How not to act your age at work
Do you twitter? Built a wiki lately? To avoid looking old at the office, maybe it's time you started.
(Money Magazine) -- So you've discovered how to network on Facebook and LinkedIn and you've even been known to forward the occasional YouTube video to colleagues. Well, don't go congratulating yourself on how au courant you are just yet.
Professional networking sites and online videos are, like, so last year, compared with blogging, twittering and other new techniques that are rapidly emerging as useful, even necessary, workplace skills.
If you don't know how to integrate these latest communication technologies into your workday - or worse, you resist them altogether - you run the risk of appearing old and hopelessly out of touch.
That isn't good anytime, but it's especially perilous in a weak economy when, as a mature worker with a relatively big salary, you're most vulnerable to cutbacks.
Want to be seen as vital and youthful (in spirit if not in years) in today's workplace?Here are four tech skills that folks under 35 know almost intuitively and that I'm trying to master now to avoid being seen as old ahead of my time.
Odds are, you already send the occasional text message from your cell phone to your child or spouse or to vote for your favorite contestant on "American Idol."
Yet texting in a business setting is different, a way of imparting vital information without the distraction of conversation. It's particularly useful in situations where staff members work in disparate locations, are on the road a lot or keep irregular hours.
In those circumstances, boomers tend to favor phone calls and e-mail - technologies that are practically Jurassic to younger coworkers, who will check their phone log but hardly ever listen to voice mail. Meanwhile, e-mail lacks immediacy; by the time it's read, it's old news and, if written by a boomer, likely rambles on too long.
Just make sure you adhere to the unspoken rules of business texting. First, reserve your texts for communications that are brief, factual and important.
"Texting is great for information someone needs right away," says John Challenger, CEO of the outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas. "It's about giving someone a number fast, not the analysis of that number." Learn and use common shorthand like "YT?" (You there?).
And forgo proper punctuation, which can make you look stiff (caps are entirely optional). But don't get cute with any shorthand you know from your kids - OMG! - which will make you look like you're trying too hard.
A wiki is a Web page where team members can post information that relates to a certain project. Other team members can see the information instantly and comment on it, add to it or correct it.
It works a lot like Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, only with office wikis, access is restricted to people with info you trust, not open to the general public. Boomers have always relied on the big meeting or conference call. But wikis render them practically obsolete, with updates that are instant and transparent.
Want to set up your own wiki? Get the ball rolling at wetpaint.com or socialtext.com. It's easy. Honest. But at commoncraft there's an explanation.
This is the newest of the new. "Six months ago I thought it was useless, a waste of time," says Josh Levy, 28, a Web entrepreneur. "Today I can see how much more productive it makes me."
Much of it is garbage. But the site lets you choose which twitterers you want to follow, and some are serious people grappling with serious issues. Through twitter you can essentially hear them think out loud.
For example, when Levy and his partner Ross Cohen, 27, were raising money for their Web site BeenVerified.com, an online background-checking service, they learned about the process by following the twittering of a prominent venture capitalist.
Says Cohen: "We had access to his reasoning and could really learn from it." Through Twitter.com they found and hired one of their first employees and discovered Crowdspring.com, where they were able to outsource their logo design work and get 153 proposals for a sliver of the price they would have paid a designer offline.
Knowing how to mine the Web for cost-efficient hiring and resources is an increasingly important skill, and twitterers share this stuff all the time.
A smart, entertaining blog that pulls in Web links, photos and video clips can help build your professional profile and shape you as a thought leader. It can also create previously unforeseen business opportunities.
Pamela Redmond Satran is a writer who noticed that her boomer friends spent a lot of time talking about what their children were doing - not what they were doing. "They sounded so old," she said.
So just for fun, last June she launched a blog at hownottoactold.com. It got some notice, and within months she had landed a book deal (due out in August 2009).
It's easy to start a blog at wordpress.com. Whether you want to make the effort is another question. Blogs are worth your time only if you have a noteworthy topic to explore and are willing to work at putting forth interesting views and to stick with it.
Not your thing? Be a regular reader of blogs instead. Surfing the blogosphere, like reading twitterers, can expand your views and lead you to online resources you'd never find on your own.
"People may take the attitude, 'Who needs this stuff?'" says Satran. "Well, there was a time when people asked, 'Who needs indoor plumbing?'"
Will mastering these technologies guarantee that you'll keep your job? Of course not. But it may help. And you might as well get used to them because this stuff isn't going away - that is, until something even more baffling comes along.
How layoff-proof are you? We want to know what moves you're making now or have made in past downturns to keep your job. Did you step up and take on additional responsibilities? Or agree to a pay cut? Solve a critical problem for your boss? Or make yourself indispensable in some way? Send us your photos and videos and share your strategies that are keeping you off the unemployment line.Send feedback to Money Magazine