What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate

header mobilehandI think the millennial generation is great. I’m happy to work with them and I enjoy the impact they are having on our culture. So, any time I have an opportunity to serve as a mentor to a young communication professional, I jump at the chance. I hear over and over that millennials crave mentoring but admit that I have been more frustrated than successful in my attempts.

At a recent presentation, “Attracting Millennials,” by Shira Harrington, Founder & President, Purposeful Hire, Inc. I think I got to the root of the problem: communication culture clash. My default communication style was failing to resonate or communicate with the recipient. This disconnect is highly fixable and I am anxious to give it a try.

Here’s the deal. Millennials love email communication as much as I do, but we go about it in completely different ways. My generation is known for our straightforward style. Messages are to-the-point and very specific. Each sentence has a purpose. I expect the recipient to read my clear text and to react.

So, each time I am paired with a college student through PRSA-NCC’s mentoring program, I take the same approach. I send an email, giving the prospective mentee my contact information and my basic availability. I offer to meet by phone or in person and outline that the next step is for him or her to reach out to me. My philosophy is to make it the job of the mentee to act on my offer to help.

This generally gets me crickets. Now I know why.

As Harrington put it, millennials communicate with “sunshine and rainbows.” They expect a string of upbeat exchanges that are focused on building a relationship, not just getting to an end result.

I can just imagine the look on the faces of my potential mentees as they read my in-your-face, here are steps 1 to done emails. Not good.

Moving forward, I approach these relationships as a journey with no specific destination. My intro emails have some personal details along with exclamation points! And emoticons. These aren’t my usual style, but I don’t dislike the effect. What’s wrong with establishing a mentoring relationship with personality?

I plan to next put this insight to the test at my alma mater’s Virtual Career Conversations DC event. on April 21. I’ll be interacting with one or more communication students via an online forum. Last year, I averaged one question per person with no follow-up questions. This year, my goal is to generate conversations. Wish me luck :)!

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