Elder Geeks Speak: Listening to Us Old People

Last week I looked into how we Elder Geeks could discuss careers, provide advice, and otherwise help the younger geek crowd career-wise. There’s a challenging series of gaps there, so I wanted to give the advice necessary to bridge those gaps.

Of course the flip side is that, no matter what we do, the other half of the equation are the younger people looking to us for wisdom. Yes, that’s a terrifying thought, but that’s the kind of situation we’re in – guess what old geeks, we are the experts.

But for the younger geeks, I also wanted to provide some advice – how to get the maximum amount of information from us. So here’s my advice for talking – and listening – to us when we get up and blather at conventions and such.

(It may also give ideas about how to arrange events and such).

Listen To Histories

Not all the stories or advice elder geeks say or give you is applicable. Times have changed. Economies have changed (or become smoldering ruins). What worked for us may not work for you.

However one thing we aged Geeks do have is a sense of history, and that is something that is invaluable. We can explain whys, hows, and whats because we were there, sometimes over a disturbingly long span of time.

This can provide you with:

  • A good understanding of today’s situations and how we got there – useful for understanding fine details and trends.
  • An idea of things you should learn bout historically, both to understand trends but also to use in interviews or research.
  • You can notice trends and patterns that you can put to use. History has its cycles.
  • You can glean good cause-and-effect information.

Ask Questions

Look, we Elder Geeks have a lot to share because we’ve been through a lot. We’re going to try to get specific at times, but we’re not you. So at times we need some directions.

So ask us questions about things.

This helps us direct our answers and understand where you’re coming from. We might not always understand what you’re looking for because the issues of economics and careers get pretty complex. We’ll try, but a few questions help.

I’d try:

  • Making questions as specific as possible. This helps us direct the answers properly (or know when we don’t have them).
  • Also look for answers as specific as possible. It’ll help you and provide direction.

These questions also really help us figure out what to talk about and include in our next presentations.

Look For And Ask About Universals

As I noted last post we Elder Geeks need to provide universals. If you’re listening to us, it helps to listen for universal lessons (those applicable in many cases), and asking about them.

Universal lessons are very important because, well, they’re universal. Realizing what’s important and applicable to your career in many/most situations is important for obvious reasons. It also gives you lessons you can teach others when you’re one of we older nerds.

Try this:

  • Ask for universal advice if the advice you’re hearing is too specific or not applicable.
  • If someone presents universal advice, it may help to ask for a recap.

Admit Ignorance

Remember when I mentioned Elder Geeks should admit ignorance? So should you.

See, it’s easy for people who are providing advice to think you get it or understand it. It happens. it can happen a lot, frankly, as I’ve learned. So now and then you have to admit you don’t get something or understand something.

This helps Elder Geeks provide information, clarify what they said, and learn about people’s knowledge gaps. That lets them get better at this.

Ask How You Can Help

Remember when I suggested Elder Geeks should ask what you need? You should ask them how you can help advise and assist others.

We’re usually bursting with ideas for things like that, and once you ask us it’ll be hard to shut us up. Sometimes harder at any rate.

This’ll give you plenty of ideas of what to do now and in the future. As I noted, you’ll be one of us one day . .

Give Feedback

I’ve suggested here that you should give feedback, so I’ll call it out specifically: give us feedback. As much as you can. As detailed as you can. With suggestions.

Sharing your knowledge with others isn’t always easy, and the feedback helps. It gives us ways to improve, lets us know what worked, and lets us know what didn’t.

You’re the one we’re trying to help. We need to know how to do it better!

I hope this helps you younger geeks get the most out of we Elder Geeks.

– Steven Savage