There is now such a vast array of technologies that are so integral to the world of work – whether you’re in a job or looking for one – that you can’t ignore them, or you risk not achieving the career progression or salary you could, or even getting the job you want in the first place.Even if you don’t work for a ‘technology company’ yet, it’s highly likely that you soon will be, as even non-tech companies increasingly employ hi-tech solutions to improve productivity or simply to survive in what are increasingly competitive global markets.
What it means for you, is that acquiring the skills needed to feel comfortable in a tech-driven working environment isn’t a luxury, but essential for long-term career success.
However, given the pace of change, it would be unsurprising if you felt ill-equipped and overwhelmed by it, and you wouldn’t be alone. In a recent survey by online skills provider Udemy, over half of respondents said they felt they lacked the skills to do their current job, let alone anything they might be called upon to do in future.
What’s more, according to The Economics of Skills Obsolescence (Research in Labor Economics), tech information decays at a rate of 30 percent a year, making nearly a third of what you knew last year irrelevant.
So how do you protect yourself when the organisational landscape is changing faster than ever, and particularly if you are a dedicated technophobe?
Trying to keep up with new technologies can seem confusing and chaotic, so it’s important that you aim for a structured approach to your technological education. One way is to look for skills frameworks, created for different industries, as a way to benchmark your progress. For instance, for those who actually work in IT, there is the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) http://www.sfia-online.org/en.
But don’t worry if a skills framework for your particular sector doesn’t yet exist – there’s no reason you can’t use frameworks from different industries, as many of the same concepts will apply.
Finding a mentor or coach could also prove invaluable in helping you decide how best to navigate your way through the plethora of new technologies. With their extensive experience, they’re able to offer a ‘helicopter’ view of your industry and help ensure you focus on those technologies that will make a difference, rather than wasting effort on transient ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ ones.
While knowing something about many things will give you a broad base, not being able to achieve anything with your knowledge accomplishes little. So you should look to build in-depth knowledge in one or two key areas that you know will help you bridge the gap between management and technology. However, don’t get too absorbed with current technology, and try to look one or two steps ahead. Better to really know the technology that you will need next year, rather than just knowing what’s needed today.
In today’s job market, if you want to differentiate yourself, as well as demonstrate expertise, you need to stand out. In what is now a global job market, you will be up against candidates from around the world with a strong résumé and skills, so you need to say more than ‘here I am’ to potential employers. You need to demonstrate how you can help their business.
Consequently, many successful candidates are now taking the time to create and develop their own personal website, blog and even YouTube channel where they can demonstrate to recruiters their depth and range of knowledge and experience to an extent that just isn’t possible using traditional job hunting techniques.
The real skill lies in knowing how to leverage available technology to your advantage. So you need to apply a wide range of different technologies to what you actually do on a daily basis, and see learning about technology as integral to your job, not as something separate from it. Not only will this make learning about new technology more personal and relevant, but it’s how you will see the greatest returns.
A good place to reboot your technology education is with your understanding of the tech you already use. You already have an insight into this and by investing a little more time and effort in getting to know what’s going on with it, you will probably find yourself reaping productivity dividends in no time at all.
And once you have properly learned the core principles and applications of the technology that’s already on your PC or Mac, you will find that many of the same principles are transferable to other programmes, making them easier to use.
Don’t leave it to others to take charge of your technology education. It’s your responsibility to find out what you need to know and to create your own education programme – find out what will help in your line of work, then start applying it.
For all the fear that it brings, for the most part, technology is just a tool, a means to an end and not an end in itself. So embrace it, and with just a little more knowledge you will soon feel much more competent and confident.
In an exceptionally dynamic twenty-first century, workplace adaptability is going to be key.