Are you going to a networking event? Do you want to make the right contacts in order to get the maximum ROI from your trip? We totally get that because we throw events for diverse groups and facilitate large audiences. We love the excitement that is contagious at conferences, but there are definitely some individuals who get more useful contacts at the event than others. The key to making connections is networking well with all generations.
Millennials are on the younger end of the attendance roster, and they may feel a little overwhelmed with the many professionals who might ask about their SaaS startup. However, the tech industry tends to place Millennials on a more level playing field with older professionals than some other industries. One reason is startups are more worried about finding the right time to bring a new software solution to market than about listening to the generation with the most experience.
Millennials vs. Baby Boomers — Where Do They Stand in the Numbers?
Millennials are the youngest, largest segment of the workforce, and Baby Boomers are at the other end of the spectrum. Sandwiched in between are the members of Generation X, and they are often dealing with both aging parents and ambitious children. According to a Pew Research Center study, there were 56 million Millennials employed in 2015.
When it comes to networking, every generation has something to learn from the others, but, generally, Boomers and Millennials find new contacts in different ways.
Let’s review some characteristics of Baby Boomers. They tend to be:
- Hard-working. Older workers were accustomed to putting in a strong effort. They believed if they worked diligently for the same company for 30 years, they could provide for their families and earn a decent retirement.
- Independent. Born after World War II, the parents of Boomers were all about working to buy a house with a picket fence, a car, and the latest appliances. Boomers also wanted to raise their 2.2 kids in comfort even if they are the “flower-power” generation. Boomers grew up in the fifties and sixties and finished college in the seventies. They experienced the turbulence of integration, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. Rapid social changes made them fiercely independent and prepared to break the rules. Many settled into professions or started businesses, but they experienced more mobility than their parents in terms of where they could find success. More women and minorities were breaking the glass ceiling every year when Boomers entered the workplace.
- Competitive. Much of a Boomer’s professional life has been spent working in a growing economy. Boomers were used to the U.S. trying to develop technology breakthroughs, such as the race to the moon, ahead of the Soviets.
- Resourceful. People who grew up between 1950 and 1972 experienced up to 5 economic recessions in their early years. This contrasts greatly with the childhood of Millennials because they grew up during the recessions of the early 1990s and 2000s. Both generations were working by the arrival of the Great Recession (2007 to 2009).
Your Guide to Networking With Boomers
If your parents belong to Generation X, then you can relate to the work-life values of their parents — the Boomers. Although much has changed in 50 years, many Boomers are still experts in their fields, having put in the most time and leading tech companies as today’s senior executives. They have much advice to offer, finding it easy to provide short-term or long-term perspectives because they’ve lived through so many situations. Your best bet is to network with these professionals and see how their different take on your business scenario might help you solve a problem.
Tweak Your Communication Style
Boomers want productivity, whereas Millennials want connectivity. They didn’t have all the latest apps at their disposal when they were young, and they can remember when one computer took up an entire room and used punch cards. While these concepts may seem foreign to younger readers, this means Boomers have had to adapt to many technological changes out of necessity, and they are very capable of it.
Here are some points to keep in mind. Consider that some seniors may be more “with the times” than others.
- Boomers didn’t grow up with social media or Internet access. You can offer your LinkedIn profile, but they may not use social media as much for business, but they might use it to connect more often with their grandchildren. They will learn how to use technology advances if they can become more efficient.
- Some Boomers may be old-fashioned about communication. They may ask for your business card, so they can call you to follow up. You can always offer to enter your phone number in their contacts.
- They are used to working in teams. They may have experience with video conferences but still prefer the synergy of face-to-face meetings, especially when you want them to solve problems or provide mentoring.
- They may be more accustomed to a hierarchical organization. They might be surprised that everyone in your start-up lacks a job title, or, to make it more confusing, everyone is equal in the company.
- They may want to get things in writing. You might suggest that detail-oriented Boomers use their smartphone to take a picture of information, so they can easily refer to it later.
- They may feel more adventurous. Once they got over the empty nest syndrome, they might have set out to learn new ideas or entertain unusual experiences, which makes them more like Boomerlennials.
- They don’t need to explain themselves. Boomers may feel so comfortable with their combined experience, wisdom, and achievements, especially lessons learned through the school of hard knocks, they won’t justify their opinions. You might be data-driven, but they might ask you to accept their recommendations at face value.
- They should be treated with respect. Professionals advanced in age should be treated politely until you learn their social norms and boundaries. If you talk to them in a tone you wouldn’t use with your grandparents, they might be put off. You can become more casual in your approach when it feels appropriate.
If you meet Baby Boomers who offer to take you under their wing or join your project, you could obtain some valuable insights. Be a good listener and learn how to view your funding and operating obstacles from a different angle. Please contact us with any questions about your next event.