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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

The Career Boosting Tool You’re Probably Not Using

Some of you may, like me, be avid RSS users, missing the days of Google Reader greatly. This post is for the rest of you—those of you who aren’t familiar with RSS feeds or think that they’re a thing of the past.

Here’s why they’re more than worth your time—and how to get started today.

First Things First, What is RSS?

RSS originally stood for Rich Site Summary, though it’s more commonly dubbed Really Simple Syndication. Naming conventions aside, it’s a simple tool that allows any site on the web to push out a feed of its content to subscribers whenever a piece of content is published.

I’ve been using RSS feeds for years, and they quickly replaced my morning ritual of checking my five or so favorite sites to see what was new. Rather than check a site only to find that there were no updates—or miss articles because I didn’t check a site for a few days—my RSS reader holds all of the content I’m interested in until I’m ready to check it out. If you’re a frequent reader of The Daily Muse, for example, our feed would deliver all of our new articles to your RSS reader, where they would be waiting until you’re ready to read.

How RSS Feeds Can Help Your Career

1. Streamlining Your News Aggregation

RSS feeds can help you stay up to date on current news and events while compartmentalizing your sources by topic. Start by following your favorite publications and industry sites. If you get to more than 10, it may be worth grouping them by theme to make your reader easier to navigate. The bonus for me has been that I can quickly jump to content that suits my mood—I have sources grouped by news, design, product, productivity, startups, photo, and just for fun.

2. Strengthening Your Networks

If any of your friends, business contacts, or colleagues have blogs, RSS readers are also a perfect way to follow them. You’ll no longer need to check if there’s a new post—because it’ll come directly to you. You then get a chance to read and engage with that content, and even share their work via your social networks. It’s a great way to deepen a relationship from afar—as anyone with a blog knows, having someone follow, share, and support your writing is always appreciated.

3. Making You the Go-To Expert

Finally, one of my favorite tricks of RSS readers is pairing them with Google alerts. If you’re working with a specific client, keeping an eye on a competitor, or want to be the first to know about a new technology, you can set up a Google alert to let you know any time that word or series of words is mentioned in the news. Rather than having those updates delivered to your (already overflowing) inbox, you can send the alerts to your RSS reader. Then, whenever you have free time, you can check up on your alerts along with the rest of your news.

A former colleague of mine back in the consulting days used this to his advantage with the higher-ups: He’d comb through his alerts and share only the very best pieces with the larger team, including the partners. Soon, they started looking to him as an expert, just thanks to a handy Google alert.

OK, So How Do I Use It?

To benefit from RSS feeds, all you need to do is pick an RSS reader. Every since Google Reader’s sunset, my personal favorite has been Feedly, since it offers a free version with all the functionality a casual RSS user would need, and it’s easy to use. Social Media Impact has a good tutorial on getting started with Feedly.

Tell us in the comments, how do you use your RSS reader to further your career?

Photo of person reading courtesy of Shutterstock.