In a world where 53% of the population is under age 30, professionals with some years of experience are learning to adapt to the unique nuances and styles of today’s millennials. Those of us — cough — over 30 years old understand that we need to keep work creative, interesting, relevant, and connected to important causes to engage the talents and passions of the younger generations.
That said, millennials, and particularly those on the younger side of the generation, could benefit from dropping three often-used words from their vocabulary. If the goal in networking and relationship building is to create rapport, and then build trust, these three words serve as a false start to getting business professionals engaged:
My mother had a great expression when I was growing up and would occasionally throw in a “Hey” to get her attention. “Hay is for horses…” she would say. The point being, I was using the word incorrectly. It is not a greeting, salutation, or way to get someone’s attention. That has stuck with me, and when I see “hey” in the beginning of a business email, I shirk.
When texting between friends, or my family, I might offer a “hey” to be cute or funny. But not in business. It conveys an overly friendly or inappropriately casual tone that can be interpreted as demeaning when directed from a young person to a more senior person in a business context.
Instead, consider: Hello or even hi (slang still, but acceptable).
Growing up in Southern California, “dude” was typically prefaced with “surfer” to identify someone who spent most of their time at the beach, un-showered and unshaven, but amazingly in shape. Today, “dude” is sometimes used by younger people as another salutation. While I see this as appropriate when greeting someone you know well, who is around the same age, I think it is a reputation torpedo when used in business or networking.
As a woman, I would never expect to be called “Dude,” yet I have. When greeting a man, I would never consider addressing him as anything less than his name, no matter how familiar we are in business.
Instead, I still recommend referring to someone by their first or last name. Old school says you start with their last name, as in Ms. Citroën, until they offer, “Please, call me Lida…” I think there’s something to be said for old school politeness.
3. Ya, Yah or Yup
In business, I often receive replies from young people that say, “ya,” “yah,” or “yup.” I have had written correspondence, particularly in email, with this one word as a reply. While I don’t mind when my son answers this way in text as he’s on his way to a college class, I do not expect to see it with clients, vendors, or business partners. And, I’m not alone. Many professionals cringe at this response. It feels overly familiar, lazy, and disrespectful. Especially when “yes” takes the same amount of time to type as “yah” or “yup!”
Dictionary.com doesn’t even offer a U.S. definition for “yah.” The closest they come for an explanation is:
I would encourage college students who are pursuing careers or internships to evaluate whether their use of “yah” in an email really is to indicate contempt.
Perhaps that could explain a lack of receptivity to your resume?
To the young people reading this, rolling their eyes and writing me off as “out of touch,” consider this: I spend my days in the world of reputation management and perception. How others perceive us directly impacts their desire to give us opportunities (jobs, career advancement, resources, etc.).
While your ability to use these words is a right, consider that in the professional world we live in, changing up a few vocabulary words could make a difference to how your message is received and ultimately how you are received and advanced.