When Cher first tried Twitter, she said she felt old and stupid. She was slow and clumsy with the social media channel; many Twitter users were born well after Cher’s first hit song. But she persisted, she said, because she wanted a real-time forum in which to express her views.
Now, 3.5 million fans follow the 70-year-old singer’s emoji-laced, widely shared tweets. By choosing to master Twitter, she has burnished her star power, boosted her brand and touched lives. In short, she stayed relevant.
We all need to follow Cher’s example because staying relevant, especially in the workplace, can boost our star power, too.
Being “relevant” at work helps you remain employable, relate to younger customers, influence the next generation and protect your career. And it helps business leaders make better decisions. To be relevant, you can’t just be an observer. It requires taking actions to make sure you matter to your organization, your customers, your clients and your teams.
Here are 7 Ways to get started.
Assess your skills. Look at what colleagues and competitors are doing: What emerging technology or job skills are they adopting? There are efficiencies to be gained in the workplace by adopting new apps, software, platforms and devices. They can keep your life running more smoothly. Learn how to use these tools, and become comfortable with them.
Embrace ongoing learning. Today, continuous learning is a requirement for survival in the workplace. You can do this by signing up for training, watching online tutorials, subscribing to newsletters, participating in webinars and certification programs, going back to school and asking younger employees for help. As designer Tory Burch says, “It’s important to be intellectually curious and always learning.” Look at what companies and leaders you admire are doing. How can you learn from them?
Resist overwhelm. Of course, the constant emergence of new social media platforms and the changing technology being adopted in every industry can seem overwhelming, even scary for some people. But that’s not an excuse for not trying to keep up: “You should have an idea of what is part of the national ‘conscious,’ where people are getting information and how they are living their lives. If millions of people are using a platform, you should have some knowledge of it,” says Liza Walton, a principal at Miami Social Marketing.
Ask for help. There is no shame in asking someone to show you how to use a feature on your phone or a shortcut on a software program. Miami human resources consultant Sharlyn Lauby says she has conquered new social media outlets such as LinkedIn by starting small and finding friends to help her along. If you are struggling, post questions in group discussions and you likely will get answers. Lauby says tries goes slow when learning how to use a new social media channel, learning one new thing on the site every day. She aims to become comfortable on it after 30 days. “You don’t have to be a super user in a week,” says Lauby, founder of HR Bartender, a HR management and consulting firm.
Get better at listening. If you want to keep up, you need to know what people are talking about and how it affects your job. Listening skills suffer as people get older, according to Ralph G. Nichols, a retired University of Minnesota professor and author of “Are You Listening?” Today, it’s not enough to simply rely on what you already know. Ask the young people in your life open-ended questions — and listen carefully to the answers. Dave Armstrong, president of Broward College, 60, says listening well keeps both him and his college relevant — in touch with students, faculty and the wider world. Instead of leading staff meetings, he lets others take over so he can listen to his diverse team.
Do it their way. As a grad student, I recently completed a four-week project with a 22-year-old classmate. When she failed to answer my phone calls, I did it her way — through email, text messages and online collaboration tools. You will need to communicate with younger team members and customers using the communication style they prefer. Deerfield Beach financial advisor Karen Roberts of Emerald Financial Group recently converted her written newsletters to video newsletters after research showed her customers preferred it. When you need to work collaboratively, chose the method that works, not the method you are used to.
Keep your network current. Join alumni groups on LinkedIn, attend professional conferences and participate in online discussions to stay up on trends and what people are talking about. The more you force yourself outside your bubble to meet new people, have new experiences, and hear new conversations, the more relevant you become. Managers recognize when someone brings fresh thinking and new solutions to workplace challenges. You want to be that someone.