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Out with the Old, in with the New…Networking, Millennial Style

 

Anyone who truly knows the ins-and-outs of Fish Consulting knows that all of us Fishies are pretty much obsessed with one another. As if we don’t talk to each other enough throughout the day during internal calls and while gossiping in the office, we also have a Fish Ladies group Skype where we chat about our days, share funny pictures of puppies, talk about whatever Netflix series we’re currently obsessed with…you name it, we dish about it. Recently, the topic came up in the group Skype regarding who in the office needed new business cards, and one of our account directors Amanda made an interesting point that business cards are an old school, antiquated way of networking. According to Amanda, the best relationships she’s made during her years working in the field have been by making a true connection with someone, taking their email and sending a personal note. In Amanda’s words, “Boom. Done. We’re millennials OUT WITH THE BIZ CARDS.”

After thinking about Amanda’s point, (cue my Carrie Bradshaw reference) I couldn’t help by wonder….was she on to something?

It’s been widely reported all the ways that millennials think and do things differently when it comes to business and navigating the corporate world. Why should networking be any different? I’ve written in the past about how irritating the way the media stereotypes our generation is – for the most part, we’re portrayed as entitled brats who are looking to cut corners, when in reality we’re one of the most innovative and creative generations in modern history. Trying to find a job and make it in a recessive economy will do that to you. When you think of networking in the old-fashioned sense, it brings about situations of you wandering around a work event (secretly wishing you were home) and scoping out people you can have awkward small talk with in the hopes that they can somehow advance your career. At the end of this superficial conversation, you hand them your business card – which 9 times out of 10 will end up lost in their wallet and forgotten forever. Even for total people-persons (which most of us who work in PR happen to be), old-fashioned networking is just not fun.

Luckily for the business world, millennials are here to save the day and offer up our new and improved take on networking. Here are a few ways we do things differently. To older generations – feel free to take notes 🙂

  • Forget the small talk. For me, small talk = SNOOZE FEST. If I’m heading to a networking event after work instead of to my bed to indulge in some Netflix and wine, then I want to enjoy the event. Which means I DON’T want to make small talk. Old school networking dictates that you talk about anything and everything not related to work, to eventually find common ground. Supposedly, starting a conversation by talking about work is taboo. I call BS on that. Previous generations were more inclined to keep their work life separate, but that’s not the reality for millennials. Technology has made us accessible 24/7, so our work and personal lives bleed together in ways that our parents didn’t experience. We also don’t look at our careers as just a job: for most of us, it’s our passion. I want to talk about my passions! If we’re meeting at a networking event, within the first 2 minutes I’m telling you that I work at Fish, what Fish does and why Fish is awesome.
  • Quid pro quo? Hard no. Millennials don’t look at networking as an opportunity to meet someone who can do something for you if you do something for them. Sure, meeting someone who can get you new business for your firm is the ideal networking result. However, that’s not the be all and end all of making a connection. Our generation is the definition of “started from the bottom now we’re here,” so we understand that networking with someone who isn’t established yet and doesn’t have anything to offer is still worthy of your time. Best-case scenario, you connect and keep in touch with someone who years down the road, climbs the ladder in your industry and that connection ends up being beneficial. Worst case, you spend 10 minutes having an interesting conversation with someone with similar passions. Still a solid way to spend 10 minutes in our book.
  • Two small words, one big concept: Social Media. Facebook is literally known as a social media network, so it’s silly for older generations to roll their eyes at the idea of using social media to make genuine connections. We operate out of South Florida, so I don’t have the chance to network in person with reporters from most of the big national media outlets that are based in NYC. However, what I can do is follow them on social media and build connections through that outlet. So much of social media has to do with instant gratification, so what better way to connect with a reporter than by tweeting them and telling them how kick-ass I thought their recent story was. Traditional face-to-face networking doesn’t have to be eradicated, but it certainly should adapt to today’s technological reality and be supplemented by social media activity. Yes, us millennials love to text and love to tweet, largely due to the ease of it. Some call us lazy, I call us efficient. And for the nay-sayers out there, I’ve secured stories for our clients by pitching on Twitter so I can personally vouch for this.