Have you heard of the new tag on the Internet? It’s tl;dr – which is Web-speak for “too long; don’t read.” While it’s most often used to describe an article that challenges today’s gnat-like attention span, the critique actually reflects a much larger challenge. As one columnist recently described it in The New York Times, “The problem is one of limited time and energy meeting limitless content.”
We all know that we have to keep up with our professional reading, but in today’s high demand work environment, there’s never enough space to fit it in. As a result, it is, to use a pre-Web acronym, almost always OBE or “overtaken by events.” Like a New Year’s resolution, we start out with good intentions and then life – or rather work – gets in the way.
In the past, slighting your professional reading was no big deal. New ideas and developments arrived at a relatively leisurely pace, so you could get around to learning about them on the occasional business trip or long weekend. Today, however, they come and go in the workplace with the regularity of a heartbeat and ignoring them can put your career into cardiac arrest.
What’s required, therefore, is a new kind of career pacemaker. You see, the cause and effect of career cardiac arrest are one and the same. Employers no longer countenance obsolescence among their employees, yet it’s the workload of employers that forces their employees into obsolescence.
The only way to correct this irregular behavior is to explain the benefits of doing so in terms employers will appreciate. In their jargon, you have to make the “business case.” Employers routinely spend millions on technology because they understand what it can do for them. Now, you must use the same strategy for your professional reading.
Rather than using ethical arguments (it’s the right thing to do) or an HR rationale (it’ll improve your morale), acknowledge that including professional reading among the recognized tasks of your job is a corporate investment. It costs the company money (in terms of reduced or delayed output).
Then, like any good technology salesperson, focus on the return your employer will earn on that investment. Will it, for example, enable you to improve the quality of your performance or your productivity on-the-job or your ability to bring more creativity to your work? Whatever the benefit to the employer, emphasize that.
Of course, professional reading is just one aspect of your personal development, but with occupations evolving at warp speed, it can no longer be shoved aside with tl;dr, it must now be prioritized with lt;rd – “learn today; read daily.”
Thanks for reading,