23 November 2008

Online Communication: Making Boomers Sharper and Even Smarter

Money magazine offers a pretty cute warning about age-proofing yourself at work: by behaving more like younger employeers who are presumably less likely to make the layoff list. The magazine's key behaviors for boomers to adopt: texting, contributing to wikis, twittering, and blogging. (A wise warning is included that blogging requires commitment to a schedule, so an alternative is to subscribe to many blogs.)

I like the list. But there's more here than just image-making. Learning new technologies doesn't just make us appear young—it makes us sharper, even smarter. So, regardless of purpose to compete with younger colleagues, here are my added comments:

Texting is worth every boomer's attention. Here's what makes it do-able: moving from alpha-numeric keys of a cell phone to dedicated letter keys of an iPhone, Blackberry, or similar keyboard-enhanced phone. Visit several cell phone stores and actually type on the keyboards. After you select the one that fits your fingers best, take time to experiment with settings such as audible clicks on/off. All these choices are highly personal and can move the experience from irritating to rewarding.

Wiki-writing takes a shift in thinking from sole authorship of a document to shared authoring with people you barely (or never) know. In some workplaces, wikis work very well (documenting processes, for example) and in others, a wiki dies after the novelty wears off. For the boomer who needs to make the shift in thinking, I recommend a personal use first: set up a Google Document or an Adobe buzzword file with a friend or relative to track something specific (such as a vacation plan). When you make the shift to shared online authorship, you'll appreciate not having to keep track of versions of a file on your hard drive and not having to attach files to emails to move them across the country.

Twittering and blogging are the short and long of posting news and thoughts to a public space. They surely now influence how we communicate every other way, too. Of high interest to me: how information that is blogged becomes part of a silent conversation that may never be mentioned in any other setting but nevertheless becomes part of a shared history with a friend or relative. Then, just to complicate the matter, the blogger may assume that information communicated electronically has been read and digested—while it hasn't been.

© 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

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