Networking from a Generational Perspective
The term ‘networking’ is thrown around constantly. It is a motherhood statement that we in various circumstances don’t actually know what it means or how to do it. From a generational perspective, there is a Baby Boomer way to network, the Gen X way, the Gen Y way. So how can we effectively network inter-generationally?
How do we network?
Baby Boomers are amazing networkers. They used to build a Rolodex (a series of business cards in a handy device) and relied on those cards to keep up connections. They spent countless hours spending time to re-connect with contacts face-to-face that they met through or company industry functions.
Gen Xers are not necessarily great networkers. Due to a strong sense of independence, Gen Xers tend to network only with people they already know, or the select few that they meet and like in industry functions – unlikely the group to build a Rolodex (physical or electronically).
Gen Ys are the ultimate networkers, in the sense that they connect with many known and unknown through social media.
What can we learn from each other?
The younger generations can learn a lot from Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers are not just-in-time networkers, they often stay in touch with people over years. That means they stay in touch with someone they might have met at a function; it also includes ex-colleagues and leaders with whom they may have good, as well as, tangential relationships.
Gen Xers tend to only stay in touch with colleagues and leaders with whom they were friends in the workplace. That often means that Gen Xers haven’t appreciated the value of networking within the broader organizational political structure. Also, Gen Xers are reluctant to contact someone who they have met if they also don’t know that person well.
What can Gen Ys learn from the others and what can we learn from them?
Gen Ys are natural networkers. Due to social media they are connected with many, whether or not they have ever met face to face. They build relationships through social media sites (personal and professional). It is a way of being that is the norm, not unnatural. They make fewer judgments about reaching out to someone they have never met professionally than Gen Xers and Boomers do.
So we Gen Xers and Baby Boomers need to understand and be able to work in this new medium of relationship building. Conversely, Gen Ys have to realise that the internet might only be a starting point, but not the ultimate to building successful relationships with the other generations.