Earlier today I was discussing networking, the function of meeting new people, with a few friends and stumbled upon an interesting evolution in importance.

When examining the Baby Boomer (and traditionally older generation’s) work force and career paths, it was “climb the corporate ladder”, “be a company man”, and “bide your time and prove yourself”. I’ve seen this with many of my clients and family, who’ve spent years working for theĀ same organization. An interesting quirk is that they seem to know everyone. As people move within the same organization, you (or my client) begin to know everyone of importance in almost every other division. Frequently I can mention a team or function we’ve never directly worked with and they can reference a contact there and what they do. Now this may seem unremarkable, it’s natural this would occur over time, but it leads us to discuss how networking is more important today than ever before.

As Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials, andĀ other non-conformists begin a new and very different career path, how we gather those same connections across an industry and internally in our employers will be very different. Millennials (grouping Gen X & Y in this classification as well) are demonstrating a non-conformist approach to “climbing the corporate ladder”. A few characteristics stand out:

  1. They’re willing to move for more compensation.
  2. They move more frequently (arguable).
  3. They aren’t good at “biding their time” or waiting for the right position to become available.

As we move more frequently to “climb the ladder” faster than their predecessors, we’ll still require the contacts of different departments to successfully hold more senior roles further in their careers. One of the reason’s a person holds a senior role is because they’re able to get work done. A part of this is the fact that they’ve worked with and know so many people in the organization they’re more efficient in working across siloed teams. So back to millennials, how can they have the same efficiency as their senior colleagues, but at a younger age?

Cross-industry and cross-business line networking. Luckily for us, LinkedIn allows us to track our colleagues effortlessly as their careers progress. It’ll remain up to us to ensure we maintain relationships that are personal and thoughtful, as business is about relationships and not clicks online.