Editor’s Note: Given the recent debate regarding generational divides and social network image indiscretions, this post by Julie Lyons-Wolfe (a 29 year old CEO) raises the question; “to whom can Generation Next go to for advice?”
I was recently contacted by a business consultant who, in his mid to late fifties, was referred to me by a mutual acquaintance.
While I did not have a specific requirement for a consultant’s services, out of courtesy to our mutual friend, as well as a general thirst for knowledge, I agreed to a meeting. I also thought that it would be a good idea to have my father join us, as he was the founder and long-time CEO of the family business before handing me the reigns early last year. He is in his sixties – although don’t tell him that I let you know his age, as he doesn’t look at day over 50.
All kidding about age aside, I was looking forward to seeing what this individual had to say about our growing business.
Despite my taking the lead during the meeting, the gentleman seemed to look past me and direct most of his conversation towards my father. When everything had been said and done, he had failed to make a connection with me, and of course I with him. Needless to say, and if I ever needed a consultant, it would not be he (or is it “would not be him?”).
However, and rather than fostering feelings of slight or insult, I realized that this individual’s manner of engagement was not intended to exclude me so much as it was a reflection of one perceived peer connecting with another. Let’s face it, with whom is a consultant in his 50s more likely to have a connection; a 29 year old female CEO, or an individual within his own “age and experience” group such as my father?
This led me to wonder, am I part of a peer-less generation?
In a world where we have more contacts but make fewer connections – at least according to Geoffrey Tumlin who wrote the book Stop Talking, Start Communicating – it seems that my generation lacks the camaraderie of a life lived in personcommonality. What I am talking about is the familiarity and intimacy of geographical proximity as opposed to virtual convenience.
Don’t get me wrong, I am so appreciative of all the great comments and feedback that my personal journey postings have received here on LinkedIn. But I can’t help but wonder if I am missing out on something more tangible. For example, would we who have connected through a LinkedIn or Facebook, feel the same ties that would automatically translate to the real world if we were to ever meet in person? Would we, like the consultant and my father although having never met before, enjoy an unspoken connection of a shared experience that results from their living the majority of their lives in a non-Internet world? Or would we be like a photocopy of a photocopy, in which the quality of our connection outside of the virtual realms would somehow diminish and become less clear?
After all, and as I have been noting with increasing frequency, the only people that call me to meet in person to discuss business, are usually those who are over the age of 40. For the most part, when I receive a call from the thirty-something group, it is usually by e-mail asking to schedule a Skype call or invite me to attend a webinar.
Once again, I am not saying that there is anything inherently wrong with this, because I do get to talk with people from all over the world whom, before the Internet, I would not have likely met. But can people that I have never met in person truly become a peer, or in the case of the consultant and my father – a shared experience peer?
A Recorded Answer
In what I can only consider to be an ironic twist, the same friend who introduced me to the consultant, also shared with me the link to the following UberConference “Wake-Up Call: Your Weekly Dose of Inspiration and Real Talk.”
As I listened to the recording, I felt that there was a connection. This seemed to be someone who sounds like they are in my age range, experiencing many of the things I would imagine that the majority of the 30 Under 30 generation are facing on a daily basis.
This I thought, is someone who I would consider to be a peer. Someone who gets it. After listening to her speak, I knew that I was not alone. I knew that I was not part of a peer-less generation.
There is just one problem . . . I do not know her name. Nor do I have – no matter how I have tried – any way of finding out who she is. I even asked others to try and find out who she was, which has somewhat comically become a find Waldo exercise. Except with this version of the game, no one actually knows what Waldo looks like!
In the end, I have concluded that there are many different ways to connect with peers, and that what makes a peer is not determined by physical proximity or method of communicating. A true peer-to-peer relationship is based on common experience and the ability – through whatever means – to share meaningful information.