While thinking about this week’s column, I had occasion to mail a snapshot photo, taken of me at Mt. Lassen, to a friend. It was an actual physical picture, to be put into an actual physical envelope and delivered via the U.S. postal service. I began to write a short note of hello to include with the photo, but found I was soon giving family updates and reminiscing about how our mutual sets of children had grown up. It wasn’t long before this short note had turned into a full-on, old school letter. Remember those? The ones we used to send and receive so many moons ago? It felt good to participate in that old and cherished practice of writing a letter; a sweet reminder of a time gone by. And it reaffirmed for me that there are some practices I will continue to hang on to because I believe they have value, even if there are others who feel they are outdated, quaint or just too time-consuming.
With each passing year I am a year older. With each passing year my memories of the way things “used to be” become further out in the rearview mirror. With each passing year the world keeps rolling forward - without stopping - and I am given more and more choices about what I will hang on to, what I will modify, what I will add and what I will delete.
Some practices I’ve adopted have made necessary tasks easier and faster - like online bill paying. Boy do I love that! And some have added quality to my life, like the texts and pictures I’m able to share with loved ones, courtesy of my smart phone. Some things I know I will never adopt – such as scrolling through said smart phone while a living, breathing human being is trying to engage me in conversation. And some things I will hang on to forever, like singing along with the Moody Blues’ Tuesday Afternoon, cranked up loud on my car radio.
I hang on to old ways, I let go of old ways. It’s a mixed bag and that’s my privilege at this stage of life. But without question, there is one area where I have pretty consistently embraced new ways - and that is in the workplace.
Many years ago, now, I witnessed the advent of the digital age and its resulting impact in my place of employment. As a working woman, I saw firsthand how workplace adaptations through the 90s and 2000s transformed my office’s productivity. It was a fascinating journey and, being along for the ride, I was able to concurrently grow my own knowledge and skills.
When we talk about growth of knowledge or skills, we tend to think in terms of technology. But staying current does not necessarily mean it’s always about technology - for example, the tradesman who has learned to work with new equipment or implement new methods. Whether improved skills are around technology or not, staying current will make you more competitive as a job seeker. And if you’re already working, they will help you be a stronger performer. Sound good so far? Let me throw one more thing your way. Improved knowledge and skills can put you in a position, if you’re willing, to contribute ideas that can help solve your company’s problems in unique, new ways. And that, my friend, will make you very desirable in the eyes of your employer.
A Baby Boomer recently shared this story with me: Her workplace was discussing the tracking of client attendance at required workshops. The process they were using, done completely by paper, had become inefficient and burdensome. As the discussion dragged on about who/what/why/where/how the attendance lists should be managed and shared and tabulated, she thought outside the box and beyond the paper and suggested they implement an online check-in service. Not only would this track attendance, it could calculate totals and produce reports. Do you think her higher-ups valued this idea? Of course they did! And it never would have happened if she hadn’t been forward thinking.
Forward thinkers can visualize beyond not just the manual ways (we grew up with) of getting things done, but beyond even digital processes that are now seen as basic (such as email), and into higher and more creative uses of technology. But before they can think about those kinds of things, they must first be aware they exist. This requires eyes open, observing and learning about the ever-changing world around us.
If we haven’t learned anything else, we have learned one thing: the times, they are a-changing.’ Must we change with them? Truth be told, we don’t have to do anything. It’s all our own choice, and our own journey. And an interesting journey it is.
Cindy works as an employment development counselor and is a mother and grandmother. She has lived in Sonoma County for 28 years.