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Guest Post: Hey, Gen Y, Are You Afraid To Network?

Posted by Chanelle Schneider on May 7, 2010

I’m a Gen Y job seeker. Unemployment data tells me I’m not the only one. A recent Pew study shows that 37% of 18-29 year olds are out of work! But the career and networking events I go to tell a different story.

Networking, networking, networking. We’ve all heard endless times how it’s the best way to get a job.

So I get out there. I go to mixers, seminars, and job search support groups. And no matter the venue, I notice one thing in common among all these events.  With the exception of events targeted to young professionals, I’m often the youngest person in the room.

I know I can’t be the only twenty-something out of work in my area. So where is everyone?

I admit the first time I went to one of those events, it was intimidating. Like attracts like. I’m immediately drawn to others who are young like me, assuming that our common age will give us other interests in common. How can people from a different generation understand me and my job search?

Being the only Gen Y in a situation makes me stand out and that’s OK.

My confidence and conversation skills have skyrocketed during this job-search process. I don’t have time to worry, “Will they like me? What do I have to say?” Instead, I walk up to strangers 10, 20, or even 30 years older than myself and say, “Hi, I’m Danielle. How are you?”

That’s the thing about a crappy economy. It puts Gen Y, Gen X, Boomers, and everyone in between on equal footing. There’s no hierarchy of age. It’s all about knowledge and contacts.

Just because I’m young doesn’t mean that I haven’t gathered a large database of contacts that I’d be willing to share. And just because someone is older doesn’t mean they don’t have their finger on the pulse of my generation.

Sometimes there’s more value in talking to people who aren’t like you.  Expanding your circle to include people with different careers, of different ages and backgrounds, can yield unexpected results. Some of the older workers I’ve met now serve as mentors for my job-search journey.

Danielle Bullen

If my presence at career events has done anything to reduce the negative stereotype that Gen Y workers expect everything to be handed to them, then I’m grateful.  It takes hard work to find a new job.  I know I’m not the only person my age willing to put in the effort expanding our networks.  So, I ask again: Where is everyone?

Danielle Bullen is a marketing professional and writer from the greater Philadelphia area. You can read her writing, connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter @daniellewriter.

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6 Responses to “Guest Post: Hey, Gen Y, Are You Afraid To Network?”

  1. Gina said

    I completely concur with your experience–I just finished up my first year of college, but it’s not as if I’ve been locked in my room for the past nine months and did nothing but eat, sleep, and do schoolwork. Getting out into the community, meeting professionals at networking meetings, just being friendly and approaching my ‘elders’ has afforded me a contact list and many opportunities that are greatly envied by my friends, and it’s frustrating when they tell me they’d like to be, work-wise, where I am, but are too scared or too lazy to follow what I’ve done and to seek out the employment that they want.

    In a way, the “expectation” stereotype that GenXers have put on us is accurate, but obviously inapplicable to all members of GenY. Fingers crossed that more Millenials will put their foot out the door!

  2. Great post. You hear so much about what Gen Y is NOT doing to put themselves out there and land that job opp but not enough about the stories of Gen Y’ers who ARE. I agree in this day and age the rapport you can build with someone is everything. When you think about the amount of cover letters and resumes employers receive daily, it puts into perspective how important it is to get out and distinguish yourself to these same people.

  3. Lauren McCabe said

    As a gen-yer or recent grad, you MUST network with people who are older than you. Think about it… if you only network with other twenty-somethings looking for a job, you guys can’t help each other out– after all, none of you have connections in your fields.

    That’s why it’s importnat to find a mentor and talk to people who have experience.

    Great post

  4. Danielle Bullen said

    Thanks for reading! Happy to hear other Gen Y’ers recognize the power of networking.

  5. Julie said

    My very last semester of college I went to my first networking career fair and it was majority Gen Y with few older folks. It was overwhelming, but I love to talk to new people, because you never know who you’re going to meet and how they can help. It always surprises me! 🙂

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