TAO Self-help

Title:New Career Success Requirement and Responsibility: Stay Current

Author:Susan P. Joyce, © 2016 All rights reserved

Date:January 2016


If you are over 30 years old, you know that many things around you have changed substantially since you were young(er). And, if you are paying attention, you know that the velocity of change has increased dramatically in the last few years.

Change Is Everywhere; Technology Is Everywhere

MUCH is new in our personal environments today! From how we communicate with friends and family 5 minutes or 5,000 miles away to how we shop for, evaluate, and purchase essentials (and non-essentials) for our lives and for holiday gifts, we have new processes and information available to us.

Data for seasonal hiring in 2015 is very telling about the major changes happening in something as basic and essential as shopping:

  • Amazon.com was the national employer in the USA hiring the most seasonal workers for 2015. Amazon had 100,000 jobs open in the Amazon package distribution facilities scattered across the country.
  • UPS filled the next largest number of seasonal jobs at 95,000, also for distribution and delivery of holiday packages.
  • National retailer Macy's came in 3rd with "only" 85,000 seasonal jobs to be filled.

2015 was the first year that employers who were filling shipping-related seasonal jobs were at the top of the list of seasonal employers. The impact of technology on the holidays is obvious, and will become more clear in the future. (For more details on 2015 seasonal hiring, read 755 Holiday Seasonal Jobs Open on our sister site, Job-Hunt.org.)

Saying Up-to-Date Is NOT Optional Now

Are you up-to-date? Are you comfortable using the technology required by most employers for your job? Are you paying attention to the technology that is impacting your industry and profession? Don't assume that someone is watching over you, ensuring that you are staying current.

Two Sad Examples of Why Staying Up-to-Date Is Required and Your Personal Problem

Here are two real-life examples of job seekers I know who ignored the reality around them:

  • The administrative assistant worked for 20 years in a dentist's office, taking care of the dentist's administrative work, from acting as his receptionist and scheduling appointments to bookkeeping and payment processing. The dentist did not automate the process, so she used a typewriter, adding machine, and paper spreadsheets for her work. Then, the dentist retired, so she was laid off in 2014 — at 38. She didn't own a personal computer and had no idea how to use Microsoft Office, email, or any other "current technology" taken for granted by most of us. Her employer operated an out-of-date business, and she was out-of-date, too.
  • The printer was a key employee at a small printer/copy center serving a small community. For several years, the business shrank, steadily laying off staff. Finally, in early 2015, the business closed. At 50, after working for 30 years as an offset printer, the man was out of work, highly skilled and experienced in a field that has largely disappeared. His employer ran an out-of-date business that ended, and he was out-of-date, too.

Unfortunately, these two people are not exceptional. These sad stories are too common.

As long as they had jobs, even in old-fashioned businesses, they didn't worry about their future or keeping their skills current for the job market. Their employers didn't train them to use newer technologies, and they didn't recognize that the world around them was changing so dramatically.

But, when those businesses ended, those careers ended, too, and these two people were completely unprepared for the current job market — a very large handicap!

Getting Up-to-Date Is EASY Now

If you are reading this blog, you are familiar with how the Internet works. Presumably you also use email, and understand basic word processing and spreadsheet software. Today, that understanding is a minimum!

Whether you are employed or unemployed, taking personal responsibility for your own skills and knowledge is no longer optional. Few employers invest in their staff these days because, on average, people change employers every 4 years.

Even if you have been unemployed for 2 years (maybe, especially if you have been unemployed for an extended period), employers need to see proof that you are up-to-date. BTW, being employed doesn't prove you have current skills and knowledge, either. So everyone in a job search or who is trying to manage their career needs to be demonstrably up-to-date.

Know What's Happening in Your Field

Being well-informed is not optional now. Fortunately, while technology may be the villain in this situation, it is also probably your best way to pay attention to what is happening around you:

  • Set up Google Alerts on key terms, like your employer's products or services, your employer's competitors, your industry, and your profession, the "thought leaders" in your field or industry, etc.
  • Attend "virtual" or live (if you can afford it) professional/industry conferences.
  • Monitor news and new developments in your field (again Google Alerts can be very helpful).
  • Use LinkedIn to track the thought leaders in your field and industry to see what they are doing, saying, writing. "Follow" them, and monitor their updates.

What are your employer's competitors doing? How is technology impacting your employer's business?

Take Control of Your Professional Training

This is easier to do now than it has ever been in the past. Knowing what is happening in your field and industry (above) shows you what you need to become more informed about.

More than ever before, amazing training and education are now available to anyone, any time as long as you have a good connection to the Internet.

Check out the online learning venues to learn about the new technology and techniques impacting your field or industry:

  • MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) covers a wide variety of classes, usually for free or very low cost (for certifications) from many different schools.
  • edX provides free online courses from the world's top schools, like MIT and Harvard.
  • If you need the basics of math, science, and computers, KhanAcademy.org provides it at a high school (or lower) level.
  • The technology courses provided by Lynda.com are now also available through LinkedIn.com (LinkedIn purchased Lynda in mid-2015).
  • Many other sources of online education exist. Just check your favorite search engine to find them.

Today, none of us really has a good excuse for not staying current with our field and industry. Technology is causing the changes, but also making it easier to stay up to date.

More About Modern Careers:

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. Susan is a two-time layoff "graduate" who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. In 2011, NETability purchased WorkCoachCafe.com, and Susan has been editor and publisher of WorkCoach since then. Susan also edits and publishes Job-Hunt.org, is a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and a columnist on HuffingtonPost. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.

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