I’m a 25 year old graduate from an influential New York college, and I’m a millennial in every sense of the word. To me, a millennial is a tech-saavy, selfie-taking, multi-tasking, millennial-pink-wearing, hashtag-loving human that spends the majority of their meager paycheck on farm-table food they truly can’t afford. We have a variety of interests, mostly all unrelated to one another. We are wildly passionate about social causes. We believe ourselves to be the future, but have relatively no financial backbone to support our dreams of owning a home, a car, or even a cellphone in which we pay the bill.
When my father asked me, “what’s a millennial?” I gave him the same long-winded answer. Like most generation x-ers, he was unimpressed. When I asked him how his counterculture generation defined themselves, his answer was simple: by where they went to college.
In recent years, graduating students have become less, and less involved with their alma mater. Sure, this is in large part due to the fact that the millennial generation is substantially less monetarily secure than prior generations. We haven’t reached a place where we can financially giveback to the colleges and universities we once called home. But that is certainly not the only reason we tend to stray far from our alumni groups, and why we don’t use our education as a primary defining factor when describing ourselves. The truth is, the way in which alumni offices created a dedicated body of previous students is out of touch. The approach is wholeheartedly uninspiring to the millennial generation, and it’s in need of a major makeover.
Like I said above, one defining characteristic of the millennial generation is our dedication to technology. While alumni affairs offices hold mixers, conferences, events, and even create clubs dedicated to their alumni bodies, most millennial alumni would rather connect from behind their screens. Let’s face it, we do EVERYTHING via our cell phones. We even pick our potential suitors this way. If alumni offices could approach their newly graduated market in a way that inspires them to get involved, they’d be playing in an entirely different ballgame.
The days of networking in smoking rooms, at derby’s, over a stiff-martini in the lobby of a hotel are long gone. However, the importance of networking with people from your alma mater hasn’t faltered. Building strong relationships with your fellow alumni is quite possibly the best way to find a job. So it’s not that the importance of being a dedicated alumni has changed, it’s just that we’re uninspired to find that dedication through the current means. It’s time for alumni offices to recognize how things have changed. It’s time for them to ditch their stale approach, and give us the same opportunities that they gave prior generations.
If only there was an app for that. Guess what? There is.
When you google “how to network” this is the answer you receive:
1. Figure out who matters most.
2. Pick your next tier.
3. Find easy ways to engage everyone else.
4. If you want to connect with someone, find a way to help that person.
5. Be intriguing.
6. Think people, not positions.
7. Give before you ask.
8. Be generous
These sound like the guidelines for becoming a better person. Let’s be clear, you should always be trying to better yourself as a human being. But a decent human doesn’t equivalate to a good networker. Being kind will get you further than being unkind, naturally. But does “being intriguing” mean that you’re more likely to have an easier time networking. Not necessarily. The problems that millennials are having when it comes to networking can be defined by one thing: access.
One major aspect that defines millennials is that we have a large, varied degree of interests. One day we may want to meet someone based on our interests in fishing, the next it could be for our interest in digital marketing. We have a laundry list of interests that may be intriguing to some, and bland as un-buttered toast to others. What makes networking difficult to our generation is that there aren’t currently any tools that give us access to other millennials while allowing us to change our fluctuating interests on a daily basis. If we want to be a successful member of Linkedin, we need a professional career with a pre-established network. Most millennials don’t classify themselves as corporate work-horses, and because of that Linkedin is really unhelpful. Not to mention the fact that it doesn’t allow us to meet a multitude of people for each interest we have. It forces us to define ourselves by our “career” which most of us don’t even maintain.
Here’s what my best friends do for money:
1. Social media strategist
2. Dog walker
3. Vintage clothing specialist
5. Vegan Bartender
To say that they had a hard-time meeting people for these rather specific interests on Linkedin is a major understatement. The bottom line is this: We don’t have a platform that allows us to embrace these quirky careers, and meet people that share them. We don’t have access to other millennials that also have unconventional professional passions. If society is telling us it’s ok to stray from the norm when it comes to our work life, shouldn’t there be a way for us to network with others in the same, unusual space? The answer is yes. And the time is now.