My tie to this story and his life? For the last 6-8 years of my radio consulting business did not evolve. I stayed with the same message, the same ideas, and the same approach that had proved so successful for me through the 1980's into the mid 90's. Even though my industry had changed dramatically, I stopped learning and listening. I didn't change my message or my methods. As a result, my business slowly slipped away until, in the same year that George Harrison died, I found myself faced with retirement, several years before I would have felt financially more secure. I had been passed by. I had stopped changing and found my approach irrelevant.
This post got me thinking about how to stay relevant in the workplace. My company has lost several employees this year to early retirement. When asked why they were leaving, they all responded the same way; their jobs were too stressful and they felt they couldn’t keep up with the changing technology. They weren't forced to retire, but I did hear grumblings about them and their failure to embrace change in meetings. Some managers had recommended phasing these employees out. Fortunately, other managers knew their value and protected them.
How do you know you are becoming irrelevant?
You still use the fax machine:
Last week during a meeting with our bank’s relationship manager, she recommended we stop receiving wire confirmations via fax. This service was costing our company $15 per fax while an email confirmation was free. This led to a conversation about how the fax machine was obsolete, expensive, inefficient etc. Our bank account manager has even contemplated removing his fax number from his business card. He only gets a couple of faxes a month and they are credit confirmations. I immediately knew why this was happening. His clients hadn’t updated their credit reference sheet which still listed fax numbers. (I may be one of them).
My former employee who despised and fought change with a passion was the only employee in our department to still use the fax machine on a regular basis. Every time I walked past the fax machine I’d pick up her faxes then drop them off at her desk. Her replacement refuses to use the fax machine. She also dislikes voice mail and instructs almost everyone who calls her to email her in the future.
You can’t find files after you save them:
Recently my company transferred our computer's data to a new server. During the process our IT manager complained about one of our employees, “She never takes classes to improve her skills or learn better ways to do her job.” His gripe: she didn’t know how to use windows and hadn’t been saving her Microsoft files to the server. I knew right away what she was doing wrong, since I used to do the same thing. When saving files that had been emailed to her she just hit save rather than moving the files to her documents folder and then saving them. My former employee from above used to do the same thing and I and my co-workers were constantly helping her find her files.
After this conversation I suggested our outside computer consultant conduct a class on windows for our administrative staff. He wasn’t keen on the idea saying everyone younger than 45 would be bored. Since most of the employees that struggled with windows have now left the company, this class is now on hold.
If you struggle with windows I suggest you take a class. They offer them at most tech schools, also some libraries and employment agencies offer them at minimal cost or for free.
You are still using the original version of your company’s software; new employees are no longer trained on this software and it doesn’t have the latest software enhancements.
All of the employees who retired early were using the old, outdated version of our company’s software.
You don’t know how to use pivot tables in excel:
A few weeks ago one of my gym buddies, who works in health care, approached me at the gym to tell me she had started using pivot tables and that she loves them. “Hmm… pivot tables doesn’t that have something to do with graphing.” She told me this knowing I’m an accountant and assuming I used them. I said something like great! Then went back to my workout. Afterwards I found an 8-hour class offered by my professional organization on pivot tables and considered signing up, but it is offered the same day as my scheduled doctor’s appointment. You know what a hassle it is to reschedule doctor's appointments, so I didn't sign-up. Someday my department will be filled with 25-year olds whispering behind my back, “She doesn’t know how to use pivot tables.”
Speaking of irrelevant, I still have blogspot in my blog’s URL:
How long have I been blogging? Too long to not have my own domain name. I have an excuse though – I want a domain I can continue to grow and work with throughout the remainder of my blogging career. This year I’m trying out different topics other than work and careers to see what I am comfortable with. With this post – on relevancy – I feel I’m one step closer.
How do you stay relevant?