Brazenly wrong about generations and networking

Penelope Trunk is supposed to be some kind of expert on generations and the workplace, but I don't think she could get the following more wrong:

"Do you know who is using social media? Gen X. The average Twitter user is in their 30s. The median age of LinkedIn is 40. The majority of people who are joining Facebook right now are over 35. This is because Gen X wants to meet new people online and reconnect with all the friends they lost along the way. Gen X is using social media to network. "

Actually, the average age of internet users--and the US population in general, is around the mid 30's.  To say that Gen X is doing more networking, and disproportionately so, is just misleading--it's just flat out wrong.  Social networkers pretty much reflect the makeup of the US internet user audience.  Gen X isn't any more networking savvy than any other group.

"Gen Y doesn’t need to. They never lost their connections because they’ve been online since they were ten. They do not need to meet more people online to expand their network because they are native networkers – they have had the tools and the predisposition to use them since before Gen X even knew what Facebook was."

This is just utterly ridiculous.  Gen Y doesn't need to meet more people online to expand their network because they've been online since they were 10?  I don't know about you, but nobody I know basically made all the career connections they ever needed to make between the ages of 10 and 21.  If anything, Gen Y needs the most networking help because they grew up with "Stranger Danger."  They got taught that people they don't know are likely to try to hurt them, so they tend to connect online to people they already know.  Facebook reflects that and it's the reason why Gen Y is so much less likely to use LinkedIn.  On Facebook you connect to your friends, and on LinkedIn you build your professional network, often reaching out to new people.  Getting Gen Y to use LinkedIn is like pulling teeth.  Perhaps Penelope should teach a class of college students over a full semester like I do to get a better sense of how Gen Y really networks online.

"So while Gen X is busy using Twitter to let people know what they are up to and promote the hell out of whatever they are doing, Gen Y is using Twitter for tweetups – meetups set up via Twitter. Which is a way of making genuine friends offline."

So Gen Y does tweetups more than Gen X?  Most tweetups are tied around some kind of professional group--not likely to be attended by a majority of Gen Yers.  Disagree?  Flip through who is actually Tweeting Up right this minute.  On top of that, most people on Twitter aren't really promoting anything.  Sure, the "gurus" and social media mavens are, but by number, most people on Twitter just follow a handful of people they know and just Tweet about their life.

Sherry Mason from Bowdoin College wrote "College kids I work with need coaching on tone & style" and she's absolutely right.  Just because a Gen Yer may have 1000 Facebook friends doesn't make them an expert at networking any more than following 10,000+ people on Twitter does so they follow you back.  (I always thought networking involved listening... I'm sorry, but you can't listen to 10,000+ people at once, even if you're using Tweetdeck.)

Networking involves the following basics, none of which I've found Gen Y to be particularly good at:

  • Self awareness: How are people perceiving you?  Gen Yers, because of their lack of experience, don't have a great sense of professionalism and professional appearence.
  • Storytelling: How can you package up your experiences, interests, goals into something memorable that others take with them and remember.
  • Listening: I don't think any generation is good at this, Gen Y included.
  • Outreach: Reaching out to the right people to build relationships--this is where Gen Y majorly falls down because those kids aren't any good at going outside the comfort zone of their own network--unless their mom schedules a playdate for them. 

Gen Y sucks at networking.  Don't let their Facebook friend list fool you.