10 tips to out-hip the hipsters

By Neil Patrick

It’s time for us to fight fire with fire. To stop being blindsided by youth’s purported technological superiority.

One of the most persistent and damaging beliefs held by employers is that older people are out of touch with modern technology. Often enough all they mean by this is that we don’t waste too much of our valuable time posting selfies on Facebook and playing Angry Birds on our mobile phones.

This surrogate ‘measure’ of technological prowess is an Achilles' heel for the young though and here’s why.

Young people are not more sophisticated users of social media than older folk. They are just more familiar with the platforms. And waste more time on them. I know. I see what they tweet about. And it’s mostly vacuous narcissistic drivel.

The most famous book on social engagement was written in 1936, by Dale Carnegie and it was called, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. Is it still relevant? You bet. And because of the rise of social media, I’d venture it is even more relevant today than when it was written.

Dale Carnegie 1888-1955 

If you think your career is just about being good at your job, you are operating in a vacuum. If no-one outside your immediate professional network knows anything about you, you are essentially invisible to the world. And that’s not a good place to be when for reasons beyond your control you are facing a career crisis.

Jobs are about getting stuff done. About influencing. About results. Social media can help you with all these things more than you’d ever believe.

But only if you know how to do it right.

And doing it right isn’t about copying the ‘yoof’.

Time and time again, I find that employers believe that older hires are not as good as younger ones because they believe we are out of touch with the digital world. There is some truth in this too. Older people often have concerns about privacy and this excessively constrains their online activity.

But because this transformation is so pivotal, we cannot run away from it. We have to embrace it and deal with the rough edges. Denial and avoidance are not an option if you want to remain employable in the 21st century.

The good news is that it’s actually not that hard to out-hip the hipsters… and here’s how you can do it.

So here are my top 10 hipster beating ideas for anyone over 40 (and many who are younger) to show that you are more hip than the hipsters and more importantly a good deal more employable.

Put your social media to work for you

Did you know that the average Twitter account has less than 200 followers? Build your Twitter following to over a thousand and straight away, you’ll be perceived differently. 

Make your public online presence mainly about the work you do

Hipsters love to talk about themselves. They can’t help but post selfies of themselves having fun. Don’t copy this. Use your social media to show you are a serious professional.

Spread across multiple platforms

Start at the centre and work out gradually. Don’t leap onto every social media platform at once. Start with the core and gradually expand from there. The core is Linkedin and Twitter. After you are established there, dependant on what you do, then you might want to expand to YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook. 

Get connected

Do not pester people to connect. Be nice to them and slowly but surely they will reciprocate. Share other people’s stuff. Comment constructively. Be nice to others and they will be nice to you. 

Make your voice heard

No-one loves bullies, show offs or big mouths. So don’t be one online. Be more interested in others than yourself and it will get you further and faster.
Build online goodwill

It’s funny, but online relationships are actually not much different to real world ones. Help others out and ask for nothing in return. Most will be so shocked and delighted they will remember you if not forever, then certainly for longer than if you ignored them 

Know your numbers

Look at who you consider to be your peers in your professional realm. And your role models. There’s your benchmark. If you have bigger numbers than they do, you are leading your race not struggling to catch up. 

Understand the digital landscape

You don’t need to be a coder or a web designer to do this. As platform algorithms become ever more sophisticated, they are learning how to reward good online behaviour and punish the bad. The meek really shall inherit the earth (provided they are not so meek no-one knows they exist).

Help people solve problems

Every day I am contacted by people many of whom I have never met or even communicated with before. They ask me to help them solve their business problems. I am not a charity yet I never ask them to pay anything for my advice. I place a greater value on their goodwill than I do on filling my pockets. Some would say this is foolish and unnecessarily altruistic. I say that goodwill is more valuable than mere money.
Be interesting

Yoof cannot help but try and show the world how beautiful, fun and affluent they are. And guess what, no-one cares*. Their social media role models are the rich and the famous. But yoof has not recognised that different rules apply to these people. For better or worse, fame changes the game.

People like and are interested in people who like and are interested in them. Not people who are mostly interested in themselves and trying to impress others.

The beauty of this strategy is that you’ll kill at least two birds with one stone. First you will learn a ton of stuff. Second, you will be able to prove that you are right up to date with the digital world and critically that you know how to use it to create real influence.

Hipsters watch out! You are about to be outsmarted by those you jeered at.

*A 2013 study of Facebook users found that posting photos of oneself correlates with lower levels of social support from and intimacy with Facebook friends (except for those marked as Close Friends). The lead author of the study said that "those who frequently post photographs on Facebook risk damaging real-life relationships."

Why admitting personal failure is sometimes the best thing to do

By Neil Patrick

We all screw up from time to time. We're human. We make mistakes. Admitting to our weaknesses is hard. Yet sometimes it really is the best thing we can do.

Yesterday the UK charity Kids Company was declared insolvent and shut its doors. The evening TV news was full of scenes of inner city children howling in disappointment.

The charity was set up on 1996 to provide extra care and support for kids from the most troubled and disadvantaged backgrounds in inner cities across the UK. It delivered this support through a network of street level centres, alternative education centres, therapy houses and over 40 schools.

Kids Company told the government that it would close its services on 5 August 2015 less than a week after receiving a government grant of £3m. Yet despite this massive cash injection, the charity was still insolvent. It had no alternative but to close.

This was a charity which had enjoyed the patronage of many of the UK’s most high profile people from David Cameron to wealthy celebrities. The cash simply poured into Kids Company. During its lifetime, it received more than £25 million from the government, and another £4.25 million in early 2015. Prince Charles praised it. The band Coldplay donated £8 million. Richard Branson, J.K. Rowling, Jemima Khan, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, John Lewis were all eager donors.

Kids Company’s founder and former Chief Executive Camila Batmanghelidjh was an archetype of the mantra that with passion we can achieve anything. Her motives, commitment and compassion are not in doubt. Neither is her ability to gain personal influence and profile. She became a brand.

Camila Batmanghelidjh in 2008
Credit: Garry Knight
Recognition and accolades flooded in. According to Wikipedia:

In 2009 Batmanghelidjh was named Businesswoman of the Year by the Dods and Scottish Widows Women in Public Life Awards. She has also received Ernst and Young's Social Entrepreneur of the Year award (2006), Third Sector Magazine's Most Admired Chief Executive (2007) and the Centre for Social Justice's lifetime achievement award in 2009. Batmanghelidjh has been awarded received honorary degrees and doctorates by several universities including York St John University, the Open University and Nottingham Trent University. In February 2013, she was named one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4. In the same month, she was appointed an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to children and young people. In September 2014 she became an Honorary Fellow of UCL.

Some, notably senior civil servants, said she had also become untouchable and that the charity’s financial affairs were not well managed. When the continuation of government funding was made conditional on her stepping down from the role of Chief Executive early this year, her reaction was to play her trump card. She called David Cameron and asked him to overrule the demand. Which he did.

Yet the critics wouldn’t be silenced. There were reports from former employees that the charity was simply handing cash over to children. That its statistics about the real numbers of children it helped were exaggerated. That its management accounts were inadequately transparent.

These allegations were fiercely rebutted with all the passion Batmanghelidjh is renowned for. Yet no amount of rhetoric and robust defence could alter the fact that Kids Company was a financial train wreck.

Kids Company would never have existed were it not for the passion, work and talents of Batmanghelidjh. But here is a classic example of how these things alone and even the patronage of the most influential people in the land do not make us untouchable or able to sidestep the requirement for money to be properly managed. Especially when it is not our own.

Leaders must recognise their own strengths and weaknesses and if they are not so good at some things, make sure they delegate the responsibility to someone who is.

Batmanghelidjh is unrepentant. She blames civil servants and the media for her troubles. She seems unable to accept the reality that her personal credibility is at stake unless she accepts responsibility.

Sadly she has so far failed this real test of leadership. A true leader accepts that everything which happens on their watch is their responsibility and blaming others regardless of their failings can only reflect badly on us.

Such a simple gesture of humility and responsibility is what’s called for now if Batmanghelidjh wishes to be remembered as an innovative philanthropic entrepreneur, rather than a failed charity CEO.