Why Should I Care?
I talk to people who want to get promoted. I talk to people who just lost their job. I talk to people who want to go work for a cool company they know about. I talk to people who want to start their own company. If you are one of these people, or if you might become one of these people, then you need to keep up.
You need to focus on staying on top of the latest:
- social media
- trends in your (and other adjacent) industry(ies)
- issues in the market place
- political undercurrent in your own organization
- gurus in your field
- books in your industry/field
It absolutely isn’t enough to show up and do your job. The way things work now, that makes you vulnerable to the next layoff, the next new boss, your company going out of business. The fact that you did your job just fine for 5, 10, 15, 20 years does not put you in good stead for the next step. And it is highly unlikely that your next step isn’t the one you expect. Without the most current skills, you are likely to have to take a demotion for the next position.
For example, if you think you are proficient at Microsoft Office, you aren’t if you don’t know your way around Sharepoint (and not just as an occasional end-user). If you are a Project Manager, if you’re not conversant with Organization Change Management, Lean Methodologies and Scrum, then you aren’t competitive. If you are a second level manager and you don’t know how to use social media (at your company) to lead your people, or how to develop and implement a strategy, how to measure and analyze your processes and implement changes, then you’re not keeping up. If you are a Director, you need to know how to think like a V.P., how to dismantle and start up an organization, and how to manage your peers. If you are a V.P., you need to understand the dynamics of managing a Board, how to analyze business opportunities, including whether to purchase a company or compete with it. You need to think and learn beyond your job, your role and your company.
Look at job postings in your field. Do you exceed what they are looking for? On paper? If you don’t, you will not even get an interview. You won’t have the opportunity to tell them how great you are, because they will put you in the ‘delete’ file. Be honest with yourself. Don’t fudge. If you don’t EXCEED the qualifications they are looking for, you will have a long job search and you will probably have to take a demotion in your next position.
Of the people I talk to, the biggest failure to keep up is technology-related. People tend to stick with what they’ve learned to use and not push themselves beyond to the new technologies. For instance, lots of companies are now using iPads for providing their sales people with training, marketing materials and sales tools. Could you do that? I’m not talking about the programming, but about creating the materials that work on the iPad (they’re not the same that work on paper). The way that sales training and interactions are done are frequently the harbinger for the rest of the organization. Are you listening HR? IT? Manufacturing? Are you comfortable with (and continuing to be current with) all the tools that facilitate virtual team management. If you had to do it on your own tomorrow, could you?
If you have ‘bleeding edge’ skills in your field, then you are an asset to your company. If you use your company’s problems and tools to develop your ‘bleeding edge’ skills, then you benefit. It is a symbiotic relationship. It is win/win. Don’t be vulnerable. Start “keeping up” before you need it. It’s hard to do at that point.