Friday, January 20, 2012

Ad guys at Coffee Shop Career Roundtable

So, I find myself in a coffee shop bonding with a couple of ad guys who, like me, are clinging to old school conventions. Our careers are close enough to a generation of baby boomers. We remember a different time and place in the world of work. We each have core skills that are still relevant (we believe). We tell each other, “It takes a lifetime to obtain wisdom. Experiences gives you substance to draw from as you consider managing people, projects and situations. We are seasoned professionals. We’ve paid our dues and earned our stripes."

We are seasoned professionals. (Sure, that and five bucks will get you a specialty coffee.) The three of us are perceptive enough to see our career paths changing the course of our own futures.  We understand full well that we need to adapt if we are to offer value in business down the road.

My son is 25 years old. He and his fiancĂ© are part the future. He is a financial analyst and she is an account manager for a top public relations agency. The irony is that they are part of the twenty-somethings now competing with us for opportunities. They are not the enemy. They are kids. The scary (and maybe obvious) thing is that they are so much better prepared for the shock and pace of change.   

Over coffee, in this bee-hive of virtual business meetings, we are sharing ideas about how to best shape our personal brands. We each reflect on our career journey. As marketers, we are going to have to figure out a way to cram our big stories into sound bites that will be short enough to work in an “elevator speech” or maybe in 140 characters in a Tweet. And it better be smart, relevant and viable because no one has an attention-span anymore (regardless of age).   

I love the fact that the world is full of possibilities for those kids. At the same time I don’t mind telling you that I am terrified. I need the reassurance of my network and friends to assure me that I won’t be overwhelmed. It only takes the digital blinking of 12:00 on my microwave (after yet another blip of a power outage) to remind me that the future is now and I am not fully prepared.  

In my fearful frame of mind I dream up scenarios. Yikes, pretty soon we’ll be making a case for knowledge leadership as a direct result of personal experience and we might hear something as inane as “Yeah sure, but there are apps for that!" When that time comes, I hope those kids will be nice to us.

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