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The Secret to Networking Most Millennials Know – and Keep to Themselves

Just when you think you know all about networking, along comes a new theory that may make sense.

All of us know that every generation’s definition of networking is different, certainly. I think of networking in terms of getting to gatherings to meet and greet influencers who can refer business to me – and me to them. That may be old school, but I’d much rather meet someone in person than rely on social channels such as LinkedIn to make the introductions for me.

I came across an interesting Op-Ed piece in The New York Times that shed new light on networking. According to the article, it’s not “who you know, but what you know” that will have a longer-term impact on your business and career – and the article attributes this thinking to millennials:

Sure, you can fire off cold emails to people you respect — they’re just a click away — but you’ll be lucky if 2 percent even reply. The best way to attract a mentor is to create something worthy of the mentor’s attention. Do something interesting, and instead of having to push your way in, you’ll get pulled in. The network comes to you.

I think this makes a lot of sense, especially in the technology-driven world we now live, in for two reasons. First, we live in a time when there is constantly noise all around us. Think about your day that is now more than 8 hours long … where you keep up with endless email and the lure of smart social media marketers who show you want to buy and watch. There’s just too much going on all around us for online networking to be effective.

Second, there’s the issue of getting a millennial to a live networking event. I don’t love going to live events either, but younger generations would rather make connections in other ways. Again, according to the article:

And don’t feel pressure to go to networking events. No one really mixes at mixers. Although we plan to meet new people, we usually end up hanging out with old friends. The best networking happens when people gather for a purpose other than networking, to learn from one another or help one another.

Here’s a good example. Like others, I attend many profession-related conferences and hear all kinds of speakers – the good and the not-so-good. I am energized when I meet speakers and attendees who really know their stuff. As a result, am I more likely to network with them? Probably.

Whether a millennial works behind the scenes in a quite way amassing and demonstrating knowledge, or is more vocal and present about his or her accomplishments, I may be more likely to give a referral or listen to his person.

There’s no tried and true method to best practices in networking; it’s up to each person to figure out what makes sense based on the profession you are in, how much business you want to get and how many referrals you want to give. In this case, I think we can learn a lesson from millennials.

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