When was the last time you reached out to network with someone at least a generation younger than yourself?
If you struggle to answer that question, you’re not alone. According to the nonprofit Gen2Gen, a mere 6% of Americans over 60 said they had discussed “important matters” in the past six months with someone younger than 36 who is not a relative.
As a career coach, I’d say that’s unfortunate. One reason: having young people in your professional network can lead to more job, freelance and consulting opportunities as well as greater job satisfaction. At a time when there are five generations in the workplace and people are working longer, cultivating a robust cross-generational network has become critical to long-term career success for people in their 50s and 60s.
The Power of Networking With Millennials
“We all have to continue to reinvent ourselves throughout our lives,” says Pat Hedley, a Greenwich, Conn.-based investor in, and adviser to, growth companies and author of Meet 100 People, A How-to Guide to the Career Edge Everyone’s Missing. “I could not be doing what I’m doing now if it was not for the incredible millennials I met along the way.”
In her excellent book about networking, Hedley writes: “A person with a strong network who can access expertise, knowledge and resources is someone everyone wants to know.” And, she adds, “Intelligent networking results in ideas, connections, jobs, clients, and other business and personal relationships.” In other words, the more people you meet with, the “luckier” you’ll get in your career.
In Meet 100 People, Hedley says the key to building a robust professional network is to regularly meet — in person — with interesting people. The meetings can be with new acquaintances, colleagues you’d like to get to know better or people you’ve admired from afar. The overarching goal, she says, is to expand your network beyond your existing peer group and current contacts.