely different cultures and perspectives. Once cross-generational engagement is achieved, however, you will find that shared values and aspirations exist between Boomers, Gen-X’ers, and Millennials, and your professional network will be strengthened through inclusion. After all, more than one in three employed Americans today is a Millennial.
“Deep networks accumulated over many years represent a key advantage for boomers – and they can be strengthened by adding younger people.”
- Phyllis Weiss Haserot, Next Avenue Intergenerational Expert
1. Authenticity is Key
Millennials value real, authentic interactions. Don’t like the same music? That’s OK. Don’t agree with something they’ve said? Let them know (nicely). Above all, approach networking with Millennials with curiosity and a sincere interest in the other person. Millennials assume that the connections they form will last a very, very long time and their lives are on display to one another on social media. Authenticity is important because of the lasting nature of the relationship and inauthenticity is easy to discover because of the public nature of modern life. Act inauthentically and you will lose the trust of entire networks of professionals; act dubiously and that information will travel even more quickly.
Authenticity and a favor towards genuine human interaction also influences the types of networking activities Millennials prefer. Millennials thrive in real and honest interactions. They would rather attend a small dinner party than a crowded office happy hour, because the dinner party allows them to connect with colleagues in a much more genuine manner. Millennials also prefer to bond through high-energy activities – again, because they allow for a much deeper, more personal connection, but also because they are not enticed by expensive and exclusive activities.
2. Passion for Work is a Good Thing
Forget an approach that starts with small talk unrelated to business and builds up to the eventual work related conversation. Millennials go all in, immediately. They are passionate about what they do and seek others who are passionate about what they do. Millennials are focused on achieving their goals as quickly and efficiently as possible, so they see no reason to waste time on frivolities.
“It doesn’t matter so much that someone is passionate about the same things – what matters is that they’re passionate about something.”
- Baldwin Cunningham, Forbes Contributing Writer
3. Reciprocity is Communal, not Transactional
Millennials do not adhere to a strict quid-pro-quo mentality. They are comfortable helping someone without it becoming a favor owed. Millennials’ networks are not traditional structures, but are rather organized groups at various levels of formality that provide vetting and trust to their members. Millennials feel comfortable providing resources within the group because they have a trust that when they need something, help will come from within the group. Payback comes from the community, not the individual. Because of the trust Millennials place in these communities, the choice of with which communities to associate is very important. Many of these communities start from events or grow organically around common themes and interests. In this manner, they provide everything Millennials are looking for: authenticity, trust, and passion.