Staying Relevant

Staying Relevant

 

Remember these?

Remember these?

 

 

 

Maybe it’s because I just had a birthday but lately I’ve been thinking about the importance of staying relevant. Watching someone riding a bike while talking on the phone; seeing Facebook photos of my three-year-old grandnephew Grady reading a book on an iPad; and hearing the news of Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post (and reading Arianna Huffington’s response, “The Future of Journalism,”) have made me dizzy from the speed of change.

Each generation has to embrace change. My dad, a professor and a prolific writer, resisted using a computer. As a fellow wordsmith, I thought he would love using a tool that made writing and editing so much easier. Instead, he stuck to writing hard copy (and lots of it) on his IBM Selectric III. He never really embraced the ease and expansiveness of computers but instead continued to bang away on his electric typewriter, cranking out books, articles and letters which I now treasure, typos and all.

My mom, however, was an early adopter. Back in the mid-1990s when e-mail became all the rage, I remember my mom asking me with a sigh, “When are you going to get e-mail?” She’d already opened her first AOL account and was impatiently waiting to send me notes from her computer to mine. Years later, when I was visiting her in Tempe, AZ, and she and I were finalizing our dinner plans, she said breezily, “Just send me a text.” Text? I hadn’t yet learned to text. My seventy-eight-year-old mother beat me to the punch, thanks to her grandchildren who had nudged her into the world of texting. (Yes, now I know how.)

So as someone who thought the Internet was a fad, I have to be wary of my resistance to change. How can we stay relevant in today’s world?

  • Stay alert. Keep your eyes and ears open and watch what’s going on around you. I’ll never forget seeing my first Walkman and later, seeing someone reading a book on a Kindle at an airport. I was taken aback, then intrigued and ultimately it caused me to…
  • Ask a lot of questions. I remember breaking down and asking someone, “So, how do you like that Kindle?” I got a full report. After interviewing several other people about that technology, I learned I needed to…
  • Be courageous. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say it’s courageous to learn to read books a whole new way. I admit, I still favor “real” books, but I’m learning to enjoy reading on my Kindle. And I appreciate the advantages of being able to read multiple books on one device without schlepping multiple books with me on a plane.
  • Hang out with young people. They’re fearless. Young people have grown up with computers and other digital devices. Watch and learn and don’t be afraid to ask them questions about how things work. And when it doubt…
  • Try it, you’ll like it. Jump in, experiment, and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s the only way to grow.

Staying relevant means staying engaged, being curious and continuing to learn–at any age. We don’t have to adopt every new gadget or be on each social media site available, but to ignore new options for communicating would rob us of some exciting opportunities. I remind myself to be open to what the next generation will bring, not just to be “hip.” Staying relevant is good business.

The Unhappy 49%

The mission of my coaching practice is “to create a world in which people love what they do and do what they love.” That mission drives me every day. But apparently I have a long way to go before revolutionizing the World of Work, judging from a recent study issued by the American Psychological Association.

In a press release dated March 5, 2013, the APA announced, “More than one-third of American workers experience chronic work stress, with low salaries, lack of opportunity for advancement and heavy workloads topping the list of contributing factors.” This was from a new national survey, the “Work and Well-Being Survey” conducted on behalf of the APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence.

The report goes on to say, “On the heels of the recession, many employees appear to feel stuck, with only 39 percent citing sufficient opportunities for internal career advancement and just over half (51 percent) saying they feel valued at work.”

Hmmm… well, it is over half. But that leaves an unhappy 49% of the workforce, or at least the ones who responded to the study (conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the APA between Jan. 9-Jan. 21, 2013, among 1,501 U.S. adults aged 18 and older). These folks had complaints about employers not flexing to their needs, including the concern that work encroaches on family time.

Perhaps even more alarming, the study reported that “Only 37 percent of women reported regularly using employee benefits designed to help them meet demands outside the office, compared to almost half of men (46 percent), and just 38 percent of women said they regularly utilize flexible work arrangements, compared to 42 percent of men.” That means the guys are using the resources made available to them by the company–things, perhaps, like wellness programs or flex-time. So even when it’s offered, the ladies are using those resources much less frequently.

I don’t have the answer. Just the question: If we’re unhappy at work, what’s our part in it? What do you think?

Free from your labors on Labor Day

To most of us, Labor Day means picnics and barbeques, parades and a three-day weekend. We think of the holiday as a time to kick back and enjoy the last days of summer before the transition to our more hurried fall routines of work and school.

But if you read the history of Labor Day, you’ll see it began as a reconciliation with the unions after bitter strife and even bloodshed. According to Wikipedia, the holiday was first proposed by union workers in the late 1880s. The officially sanctioned holiday was a rush job by President Grover Cleveland to appease workers after the Pullman strike.

So out of chaos and conflict came this three-day weekend in which we celebrate work and workers… while not working. Hmmm… go figure.

My many years of working for hospitals taught me that even on holidays most of us take for granted, people are working. Nurses and doctors, firemen and women, emergency personnel and 911 operators… these are the people we can stop and acknowledge while sipping a beer or flipping a burger. The drive-throughs are still open, the retail clerks are frantically stocking to keep up with Labor Day sales and somewhere, someone is writing a blog. Oh, that’s me.

To all of you who are workers, I salute you. I believe we’re created to make a difference through our work which is why I do what I do as a marketing coach–helping people be successful in their businesses and careers. I’m thrilled to launch this blog about work on the holiday set aside to honor work.

Here’s to you! (clink)