A message for Team Gen Z.
If like me, you were born anywhere between 1995 and 2015 chances are you have already been labeled – we are Generation Z, which is ironic because we all know how much we hate labels, it stifles our individual expression.
But anyway, who cares really, we know who we are, right?
Well that maybe so, but the older generations particularly Generation X, people over 40 years of age are likely to be our future bosses or seed investors. So, we not only need them to understand who we really are and what we stand for, we are going to have to reach out to them.
Now, being digital natives, open conversation doesn’t exactly come naturally to us. We were the first generation to grow up with technology and social media. To put that into perspective, the first iPhone was only released in 2007, imagine that iPhone 1!!!!
Facebook was founded in 2004 and LinkedIn was only formed in 2002! Instagram and Snapchat are both over a decade old, so they’re not exactly new kids on the block either.
The point I’m making here is that many of us are more comfortable socialising in a virtual space than a physical one. When we do socialize in-person, we more often than not, prefer to do that with other members of our generation. Now there’s nothing unusual about that, but what we need to do is to learn how to network effectively with older generations.
That’s of particular importance if you’re about to graduate or you are preparing to enter the workforce. So, I thought that I would offer you three tips that I hope will help you in the future – especially when we are actually allowed to network again without any restrictions!
1. Take it one step at a time
Many people have a love hate relationship with networking. If you choose to dive in at the deep end, it can be very intimidating – walking into a room at a job fair or exhibition and engaging with complete strangers.
So, to prepare for this what you can do is to connect with a small group of people online before you go, that way at least you’ll have ‘broken the ice’ with a number of them and you can practice how you want to present yourself. You can also do this with one-on-one meetings of course, which is an ideal way to get quality time with career influencers.
If the thought of all that is still too much, try practicing with some of your friends, family or peers, it will help to build your confidence and iron out any awkward issues you might be facing.
2. If at first you don’t succeed…
Don’t bombard people with messages and emails and keep your language plain, clear and concise. Give them time to respond to your first outreach and if you haven’t received a reply after a reasonable amount of time, a simple and polite follow up message or email is perfectly acceptable.
However, if that still draws a blank, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. Older generations are quite often more receptive over the phone, particularly if they have heavy email traffic and don’t forget your mail might have gone into their junk folder.
Another unobtrusive way to draw attention to yourself is posting commentary or sharing other posts for your network to read. Again, don’t be overbearing, two posts per week is ample, but make sure they are engaging, if you really have nothing newsworthy to say, be quiet!
And of course, it goes without saying that we do not share our private life on our work platforms – keep them separate at all times.
3. Focus on the types of people and organisations you want to connect with
Try and build an ideal profile of the people and organisations (products and services) you’d like to connect with. Make sure they share your values, whether they are ethical, sustainable, inclusive, respectful, community minded and socially responsible.
Ask yourself, are they passionate about what they do? Would you want to work for this person and or this company or organisation? Speak to somebody who used to work there and get an impartial reference from them.
Also don’t forget to speak their language, you’re approaching them, you need to engage so write or speak (and dress) in a professional manner, talk about real issues and factual anecdotes, don’t chatter and put your phone away!!!
Well, that’s about it, I’d like to wish you all every success and please do let me know how you get on. Sharing examples of your endeavours can really act as inspiration to others.