December is a time for parties so your networking skills—or lack thereof—will be tested.
Millennials, as their reputation suggests, often do things differently. So it’s not surprising that they have their own strategies when it comes to networking.
If you’re a shy millennial who would rather stay at home than mingle with your co-workers, or you’re a lost gen X-er who can’t figure out ‘the deal’ with millennials and their social habits, then this article is for you.
Let’s Get Things Straight
While many millennials prefer online communications, such as email, Facebook messenger, Slack, Skype, Snapchat, and other apps, face to face communication will never go out of style.
Millennials still meet and go out with their friends, even those who are introverts in their age group.
However, millennials are different from other generations in two key aspects; 1.) their use of a wide-variety of diverse communication tools, and 2.) they are able to build a relationship online before meeting with new contacts.
Apart from baby boomers who typically get email introductions from colleagues, email back and forth regarding their interests and then set up a meeting a few days later, millennials conversations might take longer and span more subjects before an actual meeting is planned. As their relationship with a new contact develops, the millennials conversation platform can also jump from email, to LinkedIn, then onto Facebook. Some connections don’t ever have an opportunity to meet face to face simply because of geographical and time differences.
How Millennials Network…and What You can Learn from It
1. Multi-Tasking Networking
Millennials aren’t just fresh out of college types. Some of them are already married and some have kids. Because of this, they value work-life balance and tend to multitask to save time. So millennials with kids tend to schedule meets with other millennials who also have children.
This strategy allows millennial parents to schedule playdates with their kids, while also making time to build a professional relationship with other parents.
2. Change Your Conversation Starters
Before, the standard conversation starter is “What do you do?” or “Where do you work?”
Millennials view work differently though. It’s important for them to earn a living doing something they love. It’s no longer enough just to earn a paycheck, as advocated by previous generations. This change in perspective has rippled to a new trend in conversation starters.
Millennials, like other generations, prefer to network and bond with people who share the same interests. It’s not unusual these days to hear people asking, “What do you like to do?” or “Tell me about yourself.” It used to be impressive that you had a good ‘9 to 5’ job and a corner office. Now, the desired professions are to be a freelancer, solopreneur, or digital nomad traveling the world while working on their laptop.
3. Non-Coffee Bonding Activities
After-hours or weekend mixers aren’t the only way to go, as far as millennials are concerned. While baby boomers like the seriousness of playing golf and exchanging business cards at networking events, some millennials prefer building professional relationships while ‘sweating it out.’
As a generation known for valuing fitness and group activities, they prefer building connections while playing high-impact sports or exercising. It’s quite the norm for two startup founders to talk business while doing their daily round of high-impact interval training (HIIT) or for colleagues to talk ‘shop’ during their weekly spin class.
Staying Connected the Millennial Way
Millennials make up a huge part of today’s workforce, so their way of doing things and the challenges of staying connected with them are here to stay—at least for the foreseeable future.
In conclusion, there’s no one definite way to build a network, but you may want to try on some of these networking strategies.