Why Networking Has Failed Millennials

In the age of digital media, we millennials are busy people and we have our own form of networking. It’s called social networking. If I want to see what’s going on in your life, I’ll watch your Snapchat Story. If I want to see you humble-brag via filtered photos, I’ll check your Instagram. If you bug me enough, I’ll even dust off my Facebook and accept that event invite.

Networking is a terrible word. It’s a phrase left over from the 80’s that conjures up pictures of someone sitting in front of a computer late at night, sending disingenuous emails to strangers and asking for a job. “Hello Mr. Investment Banker at XYZ firm, I’m a senior economics major and I want to network with you.” Can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing on a Friday night.

When we conducted a survey of 130 randomly-selected Carleton students, we found that 60% of them said they don’t reach out to alumni because they “don’t want to bother them”.

Two issues there:

  1. 60% of students aren’t reaching out to alumni
  2. There’s a misconception that alumni are annoyed by students.

Maybe this is the reason that the college graduate underemployment rate is 44%. Maybe the reason college kids can’t find jobs is that they don’t know what they want to do with their lives. “Networking” has been shoved down the throats of millennials so much that it has become, in many of our minds, the equivalent of selling out to corporate America.

Millennials are oftentimes criticized for having short attention spans given all the time they spend on social media. But it could be argued that digesting 10 second snippets of content from my friends helps me stay up-to-date and maintain relationships. Social media provides a feeling of authenticity and comfort that simply doesn’t exist in the cold and calculated world of professional networking.

But what if networking was actually fun? What if a mutual appreciation for tennis could develop into an awesome mentor-mentee relationship? Perhaps the best way to network is to not network at all.

When you boil it down to the basics, networking is really just meeting people and building relationships. We need a community that fosters genuine storytelling instead of 30 second elevator pitches. Networking needs to become something dynamic and exciting. It should be branded as a way to meet incredible people doing incredible things. 

So until some new meaningful form of networking emerges or until carpal tunnel claims my thumbs, you can bet that I’ll stick to my mobile-optimized version of networking.

Originally Published on September 28, 2015

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