Here is how to ensure your job skills are up to date
Do you feel like your work skills might be getting outdated as you head toward middle age? I do and I want to do something about it. I figured you do, too.
Even if you have been doing the same job for years, look around your workplace and you will notice that technology is bringing changes. It’s your responsibility to figure out how that affects your job and how to keep your work skills current.
Just yesterday, a real estate agent told me she doesn’t want to use the iPad her brokerage firm provided her to bring along when she shows homes. I urged her to reconsider. I told her she doesn’t want to be viewed as the person who resists technology.
As you get older, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of your professional game to remain marketable and keep your career on track. If you were to become unemployed — especially after 50 –you want and need to have the skills to compete for job openings. The average duration of unemployment for those age 55 and older in September was 42 weeks, which is more than nine weeks longer than the average younger person was out of work, according to U.S.News & World Report.
Here are some tips to keep your work skills current and ensure you are marketable now and in the future.
Learn the newest technology
In my occupation of journalism, reporters now use their phones to take notes, record interviews, take photos and create videos. They also use a variety of apps to help them do their jobs better. For a while, I stuck to my comfort zone — paper and pen — until I realized the disadvantage it put me in.
In most workplaces, new software, devices, and apps are regularly being introduced to improve work flow. Most younger workers are quick to embrace them. Food servers are using iPads to take orders. Dentists are using new machinery to take X rays. Lawyers are using new software programs to digitize filings.
If you want to keep work skills current, and keep up with changing employer expectations, you need to embrace the newest tools and use them to save the company and yourself time and money. It is pretty easy to get into the mindset that something is too hard to learn, or not really necessary. You are going to need to adopt a “can do” attitude.
Engage in online learning.
I get it. Some people aren’t comfortable learning on their computers or personal devices.
But guess what? To keep your work skills current, you MUST get comfortable.
More employers are moving toward interactive online training courses and even universities are moving toward online learning. As CindyKeepsUp noted in a prior post, there are several new digital learning methods.
Take small steps by using Lynda.com or YouTube to learn new skills. A friend taught herself web development through a Lynda.com tutorial. Whether you want to take better pictures, learn a new language or teach yourself to code, you can do it through an online course and the best part is you can do it in the privacy of your home.
Once you get comfortable with online learning, take on an assignment or project that allows you to put what you learned into practice. It’s a good way to let your boss or clients know you made the effort to keep your work skills current, particularly in continually changing fields.
Interact with coworkers.
This is sort of like spying or eavesdropping. It’s watching and learning.
A friend told me she learned how to use Outlook more efficiently by watching a co-worker during a team meeting. However, you have to put yourself in position to interact with other employees. You can do this by volunteering to work on an assignment with co-workers, coming up with team projects or leading a task force.
Once you are in position, take action. By watching how your co-workers handle tasks and how they use tools, you can pick up some new ways to do things. Did you just see your co-worker doing something cool on his phone? Ask him to show you how he just accessed that app or created that online file.
Another idea: Identify someone who is innovating in your company or industry and spend time with him or her to gain insight on where your field is headed. Another option is to follow him or her on social media and read any newsletters published.
Attend free workshops.
You would not believe how many local workshops are free. Yes, you read right. I said FREE.
Recently I went to a workshop sponsored by the local chapter of SCORE, an organization that offers free small business advice. The workshop taught me how to use LinkedIn for personal and business growth. In two-hours, I picked up some great tips that helped me optimize my LinkedIn page. SCORE is just one organization that hosts helpful, free or low-cost workshops. Professional associations often offer skill building workshops, too. The bonus from attending association workshops is the opportunity to also build your network with people you meet when you attend.
Read the work skills job descriptions in ads.
Have you done a skill review lately?
Some of us think we are doing what it takes to keep our work skills current — until we read the job ads in our field.
Try this strategy. Check job boards weekly to see what skills employers in your field want and whether you have them. In addition, Monster.com recommends you subscribe to newsletters, participate in discussions online and set up Google alerts for industry keywords so you can read the latest news and changes on the horizon. You may also find it useful to pay attention to the news and what customers and analysts are saying about your industry.
It takes effort to keep your work skills current but today’s workplaces demand it. In my guide to staying relevant, I reveal how doing so helps you remain employable, relate to younger customers, influence the next generation and protect your career.
Once you gain new skills, signal to the workplace you are prepared for new opportunities. The confidence you gain from keeping your skills sharp also will help you meet other challenges that life may bring.
Take this quiz
If you are uncertain whether you are falling behind, Ceridian Corp provides these five questions to ask yourself:
- Has your manager suggested, in a performance evaluation or elsewhere, that you
might benefit from gaining new skills or training related to your position?
- Have you failed to get (or decided not to apply for) promotions that would
require skills that you don’t have?
- Do you have skills that, if your job were eliminated, would enable you to qualify
for other positions in your company?
- Have you passed up any opportunities that your company offers to employees
who want to learn new skills (such as training or tuition-reimbursement
- Do you think that you might be able to provide better service to customers or
clients if you had more skills?
Did you answer yes to any of the questions above? If so, what strategies are you using to bring your work skills current? Do you ever feel your job security could be threatened by younger workers? Let’s hear from you in the comments below!