The typical complaint about GenY is that we act entitled, lazy and even rude.
But here’s a soft skill GenY has mastered far better than other generations: Millennials are generous. Particularly in professional situations, 20-somethings understand the value of helping others, that what goes around comes around, perhaps especially in an increasingly digital world.
Whenever I chat with new acquaintances who are interested in learning about me or my business, some look at the conversation as something that’s benefiting them. Regardless of whether I contacted them or they contacted me, they ask how-can-this-help-me questions.
But GenYers tend to approach these conversations differently. Yes, they’re eager to learn about how I’m selling digital guides online or helping small businesses with social media or whatever project they’re interested in. But they also ask how they can help me.
That question is essential. It establishes a mutually-beneficial relationship, giving me a reason to want to stay in touch. Even if there’s no immediate way for that person to help me succeed, knowing they’re open to the idea and will watch for opportunities to give me a boost turns a one-time conversation and one-sided relationship into a potentially long-term partnership, one I want to maintain.
Why do young, digitally-connected professionals get the concept of what goes around, comes around? Likely because it’s so closely tied to social media, another of GenY’s strong suits. Because social media isn’t just about using the tools. Sure, Millennials know how to schedule a tweet and create a flashy newsletter and grow a Facebook page. But social media revolves around connecting and cultivating communities, including your own one-on-one relationships — a skill that’s useful both in business and in life.
In other works, social media works best when you give rather than take, which means young professionals are getting an awful lot of practice at giving.
That’s the key here: giving, or helping others achieve their goals, is what will help you create powerful connections.
Millennials know that if they help someone make a new contact or reach a goal or build an audience, that person is likely to reciprocate in some way in the future. They understand that the best way to build a new relationship isn’t to take, but to give.
Of course, efforts at reciprocation have to be heart-felt; you have to express a genuine desire to help someone for them to want to help you back. But once you’ve done that — whether in person or online — you’ve made yourself far more appealing. Even if your reason for reaching out was selfish, tacking that all-important question, “How can I help you?” onto the conversation will take it to the next level.
So next time you want a favor from a contact, find a way to offer that magic line. Consider not only what they can do for you, but what you can do for them. Maybe that will help GenY shed the ugly entitled label and replace it with one that’s a little more shiny.