Cutting-edge equipment, software, and communication tools lie at the heart of IT, networking, and programming careers. But these innovations will soon transform many jobs not previously associated with high technology—and as the tech demands of your job evolve, so must your skill set.
For example, blogs began to compete with newspapers at the dawn of Web 2.0. Print journalists suddenly had to adapt to a 24/7 Internet-driven news cycle, compete against online-only news outlets for scoops, and engage with commenters who could reply immediately to stories. Now journalists are tweeting developing stories and adopting best practices for finding and verifying sources on Twitter—a far cry from meeting Deep Throat in a parking garage for the latest Watergate revelations.
The newspaper industry is not alone. Seventy percent of workers in 2020 will have jobs with some technical component. Greater use of informatics—the science of collecting, analyzing, and drawing conclusions or predictions from complex data—is one example. Healthcare has already adopted informatics for patient tracking, administration, and research. Access to informatics tools will expand to other industries, helping workers make better-informed decisions using fresh customer and supply-chain data. The average person’s workflow will become more data intensive as computing power grows, creating a need for workers who can transform this tide of Big Data into accurate predictions and compelling graphics for lay audiences and stakeholders.
Current and future employees thus need to include technology literacy in their career planning for 2013 and beyond. At minimum, college graduates will need a basic suite of office-technology skills in order to qualify for entry-level positions. Based on an Indeed.com study of frequent job-posting keywords, proficiency with operating systems, social media, and mobile apps are also on employers’ hiring radar.
With firms increasingly shrinking their physical office space in favor of telecommuting, using freelancers, or assembling ad hoc teams for single projects via online bidding sites, workers will also be expected to master mobile technology for sharing documents, teleconferencing, and coordinating remote workers from the home office. And tech proficiency is important for advancement, too: In a recent Apollo Research Institute study of managers’ views on generation, gender, and leadership, 20% listed it as one of the top three skills workers need to lead effectively.
Once hired, workers should also master the technology that powers their specific industry. This will provide a flexibility advantage should they spot a chance to move to other jobs in their field with better pay or advancement prospects. Because technology and the skills needed to use it change so swiftly, continuous tech-skill development, either through workplace courses or the pursuit of degrees and certifications, can prevent workers from losing touch. Cisco’s Networking Academy, for instance, provides information and communications specialists with the ongoing certifications they need to stay abreast of the latest networking developments, while developing their problem-solving and critical thinking skills—vital qualities for any professional.
Becoming obsolete is routine for tech gear, but for 21st-century workers’ skill sets, it simply does not compute.