At my former job as a corporate writer and editor, I was a 57-year old navigating in a sea of Millennials. Like Robert De Niro’s character in The Intern, I felt I’d been thrust into a universe of social media addicts. Now that I’m a boomer job seeker, panic has come over me: How am I going to keep up with this new technology-crazed workplace?
A little background: When I came on board my company a decade ago, I was one of the youngest in a department of seasoned staffers. It was a wildly successful, Connecticut enterprise offering a generous pension and opportunities to develop. Over time, my responsibilities changed, as did some of my colleagues. As flocks of younger associates arrived, things were different.
This new generation ushered in a vibe generated by electronic devices they monitored relentlessly for work and play. Me? I was adrift. I still had dozens of unanswered Facebook friend requests and LinkedIn invitations clogging my inbox. And because my emails were detailed missives, I wondered how I could limit my character count to comply with Twitter directives.
I’m not a Luddite. Although I grew up in the era of fax machines and VHS tapes, I’m not stuck there.
Not a Luddite
Don’t get me wrong: I loved technology. Still do. In past work lives, I managed corporate databases and developed websites. But this wired world was a fast-paced frontier with a foreign language (to me) that included “likes,” “posts” and “pins” on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social media.
I’m not a Luddite. Although I grew up in the era of fax machines and VHS tapes, I’m not stuck there. Long ago, I traded in a flip phone for my beloved iPhone. And I established a Facebook account, if only to monitor my kids’ online adventures and ensure they didn’t get sucked into any virtual hijinks.
But I can’t keep up.
According to a recent Nielsen study, almost two-thirds of “Tweeters” and “Likers” say they use media sites at least once a day via their laptops. They’re also increasingly reaching for their smartphones to access social networks. These days, users — mostly young — engage with online media more than 60 hours per week.
Angry at Millennials at Work
At my former job, I was a little angry the Millennials had changed my beloved workplace so much that I’d been behind.
Our open workspace buzzed with quick-paced exchanges. While I checked my retirement account on the Internet, my younger colleagues were swiftly firing off tweets. Coming back to my desk one day at lunch, I saw them tied to their mobile devices for the latest Dancing with the Stars and Married at First Sight updates, as well as investigating what Kim and Khloe were plotting. At times it was hard to concentrate.
Meantime, our customers were loving being linked to us in so many ways. They now had a variety of message modes to choose from. In the old days, their choices were limited to phone or email.
2 Conclusions From a Boomer Job Seeker
So I’ve come to two conclusions:
First, employers should continue launching ways to help their older employees negotiate the new techno-reality. Similarly, they should keep sensitizing their younger coworkers to the needs and habits of their graying workmates.
Second, I needed to get rid of my anger and fear about the world we live in. Instead, as a prospective job applicant, I had to embrace the opportunities that social media and today’s technology offer.
One night at supper recently, my 20-year old son said excitedly, “Dad, you really need to start sharing your photos on Instagram!”
“He’s right, Dad,” my 19-year old daughter chimed in.
They’re both right.
So I’ve now dedicated myself to brush up on my electronic skills and become fluent in the new cyberspeak. This will not only be good for my career, it’ll help me to stay in touch with my kids.
My first task — replacing my outdated AOL address with a Gmail account. Maybe I’ll even try Snapchat.