9 Ways to Learn from Younger Colleagues
There was a time when we thought the only people we could learn from were people who were older than us. It was a projection of our schooling. The teacher was older; the pupils were younger etc. With the advent of digital technology, that began to change and in the 1980s we came to hear about younger mentors who were able to teach older colleagues about stuff that only the young knew. They passed on information about computers, software, systems and so on. So here are some thoughts on how we can continue that process of learning from younger colleagues.
1. What do they have on board?
Young people learn very differently to the way that we do. Even when you look at people five years younger, you see changes in the way they learned the use of technology in their learning and you’re awestruck by the speed with which they are able to absorb information. Being inquisitive about that can help us learn a lot.
2. Watch how they communicate.
Again, technology plays a part here. Just notice how few younger people there are who use landlines for their telephones. Why use a landline when you have a mobile? A mobile is, by definition, with you all the time. The only reason you’d want a landline is because you have a weak mobile signal where you live, which still can be sorted out, or the landline comes with some sort of home media package that includes broadband and digital TV. Further than that is the way they communicate by voice. Compare it with the way they communicate by email, texting or instant messaging, Facebook etc. The way they communicate, in other words, is absolutely revolutionary.
3. The ease with which you use this technology.
The people who are from the older end of Generation X and older will remember the fear of pressing the wrong button on a keyboard and the risk of losing all their data. It seems crazy to think about that now, but it used to make us really anxious. What you notice about the young is that they are fearless. They know that anything that they have ‘input’ is rescuable. Data exists on anything that we do and therefore can be retrieved. And if that deepest level of fear and anxiety is taken away, then the ability to work with greater ease in every aspect of technology, including using new applications and doing everything at speed, becomes second nature.
4. How data is used?
There was a time when we used to worry about data protection and confidentiality. Of course, we still must, because of reform and loads of data protection legislation. What we’re talking about here is the free use and speed of movement of data that is now allowed to happen. I can finish work on a beautiful summer’s evening and use my phone to post on Facebook as I leave the office that I’m going to have a barbeque party I only started thinking about 30 seconds ago. By the time I’ve got home and climbed into my T-shirt and shorts, my friends have already started arriving and they didn’t even realise that we were on for this party at the last minute. This is about understanding ease of transmission, and the speed and alacrity with which data can be used both personally and professionally.
5. How do young people file?
Those of us brought up in paper based office systems had a filing cabinet or physical space into which files went. But for those of us who’ve moved to using computer technology, it’s not a similar sort of structure, not in the way we think of anyway. You speak to a younger person and you’ll find that they have a completely different approach to how they file and how they access their data. We can learn something new from that.
6. How they search?
Pretty much all of us understand what Google is and what it can do for us. But the younger person will take you to places with shortcuts that you would never have imagined existed and will find their way to interesting places of exploration. Remember, they are consumers of this new environment. Those of us who adopted it later will be playing catch-up.
7. How do they buy?
If you ask somebody how to get hold of a product or service and then ask a much younger person the same question, don’t be surprised if you get a very different answer. Go through a number of clicks and not only will you find what you want quickly but you’ll also discover a range of options around price points, delivery and extras. The more pedestrian folk, on the other hand, are going to take longer, buy less, and take longer to agonise over the decision. Yes, the young have been brought up in a more consumer orientated world but this is about their approach to buying, which is the most interesting thing about modern day consumerism.
8. And how do youngsters dress?
When was the last time you saw the majority of young people carrying work-related bags to work and why is it they don’t seem to wear anything other than their smart clothes or jeans or T-shirts or whatever it is they need on their back? The only pieces of luggage that matter to them are electronic devices and other items that are compact enough to be put in their pocket. If you don’t have to worry about accoutrements, the way you think about how you dress and what you carry with you changes.
9. How do they work?
In summary, young colleagues treat their technology as the utility that it is. It’s nothing more than a tool to be able to do things effectively as well as efficiently at speed. Everything is done at speed and even when errors are made it doesn’t matter because you can go and do it again. Anything you do now can be built in hours’ time or some time in the future. The attitude and approach and freedom of thinking this gives younger folk is quite significant when it comes to the professional workplace, so why wouldn’t you want to learn from younger colleagues?
By Position Ignition (www.positionignition.com) and the Career Ignition Club (www.careerignitionclub.com), the UK’s leading career change and career development company and platform. Also the author of 125 LinkedIn Job Search Tips (http://www.positionignition.com/100-linkedin-job-search-tips). Follow @PosIgnition for more help with your career challenges.