If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward. This quip from Mikhail Gorbachev 30 years ago was a plea to other nations to take nuclear disarmament seriously, but those words still hold plenty of power today. As we advance further in our careers (or decide to pivot to new ones), it’s important to revisit skill sets that we’re barely familiar with with as well as the skills we use daily. If you aren’t progressing, you’re regressing.
Staying on top of technology is crucial for leaders at your current company and recruiters at other organizations you aspire to, but even if the tech skills at the top aren’t easy to spot, you must constantly sharpen your own skills. It’s up to you to keep them from becoming dull and outdated, regardless of what you see in those ahead of you. Without use, those tools will get rusty.
And in today’s digital-first world, basic technology skills are still vitally important because they are the foundation for more advanced capabilities. Plus, becoming an expert in a particular software or platform will provide value to your company, and people will be able to go to you for answers when they need help—aligning your personal brand with the value you contribute.
Getting and staying ahead
A refresher course is a good way to get started; it’s less daunting than learning a totally new skill. Taking the initiative to polish up on in-demand tech concepts can position you as an eager worker who’s capable of being a leader. There are so many different digital skills that are both interesting and valuable—think AI, data intelligence, and IoT. But focus on the right skills for your career aspirations, becoming advanced in something you’re already pretty good at. Learning new skills is particularly helpful in these four business-critical areas, which are relevant to almost everyone:
1. Risk management. The cybersecurity landscape is complex, so thinking like a hacker can help mitigate a slew of potential problems and pitfalls. Consider asking for and attending cybersecurity training to learn how to help prevent your company’s name appearing in headlines for the wrong reasons. Being at the forefront of this type of knowledge shows your willingness to lean in and learn about the more difficult aspects of an organization’s existence.
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“It’s smart to invest in security products and spend time developing your capabilities,” says Pete Thurston, chief product officer and technology leader at RevCult, which is a provider of security and governance solutions for Salesforce. “Cybercrime is more prevalent than ever, and modern attackers have no shortage of methods to choose from. Too often, though, organizations spend heavily on security systems that can detect and prevent the most sophisticated attacks but fail to address basic security best practices. That mistake can prove costly. If you have a team of people who constantly think like hackers, you’ll have a network that most hackers will avoid targeting.”
2. Productivity software. Work groups use Google Suite, Slack and Microsoft Teams every day, and it’s easy to get lulled into complacency with these capabilities. Most people tend to learn the minimum required to perform their jobs and nothing more, but what new tricks and tips could you unearth to make your job easier? If you endeavor to seek out innovative solutions that are already built into your technology, leading to increased productivity, improved collaboration, or inspiring new service lines, upper management will take notice. Your curiosity might just be rewarded with a promotion. Staying organized and effectively managing time are—and always will be—keys to success. Technology training can help you accomplish both.
3. Social media. Precious few understood the power and potential of Facebook 15 years ago. Ten years ago, Twitter wasn’t known outside of Silicon Valley. Today, social media upstarts like TikTok, Clubhouse and Caffeine are changing the game in warp speed. And these applications aren’t just for kids; they provide exciting ways to promote your business, not to mention engage with your customers and employees. Perhaps you have a future as the company’s social media darling? Individuals looking to climb the ladder in their industries would be wise to keep their fingers on social media’s pulse. You want to know where to participate and what platforms to avoid. That knowledge is power. And when you learn how to use social media to become a digital brand ambassador for your company, you demonstrate your loyalty while increasing your visibility with your audience.
4. Accounting, finance, and budgeting. Whether you’re in charge of a huge department budget or a smaller client’s account, it’s important to review the various budgeting and finance tools to make sure you’re spending money wisely and carefully. There may be ways to automate part or all of your systems so you can spend that valuable time doing other manual tasks. If you find ways to save your company time and money, get ready for the next step in your career journey. That ability will get you places fast.
The impetus behind technical skills will never subside. The past year has proven that most businesses are almost entirely reliant on technology and the Internet of Things, and those with the knowledge and ability to excel in that realm will hold the power. Don’t delay getting ahead of your peers (and competitors) when it comes to programming languages, common operating systems and overall software proficiency. If you’re ready to make a career move, whether up your current company’s ladder or to another organization altogether, relearning and refreshing the basics, while becoming a guru of little-known tech solutions, can be your best step forward.