Having just returned back to the office from a week off, where I forced myself to tune out completely from the world of career and business affairs, I’m finding myself quickly scrambling to catch up on any critical news and market developments that I may have missed while I was out of town.  Honestly, about the only “current event” that crossed my radar this past week was news of Andy Murray winning Wimbledon.  Which was a pretty neat story, given how many years it’s been since an Englishman won the tournament on their home turf!

Catching up and keeping current on the news is no trivial matter, however.  If you’re a professional in today’s fast-moving marketplace, you need to embrace your obligation to remain plugged in and thoroughly up-to-date regarding trends and developments in your particular occupational niche.   And this obligation becomes amplified to an even greater degree if you’re currently looking for a new assignment, since the more information and industry gossip you have at your fingertips, the more prepared you’ll be to hold your own in interviews and networking conversations.

This begs the question, however.  What is the best way to consume a high volume of relevant professional information in the shortest period of time?

As I’ve discussed in past articles, I believe that “feed reader” tools are a critical component in accomplishing this goal.  These tools (which you can read more about here if you’re unfamiliar with them) allow you to build your own electronic reading list, of sorts, and then scan quickly through thousands of web articles, news feeds, and blog postings relevant to your field.  I’ve used this approach for nearly 10 years to follow information from over 100 different information sources throughout the web — ranging from top career bloggers to local news sources such as the Seattle Times and Puget Sound Business Journal — and I can’t recommend this approach enough in terms of the convenience it offers for taming a massive tangle of data scattered across the web.

Yet there’s a rub.  For those who may not have heard, the web’s most popular feed-reading tool, Google Reader, was decommissioned exactly a week ago.  The decision by Google to eliminate this tool as of July 1st threw millions of us for a loop who relied on this application, day in and day out, for staying abreast of all of our favorite data sources.  And while I won’t bother rehashing all the reasons that Google cited for making this decision, needless to say I’ve been among the huge crowd of folks out there who have been scrambling around trying to find the best feed-reading alternative, going forward.

As it turns out, there are literally dozens of different solutions and tools one could consider for this purpose, which you can read about in an exhaustive list here if you’re really interested.  Personally, though, I’ve narrowed down my own favorites to three specific tools — Feedly, Commafeed, and Digg Reader — all of which are quality choices which have developed a healthy following of G.R. refugees.  If you’re looking for a new reader tool, yourself, I’d recommend you experiment with them all and decide which one best fits your work style and aesthetic taste.  As for my own preferences?  I’ll confess that I’m leaning toward Digg Reader so far, especially if the powers-that-be at the site add one key feature  (as they’ve promised to do) that would automatically hide each of your various information sources once you’ve caught up to date on them.  With this feature added, I’ll be a happy camper, knowing that I can stick with the exact same process I’ve used for years to stay current on all manner of business and career information in only minutes a day.

Wrapping all of the above blather into three pieces of simple advice, I’d suggest:

1)  If you don’t already have a reading regimen in place for the purposes of professional development and/or job hunting, it’s definitely time you create one

2)  If you already make an effort to stay current in your field, but haven’t yet discovered the advantages of feed readers, commit to learning how to use them

3)  And lastly, if you’re already an old hand at reader tools, but have historically relied on Google Reader, like myself, try one of the above suggested alternatives

If any of my clients need a helping hand with any of the above steps, just holler and I’d be happy to assist further.  And one final piece of advice for those in category #3 above who have used Google Reader in the past — please note that Google is only giving users until July 15th to export their Google Reader settings to another system, as you’ll find discussed here, so if you miss this deadline, you’ll have to entirely rebuild your data source list!