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20 April 2009

Don’t Say These Things If You Want to Attract Gen Y Women

I was at the gym last weekend reciting the no pain no gain mantra while trying to block out the noise around me, when my thoughts got interrupted by two words “real estate” — spoken by the ladies chatting next to me. Enough with my personal pep talk, this peeked my interest.

I gently nudged myself into their conversation. As it turns out, one of the women is in medical sales but also happens to be taking her real  estate course. I asked her if she had spoken with any brokers yet regarding work and she explained that she had one interview with a local office.

“Tell me more,” I asked.

She said it was a good meeting. The broker seemed knowledgeable and very eager to help her. The company had training programs and a good reputation in the community. She was speaking so positively that I assumed she was ready to join the office. I congratulated her, but she stopped me and said that she didn’t think it was the office for her. I asked her why.

She explained that upon leaving, the broker’s farewell included the following statement:

“Kiddo, we’d love to have you join the team.”

This closing left a bad taste in her mouth. Bear in mind, this woman who is not yet 30, smart, articulate and in possession of all the mental check marks you look for in a new agent, was taken aback by this friendly gesture that did not sit well with her within the context of a professional job interview. Her concerns were legitimate. From her point of view, the statement served as an indication of how she might be treated in this office. It also suggested a manner in which her employer looked upon her– as a kid versus a professional peer.

For her, these concerns were real. They indicate the type of gaps that occur between generations that are, for the most part, innocent and void of any misdeeds or harm.

Today, we are experiencing a wonderful clash of generations through the myriad of communication channels that exit off as well as online. While real estate professionals continue to grapple with how to communicate to, market to and appeal to newer younger consumers, similar strides appear necessary in order to bridge these gaps within our industry.

Tenured brokers and members of the boomer generation, who now find themselves interviewing the under 30-year old agent need to have a greater sensitivity in understanding the characteristics that make up the personality traits of Gen Y. It will help you attract them and it will help you successfully nurture them into great contributors to your firm.

For a deeper study into the mind of this huge demographic that is fast becoming your customer as well, consider subscribing to Peter Sheahan, who is a well known speaker and writer on the Y Generation.

To add some real life context, here are a few phrases that you might want to reconsider in an effort to broaden your leadership skills and not make the mistake the broker previously mentioned did.

  • Never refer to the under 30 in your firm as  “kiddo”, “kids”, “kid”. I know you don’t mean any disrespect by it, but that’s how it makes them feel.
  • Don’t send someone to “talk to the girls up front” or say “I’ll ask one of the girls to get that information for you.” Those girls have names. Karen or Nicole would be happy to help.
  • Don’t refer to any female as “Dear” in the office, especially a Gen Y your trying to attract to join the company

I singled out women in this article, but this advice would also apply to attracting Gen Y men.

17 thoughts on “Don’t Say These Things If You Want to Attract Gen Y Women

  1. The suggestions are not specific to Gen Y. I am significantly older, and would neither refer to someone in the office as “Dear” or demean anyone in the work place by referring to them as “one of the girls” of “one of the boys.”

  2. Thanks for the insight! Sometimes one of the most difficult things we have to do as sales professionals is listen to ourselves with the ears of others.

    P.S. did you get an appointment with this great recruit?

    1. Hi Phil

      It is funny (and fascinating) to stand back and listen to how other people communicate. The power of our language is amazing and most of the time we don’t really “think before we speak” as they say.

      Unfortunately, we don’t have an office in the market where this lady lives so I wasn’t able to close for an appointment. I’ll be keeping tabs on her for when we do open an office there!

  3. I won’t say that I get offended when I am called a “kid” or “kiddo”, but it does make me feel slightly silly.

    I try to be so super sensitive to all generations when I teach my technology courses, because age is always thrown in as an excuse at some point in the Q & A. Many of our agents think that all Gen Y “get” technology, when I know that many do not. It is truly your attitude and not your age that matters.

  4. I completely agree! I get very put off when someone from an older generation makes a direct reference to our age difference, yet we are supposed to be colleagues. I understand that I am much younger, we can both plainly see that. However, by putting emphasis in your language on their age, you really are showing them that you are not going to take them seriously.

  5. You’ve got to have thicker skin than that if you want to succeed in business, especially sales. This is why a lot of people laughing refer to these ‘kids’ as Generation Whine.

  6. It may have simply been a meaningless reference…Kiddo. Sometimes younger people or anyone else with a different culrtural reference can be taken aback by sayings that have no derrogatory meaning by the speaker. Just as we older folks are being asked to be sensitive to the younger generations, why can’t the younger set try to be a little more sensitive to us… hence I agree with Jim, folks need to have a bit thicker skin.

  7. I love being called “kid” by older people. For years I worked for a famous Hollywood producer. He always called me “kid” and I know it was a term of endearment — I was forty and he was seventy.

    I also remember how some women used to get upset when he called them a “broad.” This was a perfectly acceptable term in the pre-WWII generation.

    A generational difference is much like a cultural difference. What is acceptable to one may be seen as an insult to another. As long as no insult is intended, none should be taken.

    Ernest Hemingway always called any man younger than him “boy”, and everyone called him “Papa” — even people older than him.

  8. Who’d want to employ such an uptight woman?
    Anyone savvy would’ve quickly turned it around, made a joke, called him “old dear” something to show in a good humoured way what was/not acceptable.
    This kind of overreaction is typical of anyone in their late 20’s of ANY generation attempting to show that they are experts in an area they have just finished studying. No wonder she is getting out of medical sales – anyone in sales has to have a genuine love of humanity with all it’s faults, political incorrectness and silly ol’ fart-ness.

  9. I don’t mind that a person call me kiddo, please it’s better than other than that. And sometimes, its a term of endearment that may want to show you are part of the family.

    I agree with some of the bloggers, she was being up tight. What ever happened to trying to be friendly, smiling and sharing some warmth?

    I think its a cultural thing too. I come from a family of huggers, we greet each other with warm hugs or pecks on the cheeks.

    Like Laurel Papworth’s comment, a more seasoned or experienced person would have turned that comment around instantly, without being disrespectful. And sometimes, especially women, and minorities, must be wise in how to handle these situations. I am surprised that she didn’t possess this quality being a sales person.

    1. I agree with you in some points LG – but we are speaking of Gen Y and generation gaps and such.. what does being a minority have to do with it?

  10. After 26 years in the business, it is very easy to look back and share my personal manta “don’t take it personal”. Being recruited into the Real Estate business from an advertising sales position at the tender age of 27 I experienced the age issues from the other Realtors in the office as well as customers when going out on an appointment.

    After the interview that was described, the term “kiddo” should have been taken as a term of endearment and acceptance of the skill set that was presented. Respect was obviously given if the job offer was extended.

  11. Real Estate companies are a dime a dozen and hire just about anyone with a pulse. If you think it is not a great fit there are plenty of options. However, you need a thick skin to be an agent and if that gets to you then you might as well never join the industry.

  12. Thanks everyone for your comments. It has been interesting to hear the various points of view. The next time I run into this lady at the gym, I’m going to send her here to read all of your advice!

  13. This is funny, I’m reading this just after being emailed by a manager of our company last week with the title “Kid”. I’m 33 and, while it did take me aback a little, I responded back to him with “Old Man” in my next email. We seem to have developed a relationship where these titles accidentally came out, but they are a clear definition of how we appear to each other. So I went with it, it’s all for fun and if he feels comfortable enough to speak to me that way, then I feel comfortable responding back that way.

    For further clarification, I believe his reading my blog has given him the comfort to do this, as he almost knows me on a more personal level and has already developed his rapport with me by reading my blog.

    This is what I’m noticing is happening with my new clients. They arrive at our first appointment knowing me and it really seems to break the ice- they have done their homework.

  14. I can understand where she was coming from. The broker should have took a more professional stand in using his words. I’m in my 40’s, and people still think I’m young, or younger than that I am, and I get things like that too. It can be an offense – that you are not taken serious. One point I do want to share, is this girl, will be getting tougher over the years, and will be holding her own, and proving that she is more mature than people give her credit for. Just goes to show, people need to watch their words and use respect – especially in this real estate business – we are professionals!

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