“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is the jaded phrase most millennials hear when they’re searching for the promised dream job after college. It’s as if someone’s given each member of society a megaphone to repetitively yell, “Network, Network, Network.” Instead of the jubilant cheers, most millennials have heard their whole lives, it’s a thudding reality phrase that can be patronizing. In these cases, some people find themselves staring up the side of a skyscraper wondering how they can just get in touch with someone at the top. Others resort to LinkedIn premium accounts, sending countless messages to superiors of companies in hopes of getting that one yes. A whole different group is buying a new suit, tailoring their resume and heading to the next career fair. Through it all, the likelihood of opportunities for advancement still hangs in the air. But, networking is still sold as the golden ticket. We, millennials, heard the megaphone loud and clear. “Network.” But, with who, what, when where and why is really the heart of the matter.
At some point, almost all college students have attended personal development seminars. Some of those were even heavily tailored to include traditional networking techniques: eye contact, firm handshake, and a good understanding of current news. In some cases, students were planning and executing these personal development ventures. If you were a traditional college student, you were working with your peers to put on various campus activities ranging from homecoming parades to comedy shows to philanthropic measures. For example, University of Memphis students partnered with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital over 18 years ago to start a program called “Up Til’ Dawn”. Since then, the program has raised over 20.6 million nationwide. Students did this together. They partnered with each other, got in the trenches and made something happen! Something that spread to over 250 schools and aids in cancer research beyond our wildest imaginations.
Perhaps, the time is now that millennials should network across instead of up. There is proven power in the movement. We each have talents to couple with the next and make an even larger impact. It isn’t about avoiding the key factors to getting a job: a good resume, knowledge of business acumen and all of the other basic requirements. It is simply about navigating the workforce with those who have a common understanding of what you are up against. There is no doubt that the new class of networkers you should get in cahoots with are your peers. Here are 5 reasons why you should start rubbing elbows with other millennials.
1. Your Peers Are More Likely to Make Time For You.
While you’re scaling a networking event with superiors, you may collect business cards. But, will you solidify meetings? A relationship? A Job? The sad reality is that they simply may be too busy to take a chance on you. It may have nothing to do with your skillset and everything to do with the big business. For most executives, the choice is either take this meeting with Joe Blow (you) or meet with our corporate partner to enhance the market footprint and therefore, increase revenue. In counter, your peers are more than likely seeking something from you too. Therefore, they will make time to work with you, flesh out details, assign roles and bring forth activity.
2. Your Peers Will Be Honest
If social media hasn’t taught you anything else, the millennial generation is ready to speak up if need be. That’s exactly why you should partner with your peers. They will be vocal and honest. Seek relationships with individuals outside of your normal friendships. They have little to no ties to you and will tell you the truth if you ask for it. You can have those honest or brutal conversations that will make you better. You may not open up as easy to an executive of a large company. Peer to peer evaluations brings comfort and clarity.
3. You Should Build with Those Who are In the Trenches with You.
It might be time to start asking ourselves: “Do you want to climb someone else’s ladder or do you want to build the ladder?” Social Media has made the best lifestyle’s available to us and we want that. We crave it. It’s what success looks like. It’s what we’re all out here working side gigs to achieve. Finding others who are willing to recognize where you are and imagine where you can go will take you to new heights. However, be sure to bring a full plan to the table and don’t expect your partnering peer to take up your full project.
4. You Can Exchange Knowledge and Talent
Blogging has become a monetary game-changer. It’s a career many couldn’t have imagined would be. In most cases, it requires a photographer, content manager, videographer, editor and more. Your peers have the knowledge or the skills to fill the gaps that you encompass. Networking with other millennials can open doors to cheaper or free training opportunities. For example, a peer can teach you graphic design basics in exchange for learning your content management skill set.
5. Networking Can Be Expensive
Memberships in various networking groups can range from $30.00 a year to over $400.00. Premium LinkedIn accounts can run for $24.95 a month or $299.40/year. Going to coffee or drinks with someone can run you no less than $20 per outing. A new business suit can range from $50 plus. While an investment into one’s future is necessary, you can also attend an outing with friends and get to know their friends for a lot less in the comfort of each other’s homes over Keurig coffee. After all, it all starts with a conversation.
Again, the who, what, when, where and why is a necessary determent of networking. For a generation that is consistently combatting lazy stereotypes, it is the time we start empowering each other.
This blog also appeared on Huffington Post.