What Millennials Can Teach Gen Xers About Networking

What Millennials Can Teach Gen Xers About Networking

You walk into a waiting room. The room is packed full of people waiting to be seen. Beyond the obvious conclusion that they all there for a similar reason, there is something else they all have in common. Their heads are down, eyes focused exclusively on their smart phones.

Welcome to the Millennial Generation.

Millennials (born 1980-2000) do things differently than you, Gen Xers. Yes, you are, coincidentally, in that same waiting room. But you are reluctant to embrace the changes of our generation.

Our evidence? You give us what other Millennials don’t: eye contact.

We all know that networking is the golden ticket. If you aren’t networking, you’re really not serious about landing that next job or changing your career. Most experts agree that networking yields at minimum a 70-80% success rate, which is far too high to ignore for the individual feeling stifled by the hidden job market. But what does this mean for you Gen Xers in career transition?

Simply put, learn from Millennials.

Before you assume that I mean bury you head in your phone, hear me out. The simple essence of networking is establishing connections. These connections ultimately lead to possibilities and opportunities to advance our careers. But as we know, our connections may not even be related to fostering a career boost. They may be for the purpose of connecting for a social gathering, a music event, a support group or even to start a relationship. 88% of millennials use social networking such as Facebook to get their daily news. This is a valuable truth that you can no longer ignore. Millennials are more connected and have a stronger network than you do. Millennials are competing with you for that next job. That’s the bad news.

Here’s the good news. Millennials have no idea how valuable their connections are, nor do they understand how to take advantage of them. Yes Millennials are extremely connected all the time through text messages, email, and social media. However, for Millennials, these simply social outlets and are underutilized for career development.

In my current college course, “Career Decision Making”, the vast majority of the class are Millennials, who utilize all of the aforementioned social networking tools fervently. Interestingly though, I’d estimate 75%  of my students have not heard of or tried “LinkedIn”, which is home to 300 million networking professionals of all industries. That’s a huge piece of networking pie, which ironically caters to Millennials’ preference for an online medium.   According to a 2014 Social Media Update by the Pew Research Center, only 23 percent of adults aged 18-29 actually use LinkedIn. There are likely several reasons for this low number, but possibly the biggest:  Millennials doubt themselves.

This lack of confidence is your window. Establishing and nurturing a powerful online presence though LinkedIn is one way that you can surpass Millennials.  Not only do you have more material and experience to present in these mediums, you understand your value and aren’t likely to sell yourself short.

Gen Xers:  you understand the value of the internet in the job search and in networking, but there’s a lot you can still learn from Millennials in terms of being connected full time. Perhaps the biggest? Smart phone apps. Let’s face it:  looking for a job is a full-time job. The Millennials in the waiting room know that, and they have an app for that. Because they’re connected 24/7, they’re less likely to miss opportunities, even when they’re not actively looking for them. If you, Gen Xer, only put in 20 hours a week in job search/networking activities as the research suggests, the average Millennial is exceeding that through their use of smart phones. To keep up, all you have to do is join the networking sites and install the apps on your phone. The opportunities will flow.

You also have another advantage over Millennials:  you value tradition. Face-to-face networking, job fairs, cold-calling, and informational interviewing have stood the test of time, and aren’t dead yet! We Millennials are far more hesitant to engage in these mediums, so use this to your advantage! Establish a connection in person and build a lasting connection with that person online. One simple way is to include your LinkedIn address on your business card.

It’s important to remember that opportunities are always there if you are present. Millennials have no shortage of doors in front of them, but you, Gen Xers, have the advantage of knowing the worth of these doors.

About The Author


Brad Minton, Career Counselor at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, MI, specializes in career exploration for millennials, and the college-to-work transition.

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