7 ways to keep your skills current

It is no secret to anyone that the rate of change in the world is accelerating. We experience it every day in all areas of life. In some areas we’re already seeing the disruptors of five years ago become disrupted themselves.

It can be interesting, exciting, even fun when disruption happens in the technology we use in everyday life. There’s an app for that! has become a catch cry symbolising ease, fun and satisfaction. Who doesn’t love easy carpooling, simplified bill payments or a mind-blowing choice of online shopping options delivered right to your front door?

But how does the acceleration of change feel when it comes to our jobs?  The source of income, social interaction, identity, esteem and more? The end goal many of us have worked hard to achieve. Years of study followed by more years of working our way through the ranks.

Feeling the accelerating rate of change snapping at our professional heels often feels a lot less fun than the change snapping at our online shopping experience.

In the career context change can feel unsettling at best, threatening at worst. The realisation that most of us can become redundant in any given quarter will strike most of us at some stage of our careers. As organisations evolve and transform to stay relevant in the digital era, skills and talent demands are shifting. Few companies have either the deep pockets required to re-train an entire staff, or the time in which to do it. Its faster and more economical to restructure. Fresh talent bringing new ideas and perspectives healthily challenges the status quo in one fell swoop.

Employees who don’t put the energy into keeping their skills relevant are at greater risk to joining the redundancy queue.

So with all this change in the world and workplace and a daily time deficit, how is it possible to stay relevant to your business and industry?

Learning, clearly.  

The adage you can’t teach an old dog new tricks no longer applies. In this era you can absolutely teach an old dog new tricks. If you’re an old dog, make it your business to learn new tricks. If you’re a young dog, make it your business to learn new tricks. If you’re human, and not a dog at all, adopt the mind-set that you can learn from virtually anyone and anything. Continuous learning is critical at any career stage, whether you’re the intern or the CEO. Learning new concepts can be tough to prioritise. Make a conscious effort to schedule time to explore learning avenues. Those might be formal courses, joining a cross functional project or volunteering for something outside your usual wheelhouse. It might also include attending conferences, webinars or doing online homework after hours.

Keep an open mind.

Being confronted with new technologies, processes or team members can trigger an almost instinctive resistance in employees. Practice keeping your mind open to new ideas and imagining new possibilities. If you feel your ‘inner voice’ becoming curmudgeonly and resistant, be honest with yourself as to why. Make the effort to distinguish if you think it is because this new concept a terrible idea for a valid reason or if it is simply because its different to the way things have always been done.

Say yes.

No-one likes having their ideas shot down. Regardless of how someone brings up an idea, stay open to it until you’ve had the chance to go as deep as you need to in order to form an opinion. Maybe the idea sucks. But maybe it doesn’t. Maybe half the idea sucks but the other half is great. Maybe the combination of the idea and your experience could lead to something transformational for the company and learnings for you.

Network. Online.

You already know the value of creating a network. If you’re not extending face-to-face networking to online networking, start now. Use social media platforms and online knowledge bases to connect you with others in your field of interest. Facebook and LinkedIn support groups of like-minded individuals to share views, ask questions and explore new concepts. Share blog posts to establish your credibility. Respond to comments and questions as quickly as practicable and learn through every interaction.

Read, watch, listen

The digital age gives us all access to many experts readily sharing their views online. From the best techniques to floss your teeth through to the top ten questions CEOs are asking CISO candidates this month. Subscribe to sources which curate content around your chosen learning areas. This saves you time by giving you compiled digests of key concepts to browse. Most rarely cost you anything more than sharing your email address.

Schedule time with yourself

Investing in ourselves is an easy part of each day to give away and yet, what could be more important? Block an hour in your online calendar every week to build the habit of investing in your skills and development. You might use that time for online learning, participating on social media, planning your next conference or simply thinking about what’s next.

Online profile

Like it or not, the digital age puts everyone at our fingertips in seconds. As your learning brings new perspectives, update your online profiles and make sure you’re happy to have others see those profiles. You’ll never be able to quantify the phone calls you didn’t receive because someone was put off by something they saw around your online profile that they didn’t like. Not everyone likes the world of social networks but, at a minimum, make sure you have a complete LinkedIn profile. Browse these tips for a winning LinkedIn profile to make sure you’re up-to-date

If your journey to keeping your skills current means you need to hire or re-structure your team, contact us for a confidential conversation about how we can help you transform your business through talent.

Photo courtesy of James Donovan on Unsplash