Sue Heuman

Sue Heuman

Principal at Focus Communications

Five Tips to Age-Proof Your Career

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Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be.

But, what age is your career?

This is not about lotions and potions for wrinkles; but rather, how to age-proof your career. How are you staying current with trends? How are you coping to create effective strategies in an environment that changes hourly?

Communications has never been easier and harder at the same time. Ostensibly, it’s easier because of the myriad of tools at our disposal. At the same time, it’s so much harder to get people’s attention than it’s ever been. I’m talking about solid, 100% attention, without distractions, competing messages, and interruptions by beeping devices.

Even mainstream media coverage doesn’t have the impact it used to. Back in the day, a headline and photo “above the fold” was all-powerful – good, or bad. It generated buzz and gave us topics that everyone talked about. Things like, “Say, did you see the front page today?” were common-place conversation starters.

news

Today, how many people are even familiar with the phrase “above the fold” and the implications associated with it? Consuming media is a 24/7 past-time, made easy by social media and news alerts. Moreover, individuals have the “edit” button: the ability to choose the news feeds they wish to receive. Care about the economy but not the football score? No problem. Want local-only news together with the latest celebrity hijinks? Okey doakey.

We have to compete even to get important, life-saving information to people. So how on earth do we get them the nice-to-know stuff?

This is where it’s important for communication professionals to stay current with the latest trends and research on what works, what doesn’t, and why. Those who still think positive mainstream media coverage is all that’s needed are soon disappointed when their audiences don’t recall their organization’s messaging.

I’m always amazed when I encounter communications professionals who aren’t on social media, don’t know how to use it, and haven’t updated their skill sets. (Good grief, I know companies that still fax!)

Who knows what new platform will emerge tomorrow? Will you be ready?

Here are the top five things you can do to age-proof your career:

  • Get some training, at least once a year. In-person, online – there are lots of opportunities.
  • Join IABC, CPRS or PRSA to help you stay current.
  • Stay interested in the profession by reading any of the remarkable websites available.
  • Find out what award-winning teams are doing to meet their communications objectives.
  • Find a mentor who has expertise in areas you don’t (and bust open convention, if appropriate, by engaging a younger person as your mentor).

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