It’s hard to view networking events as more than opportunities to maximize the number of interactions you have with other people in the industry. You’re probably used to making contacts, establishing a rapport, and exploring the potential for working together in the future. Anything deeper than a surface-level connection would require communicating after the conference.
What happens if you are a Boomer (and you’re very seasoned in your field) and there’s a chance to network with many young professionals, especially tech workers of the Millennial generation. While this might seem like a daunting task at first, it’s actually very doable. While both generations have much to learn from each other, you will quickly see it’s feasible to connect with Millennials and form strategic partnerships. Expect to be pleasantly surprised by how passionate they are about their work and how they value relationships.
The Millennial Timeline
A Millennial worker is an adult whose parents were from either the Boomer generation (born 1946-1964) or Generation X (born 1965-1980). Millennials were born between 1981 and 2000. They rounded out the century, but they shared in with Boomers and Xers coming into existence before the dot.com boom of the early 2000s. As young children, Millennials probably had access to the Internet at home and at school, and they were definitely coming of age or starting out in their profession during the smartphone era. Therefore, Millennials have always had one foot in the past, and another foot in the present era. Generally, they adapt rapidly to new technologies because that’s all they’ve ever known. As of 2015, there were 56 million Millennials working in the U.S. economy.
Millennial Traits Explained
If you look at the chronology above, you will see Millennials aren’t all that different from their parents and grandparents. They simply enjoyed more exposure to digital technologies than previous generations. This factor impacts how they prefer to communicate.
Let’s review how Millennials tend to be as a generation:
- Connected. The earliest Millennials were attending college or entering the professional workforce when Facebook was founded. They enjoy constant connectivity to social media networks and are used to learning about brands, family members, and business contacts via online or mobile research. They expect that other professionals like you will have an online profile for them to read. You can start by ensuring your LinkedIn account is complete.
- Multi-tasking. It can be argued that Generation Xers and Millennials are both adept at working on multiple tasks at once. However, Millennials had to juggle multiple tasks from their earliest school experiences, moving back and forth between paper-and-pencil and computerized methods. The oldest Millennials may have had less computer access than the youngest ones, but they quickly made up for that weakness in adulthood. The only thing these youngsters didn’t learn as kids is working regularly with mobile apps.
- Open. Millennials typically know how to network effectively using technology. They may have the same hangups as older generations, such as feeling anxious when it comes to meeting new people at public events, but they are accustomed to opening up online. They consider it normal to connect with strangers via instant messaging(IM) or email. They might meet you in an online forum or on a mobile app and then follow up in real life, and you can try the reverse approach as well. You can meet them at a conference and then follow up with them on LinkedIn or Facebook.
- Curious. Millennials have been dubbed the ”curious” generation. They grew up with the convenience of searching online for information about any topic that interested them. The “curiosity” trait certainly drives innovation in any company, and they are adept at finding relevant research.
Requiring feedback. This characteristic has had some negative reactions over the years, but Millennials are known to need constant feedback. One reason is because they were used to getting tons of attention from their parents and receiving participation awards. They were raised to believe everyone is a winner.
How to Network With Millennials
We can’t stress enough how Millennials aren’t that different from their parents. For Boomers reading this piece, we mean that young techies are similar to your kids. You can talk to them casually and instantly get them to respond by acknowledging their ideas and providing feedback. They will feel socially and emotionally connected to you rapidly, and they will surprise you when they freely communicate their wants and needs. If you reduce your level of connectivity with them over time, however, your withdrawal may be harder for them to understand. Their openness makes it easy to build a rapport and move forward with new business partnerships.
- Take them under your wing. You can connect with a younger professional by volunteering to be their mentor or at least give an informational interview. They can soak up your experience by asking you questions that only older experts would know.
- Ask them to provide examples of how they have solved problems in previous organizations. This is especially useful for understanding if these techies will fit into your startup.
- Suggest how you might solve a problem. This may be something you decide to do after collecting more information about the problem. Encourage them to consider an outsider’s perspective.
- Come prepared with data. Millennials like to consume information presented in the most relevant chunks. They can easily scroll through large amounts of information and form an opinion, but this is faster when they can review information on a computer or mobile device.
- Be supportive. While Millennials may not consider themselves to be more emotional or needy than other generations, they are driven to seek more connectivity. Find different ways to offer reassurance or empathize with their position when they are trying to start a new company or overcome a hurdle. Bonding with them motivates them to move forward.
We know Millennials are dominating the workforce by sheer numbers in 2020. They are the future of the business world, and many of them are already running startups. If you treat them as equals and listen carefully to their ideas while suspending judgment, they can be great assets to your business.
For more ideas on effective networking, please contact us at your earliest convenience.