In my recent post on the time-sucking dragon known as the social web, Jody Pirello offered some comments on how she keeps up with the latest trends. I think this is a critical career skill these days and I encouraged her to flesh it out into a post. It is our great fortune that she did — a MUST READ!  Here’s Jody:

I evolved into eMarketing differently than many of you probably did.  I started my career as a programmer.   As a developer I had to learn how to stay current, keep abreast of upcoming changes, and learn how to separate the here-to-stay from the gone-tomorrow. Those skills help me today, too.

Here are a few of the ways I do it (or at least, try to do it)

  1. Use downtime wisely - I’m amazed at all the little bits of time I have available – waiting for a conference call to start, waiting on late team members, or even standing in line at the post office.  My iPhone gets a workout during these times!
  2. Learn, always -  I work professional development into my every day life.  I watch video presentations while eating lunch, listen to podcasts during my  commute, and intentionally blur the line between professional and personal.  I’ll frequently have a conversation over drinks at the bar on a Friday night that translates into something I use Monday on the job.
  3. Cultivate a learning ecosystem - No matter how committed I am I just can’t do it all.  I rely on a set of friends and colleagues to broaden my knowledge.  I have a friend who knows all things mobile, a colleague who’s a whiz at CPG , and another friend who has a thing for twitter apps.  And hopefully I contribute to the mix with my web development and project management knowledge.
  4. Be selective - I can’t keep up with everything so I choose a set of problems, verticals and technologies to focus on.  This goes hand-in-hand with my learning ecosystem.
  5. Work portably - I’d be nowhere without tools and services that allow me to work effectively on my terms.  Two of my favorites are delicious and Google docs.  They’re hardly earth-shattering but they have a big impact on my productivity.  If I come across an article that I’m interested in but don’t have the time to read it right now, I add it to delicious.  Same thing goes if I’m at home and want to use a site while at work.  Google docs is great for enabling me to do my work wherever I may be.  I write most of my blog posts in google docs too, and its one-click sharing allows me to get input and feedback without needing to merge comments.
  6. Use my Google Foo - Knowing how to use search engines effectively is a must-have skill.  If you want to extend your Google knowledge or even just do a little brush up, take a look at Google’s search tips.   Don’t discount the less popular engines either – occasionally you can discover real gems by broadening to one of the others.
  7. Prioritize blog reading - I have “must read” and “daily read” categories in my RSS reader.  I’ve made it a rule to never do the dreaded “mark all read” to these folders.  I may not read them everyday (yep, sometimes I even get behind on the “daily read” folder) but I do make sure I read them all – usually by the end of the weekend.

I’ve outlined what works well for me – my working and learning styles.  The key has been to find tools and processes that I could adapt into my regular life without effort.  If I had to try too hard to make them work they’d be among the first to go when I was busy or tired or just feeling a bit lazy.

What works well for you?

Jody Pirrello is a web technologist specializing in project management methodologies, business analysis, and web analytics. She’s the VP of Technology at NetPlus Marketing in suburban Philadelphia and one half of the SocialCloudNow http://socialcloudnow.com/team.  Follow her on Twitter @jpirrello.

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