Dos & Don’ts of Networking Across Generations

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Opportunities to Network can be viewed much like the half full or half empty glass. While results do vary widely, the approach taken can have a huge impact on whether or not the take away is a success. There is a lot of confusion about what networking really is all about. There are a few professions that may not emphasize soft skills, but it’s a shrinking group. Networking is about soft skills.

Add to the mix that there are now four generations of people still in the workforce and number five is entering now. Soft skills are needed to network well within a like generation to yourself, but when you mix it up a little, it becomes imperative that you are very aware. That won’t change as you move to most working environments, so consider networking with various generations to be time well spent. Here are some dos and don’ts that come to my mind.

Do remember that first impressions matter. If you are unsure, ask your friends to practice networking with you and invite them tell it like it is with the way you look, the expression on your face, and how you act.

Don’t get fake with it. Let your self improvement from your networking practice be a help, but don’t get so stressed about it that you come off like you are unsure of why you are there.

Do some research on multiple generations in the work place. There’s lots of deep information available but you really only need to Google a few charts of the different values of various generations. It’s for your awareness, not to share at the event!

Don’t evangelize on your generation compared to others! Under no circumstances let words come out of your mouth like, “I bet you are one of those Millennials that doesn’t want to work…” or “You are probably one of those Baby Boomers with a flip phone…”  Just Don’t.

Do be genuinely interested in others’ accomplishments. Listen for the way they think.

Don’t be desperate, even if you are. This goes back to your practice sessions with friends. I think this is the hardest part for the job seeker who has been at it for a while… and has bills.

Do spend some time assembling a shortlist of ways you might be able to contribute to the concerns of other people in other generations. This is for your mind only. It can help you engage in conversations.

Don’t read the list when networking. Don’t get the list out of your pocket. Don’t view it as a checklist. It’s a resource for your mind only.

Do keep your business cards with you. After meaningful conversation, ask if you can connect with them on LinkedIn and share a card with them. It’s ok to ask if you can have their card… but be reasonable. And yes, business cards are still in – the app is great, but keep business cards with you.

Don’t shove cards in peoples face like a speed date! It’s obnoxious!  Don’t bring your resume to pass out, unless specifically asked to do so. Have those in car, just in case someone asks – but they probably will not. That’s for later, maybe.

Do be a learner and look for opportunities to ask questions. Look to learn more about other people and interact like you would over a cup of coffee.

Don’t become pressuring in the conversation. Don’t bring the 45 lb planner, leave that in the car or at home. And don’t ask the main speaker what he or she does for a living… speaking from experience – just avoid that. Pay attention to what’s going on.

This isn’t an exhaustive list but just some of the things I’ve learned in my networking experiences. If I view networking as a necessary evil, I will in some way communicate that message and it won’t end well. However, I must say that I have come to really enjoy networking opportunities.

Never pass up the opportunity to network even if the opportunity isn’t about what you want to do. There’s a lot to say about being seen. There are a host of professional networking groups to take advantage of.  As my friend Chris Waymire has taught many times, don’t miss an opportunity to network, take a friend with you, and ditch them. You will both be glad you did.

I welcome your thoughts!

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