It’s easy to look back at the “good ol’ days” of the workforce—when people scheduled meetings over the phone, took messages when someone was out of the office or simply filled out an application to apply for a job. You received raises and a promotion by staying loyal to the company and putting your work in. You clocked in at 9 a.m. and checked out at 5 p.m. However, because of technology in the workplace, these “good ol’ days” are gone.
We live in a different world today. We have technology and software that instantly connects us to our coworkers. Meetings, projects and deadlines are all filed in one place for all to see. An employee is expected to be somewhat available to talk work day or night, at home, at the office or while traveling. An online presence is now a must-have, no matter where you are in your career trajectory. If someone applies for a job with my company and doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile, I assume they’re out-of-touch or have something to hide—not the impression you want to give a potential employer.
And office communication isn’t the only thing that’s changed. Automation and artificial intelligence are improving and being integrated into our everyday in new ways all the time. Sure, this technology helps with the mundane tasks of the workday, but it also poses a threat to many jobs in the workforce. History gives evidence that when there is a major leap forward in technology, it hurts the economy in the short-term but benefits us in the long-run. It’s time to start considering what you are doing in your life to take on a posture of readiness and relevance.
How to Be Confident in the Midst of Change
There are different perspectives on the impact and ramifications of a radical shift in technology. SpaceX Founder Elon Musk has a more pessimistic view, believing humans are unprepared for the havoc that will be wrought by AI (Artificial Intelligence). Optimists like engineer and XPrize Foundation Founder Peter Diamandis believe AI will ring in an era of unprecedented opportunity and help create millions of new jobs. Then you have the folks in the middle, who think that the workforce will undoubtedly shift but that humans will ultimately benefit from the coming changes. The huge question marks we face can be unsettling. But here is what you can know for sure: you need to consistently keep your gaze fixed forward to a workplace that looks very different from the one you’re in now. The way to effectively do this is to stay competitive and educated in regard to these big changes.
Here are some ways to stay ahead of the technology curve:
1. Stay Educated
In comparison to the rest of the world, many U.S. education systems struggle to assist students as the workforce rapidly changes. This means that you alone are responsible for learning technology and keeping your skill set relevant.
I always recommend Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as a great way to get educated. Platforms such as EdX and Coursera offer free or affordable Ivy League-level courses in a wide range of subjects. Companies such as Google and Amazon are even partnering with these services to develop training programs and recruit very successful participants.
Know where the opportunity is. A certification in something like data analysis, coding, or programming is becoming the calling card in the new economy. Google executive Astro Teller predicted that most skills currently taught in colleges will be obsolete within a few years. A college degree is great, but when it comes to promotions and job opportunities, a candidate with continuing education has the advantage. Your degree from 20, 10, or even five years ago does not guarantee you a job.
Even if you’re enrolled in a degree program right now, consider supplementing your education with an MOOC. It will mean sacrifice now but will greatly benefit you when it’s time to apply for jobs. An employer who sees extra education understands that you take initiative, are knowledgeable in multiple fields, and have kept your skills sharp.
2. Know What You Have to Offer
If you haven’t already, it’s important to identify your professional strengths, whether those include software engineering, project management or creative initiatives. There are multiple StrengthsFinder resources online that can help you with this if you’re not sure what you’re specifically skilled in.
Once you know your strengths and skill set, look for where the needs are in the job economy. What do you have to offer companies that are trying to keep up with ever-changing times, technologies and consumer demands?
Pinpoint the place where your strengths intersect with the needs of the marketplace. This is the big area where you can market yourself and also the area in which you need to stay sharp. Bring well-rehearsed answers to your job interviews. Be able to articulate what you bring to the company, what problems you’ve identified and how you will help solve them.
You can bring these same answers to your current boss if you’re wanting to pursue a promotion or more responsibility. Volunteering for extra projects, initiating new ideas, and generally going above and beyond are great ways to prove your worth and show that you are engaged and ready to move forward.
Not only does knowing your value help make you a desirable job candidate and employee, but you’ll also experience increased satisfaction in your work. One of the big selling points of automation is that it’s freeing employees from the mundane, time-consuming tasks so they can invest themselves in more interesting, meaningful work. The clearer you are on your interests and strengths, the more ready you will be to take advantage of these tools.
3. Seek Out Someone You Can Learn From
A mentor is a powerful tool as you navigate the professional landscape. This kind of lifeline can help guide you to opportunities, strengths and passions you might otherwise miss, offer ideas when you’re trying to determine your next career move and provide valuable insight when you’re in a hard place. If you can find someone who has worked in your same industry, that’s even better.
Who in your life has a career path or success story you admire? Connect with those people and learn from them. What skills do they use now that they didn’t learn in college? What technological trends are they seeing in their field of work? What types of people are being hired? Let these answers guide you in your next steps. It’s hard to imagine anything more valuable than learning from someone who has already medaled in your sport.
Whether you’re a recent graduate just starting on your vocational path, or you’re a seasoned professional who wants to stay ahead in the changing workforce, you’ll benefit immensely from walking alongside someone you admire.
Your success story won’t happen by simply waiting for change to come and hoping you survive or make the cut. The people in our economy who thrive keep their heads up and their gaze fixed forward. Pay attention to what’s going on around you and the changes in your workplace. Don’t groan when you’re asked to learn something new or when you’re asked to change the way you’ve been doing something for years. Embrace the new stuff. Automation and artificial intelligence will bring unprecedented change to the workforce. By being proactive and equipping yourself with the right skills, you’ll be in a prime position to succeed and thrive no matter how your workplace and field evolve.
At Bonvera, we’re equipping our leaders and entrepreneurs to stay ahead of the technology curve with world-class training systems, books, speakers and resources. If you’re interested in our training and education, contact your Bonvera entrepreneur, and if you don’t yet have a Bonvera entrepreneur, contact a customer service consultant by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 316-260-2225.