Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Greg Shove, Founder and CEO of SocialChorus, to discuss social advocacy. However, the conversation took an interesting turn when I asked him to dive deeper into the subject of professional relevancy.

We were at The Social Shake-Up Conference in Atlanta, hosted by Social Media Today, and at the start of our interview, I had an eager question for Greg.  I am aware that he meets regularly with friends and peers to discuss how to stay relevant in a business world where your skill set is overhauled every 3-5 years, and I wanted his opinion. This is something I think about often, and I am frankly puzzled why more Gen X’ers are not more conscious of this, let alone concerned.

Greg’s response:

“I think that generation, whatever you want to call them, is at extreme risk to be made professionally less relevant. To have an income expectation that is driven by what they think is a lot of experience, but less relevant skills, and they'll get caught sooner than they think by 30-somethings that will do that job for less, and I think be more relevant with current tools and technology.”

“I think it's a big issue, and I'm fascinated by it. I'm fascinated with how do you train people, how do you help people to be self-reliant?"

Enter the much talked about concept of self-branding.

Companies are not the big saving grace anymore. There is no loyalty. There is no long term expectation that if you work for a company long enough, they will take care of you.

Gen X has to be careful because their parents were of the mindset that you work really hard in life, and then you get to retire, as if the big point of it all is to quit in the end and relax.  And Gen X still holds some of that expectation of, “Well at some point shouldn’t I be able to relax?”

More than ever before, it is critical that each individual uses these digital tools to brand themselves and establish their own digital professional identity that stands alone, that they can take with them wherever they go. This self-brand should be a direct reflection of your validity through your up to date skill set, your cutting edge knowledge, presence and level of influence in the new media landscape, that forges the path for the future of business.

The thing is, we are living in a world of such rapid growth and evolution of technology, that we cannot allow ourselves to think in old ways. We have to be in a constant state of growing and learning in order to survive and transition with each step of this new growth path.

Here’s the great part though – this stuff is FASCINATING! Maybe it is just a reflection of my sci-fi, techie-girl heart, but I feel so incredibly lucky to be a part of a world that is rapidly evolving into something so fundamentally different from anything mankind has experienced before. When I bought my first smart phone, instantly, I started to refer to it as my “life assistant.” I couldn’t imagine living without it. I viewed being “always on” as an enhancement to life, not a threat or a burden. Augmented reality is a term that makes me feel excited for what's to come. And real-time interaction through social media has become a natural way to share your life with friends and loved ones with whom you wouldn’t have time to remain as close to otherwise. Digital media has made the world smaller and our hearts bigger.

Brian Solis, in his book, What's the Future of Business, refers this phenomenon as Generation C – the connected generation. It includes any age range that has embraced digital media and technology with the same passion and fused behavior as those natively raised up in it.

Millennials, and the “Always On” generation just under them, are synthesized with this technology. Their brains are developing differently. Generations X and above are charged with the task of rewiring their brains to handle the level of open mindedness that comes with letting go of fear, hesitation, and complacency, and embracing the change that is required of all of us who want to maintain professional and personal significance in the years to come.

Do you feel you are relevant in today's business world?  ... Tomorrow's? ... What about five years from now?

What measures do you think people should be taking to safeguard their positioning in the future of business?

One concept that Greg and I discussed is how employee advocacy programs have the added benefit of keeping employees current with the new media landscape by involving them directly in this evolution of change.  I will be delving into this approach more thoroughly in a future article.

These are all ideas that require immediate consideration. Are you concerned? Are you prepared?  You should be.