Networking how-to: connect across generations December 5, 2010By Kathy McAfee, America's Marketing Motivator Your professional network should include people from different generations, different cultures, different industries and with different experiences. Diversity is a huge benefit from a networking point of view. It will strength you and your business opportunities. So, why would you want to… network with someone much younger than you in age and experience, such as a college student or young professional just starting out? network with someone much older than you who doesn’t see the world the same way you do and may appear to “behind the times” from your perspective? Because in both cases you have MUCH to gain by doing so. This advice may sound more like mentoring than networking to you. But then what’s the real difference between networking and mentoring? In my book, not much. Both activities result in the creation of strong relationships where people are helping each other solve real problems and grow personally and professionally. Here are a few suggestions on how to network across generations: Networking with YOUNGER professionals: Make time to get to know people from the younger generation and intentionally add them to your professional network. Ask them questions about their ambitions and ideas; find out what worries/challenges they face; watch how they communicate; and find out who they know that you may want to know. Meet them on their turf, be that social media or on-line mediums. Learn their lingo. Ask for their help in figuring out the new world of on-line communications and connecting. Ask how you can help them. With their permission give them helpful feedback. Impart some of your hard earned wisdom and insight garnered through real life and business experience. Be careful not to bore them or lecture them (that’s a real turn off). Listen to them. Encourage them to go for their dreams, work hard and realize their full potential. Connect them to other people that you know that might be able to help them. Networking with OLDER professionals: Spend quality time with people with more gray hair (or no hair) than you have. Tap into their wealth of experience. Seek their counsel. Respect them and make them feel valued, relevant and appreciated. Ask them to connect you to other people that they know and respect. Communicate with them and be with them in the way that THEY feel most comfortable with (usually face time, not email). Purposefully “power down” by turning off your electronic devices so that you can be fully present when you are with them. Ask for their permission to stay in touch with them. Try sending them a handwritten note (you know, good old fashioned personalized communication). Keep them updated on your progress from time to time. Express your appreciation for how they have helped you, what you have learned from them and how they have positively influenced your life. GOAL for this week: Network with someone who is at least 20 years older or younger than you. That’s right at least 20 years difference. Set up time to meet for lunch or for coffee – that is, real face time. Go to this networking meeting with the intention to get to know someone new, to discover and appreciate your differences, and to learn from them. Actively follow-up with this person following your meeting, treating them like a valuable addition to your professional business network. Watch what magic follows… Have a comment? Want to share your networking story? “Like” us on Facebook.