How Can I Get Someone Who is Younger to Want to Know Me?
The question – “How can I get someone who is younger to want to know me?” was asked by a Career Pivot community member in episode 193 of the Repurpose Your Career podcast. I was interviewing Lisa Rangel, from Chameleon Resumes, and Alex Freund, from LandingExpert.com, about what they were seeing in the hiring world.
The context of the question was that this person was interviewing almost exclusively with people much younger than themselves. Building the connection and, therefore, getting the interviewer truly interested was proving to be difficult.
Lisa said something that I thought was worth discussing in this post:
When you demonstrate curiosity in people who are different than you, in this case, the age being the difference, you will be more natural when you are interviewed by people who are younger than you because you have engaged in these networking conversations. You will be able to show interest in them. You know what, just like if someone is 25, 50, or 75, people want people to be interested in them and they will most likely reciprocate. Then the conversations can go back and forth.
You can listen to the audio below.
For those of us in the 2nd half of life, most of the time going forward, we will be interviewing with someone younger. That is a simple fact that we must learn to embrace. The COVID-19 pandemic will make this more likely as many senior leaders will decide or be forced into retirement.
Taking an Interest in Others
In the podcast, Lisa told a story about when she was younger and had young children at home, she was not being asked to join other mothers on playdates, coffee get-togethers, and the like. She told a friend about this predicament and said she just wanted some friends. She was working full time, had children at home, and lived a very busy life.
Her friend turned it around and asked her when she had asked any of these mothers over for coffee or a playdate? Lisa’s response was “never”. How do you expect others to take an interest in you when you do not take an interest in them?
How many times in the last 5 years have you had a good conversation with a professional much younger than you outside of work? With the exception of your children, my guess the answer will be close to zero.
In society in general we age segregate. We tend to hang out with people who look, taste, and smell like us. For years this has worked for us until our mentors, past managers, and colleagues age out of our networks. These people have either retired, moved out of a position of influence, or died.
If you want to hear a great discussion of this age segregation, listen to the podcast episode, This Chair Rocks! with Author Ashton Applewhite.
Example of Age Segregation
Thom told me a story about when he was emceeing a conference for an association. Between sessions, Thom spotted a young African American man with dreadlocks standing by himself. He walked up to him and started a discussion. It was somewhat a stretch for Thom but he found something they had in common to discuss.
When the next session was about to start the young man asked him why he walked up to him. He said Thom was the first “older” person who had ever walked up to him and introduced himself. By the way, Thom is in his early fifties and was probably 25 or so years older than this young man.
Thom is an expert in networking and is always looking for new people to meet.
If you are asking “how to get people who are younger than me to want to know me?” you will need to network down. In the past, this meant to network with people below you in the organization. I now believe this means to network with people who are younger than you.
In recent months, I have attended many Zoom networking meetings. During the lockdown, I ran a regular Monday Zoom networking group to help people to learn to use the tool better but also to just get people talking.
Just like in years past, when you would come back from a networking event with a stack of business cards, now you can get names and emails from the others on the call and set up a follow-up call. Specifically, select people who are younger than you to practice taking interest in them.
Looking for Common Ground
I lived in Austin for over 40 years before moving to Mexico in 2018. When I met someone new at a networking event I would always ask, “How did you get to Austin?” A common belief was that no one was from Austin because everyone had moved there. I followed up that question based on their response to another question. I learned to be able to keep drilling until I found something we had in common.
If you are speaking with someone who is 20, 30, 40, or possibly 50 years your junior you will want to develop a set of questions to help you drill for that common ground.
How to Get the Interviewer to Want to Know Me?
If you walk in the room or more than likely today you start a video interview session with an interviewer who is much younger than you, you will need to be comfortable with putting them at ease. You will want to use a similar questioning technique of taking an interest in them.
If you put them at ease, they will be more likely to want to know more about you.
You will need to practice this. When was the last time you took an interest in someone who was much younger than you?