By Neil Patrick
It’s time for us to fight fire with fire. To stop being blindsided by youth’s purported technological superiority.
One of the most persistent and damaging beliefs held by employers is that older people are out of touch with modern technology. Often enough all they mean by this is that we don’t waste too much of our valuable time posting selfies on Facebook and playing Angry Birds on our mobile phones.
This surrogate ‘measure’ of technological prowess is an Achilles' heel for the young though and here’s why.
Young people are not more sophisticated users of social media than older folk. They are just more familiar with the platforms. And waste more time on them. I know. I see what they tweet about. And it’s mostly vacuous narcissistic drivel.
The most famous book on social engagement was written in 1936, by Dale Carnegie and it was called, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Is it still relevant? You bet. And because of the rise of social media, I’d venture it is even more relevant today than when it was written.
|Dale Carnegie 1888-1955|
If you think your career is just about being good at your job, you are operating in a vacuum. If no-one outside your immediate professional network knows anything about you, you are essentially invisible to the world. And that’s not a good place to be when for reasons beyond your control you are facing a career crisis.
Jobs are about getting stuff done. About influencing. About results. Social media can help you with all these things more than you’d ever believe.
But only if you know how to do it right.
And doing it right isn’t about copying the ‘yoof’.
Time and time again, I find that employers believe that older hires are not as good as younger ones because they believe we are out of touch with the digital world. There is some truth in this too. Older people often have concerns about privacy and this excessively constrains their online activity.
But because this transformation is so pivotal, we cannot run away from it. We have to embrace it and deal with the rough edges. Denial and avoidance are not an option if you want to remain employable in the 21st century.
The good news is that it’s actually not that hard to out-hip the hipsters… and here’s how you can do it.
So here are my top 10 hipster beating ideas for anyone over 40 (and many who are younger) to show that you are more hip than the hipsters and more importantly a good deal more employable.
Put your social media to work for you
Did you know that the average Twitter account has less than 200 followers? Build your Twitter following to over a thousand and straight away, you’ll be perceived differently.
Make your public online presence mainly about the work you do
Hipsters love to talk about themselves. They can’t help but post selfies of themselves having fun. Don’t copy this. Use your social media to show you are a serious professional.
Spread across multiple platforms
Start at the centre and work out gradually. Don’t leap onto every social media platform at once. Start with the core and gradually expand from there. The core is Linkedin and Twitter. After you are established there, dependant on what you do, then you might want to expand to YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook.
Do not pester people to connect. Be nice to them and slowly but surely they will reciprocate. Share other people’s stuff. Comment constructively. Be nice to others and they will be nice to you.
Make your voice heard
No-one loves bullies, show offs or big mouths. So don’t be one online. Be more interested in others than yourself and it will get you further and faster.
Build online goodwill
It’s funny, but online relationships are actually not much different to real world ones. Help others out and ask for nothing in return. Most will be so shocked and delighted they will remember you if not forever, then certainly for longer than if you ignored them
Know your numbers
Look at who you consider to be your peers in your professional realm. And your role models. There’s your benchmark. If you have bigger numbers than they do, you are leading your race not struggling to catch up.
Understand the digital landscape
You don’t need to be a coder or a web designer to do this. As platform algorithms become ever more sophisticated, they are learning how to reward good online behaviour and punish the bad. The meek really shall inherit the earth (provided they are not so meek no-one knows they exist).
Help people solve problems
Every day I am contacted by people many of whom I have never met or even communicated with before. They ask me to help them solve their business problems. I am not a charity yet I never ask them to pay anything for my advice. I place a greater value on their goodwill than I do on filling my pockets. Some would say this is foolish and unnecessarily altruistic. I say that goodwill is more valuable than mere money.
Yoof cannot help but try and show the world how beautiful, fun and affluent they are. And guess what, no-one cares*. Their social media role models are the rich and the famous. But yoof has not recognised that different rules apply to these people. For better or worse, fame changes the game.
People like and are interested in people who like and are interested in them. Not people who are mostly interested in themselves and trying to impress others.
The beauty of this strategy is that you’ll kill at least two birds with one stone. First you will learn a ton of stuff. Second, you will be able to prove that you are right up to date with the digital world and critically that you know how to use it to create real influence.
Hipsters watch out! You are about to be outsmarted by those you jeered at.
*A 2013 study of Facebook users found that posting photos of oneself correlates with lower levels of social support from and intimacy with Facebook friends (except for those marked as Close Friends). The lead author of the study said that "those who frequently post photographs on Facebook risk damaging real-life relationships."