One of the challenges, and pleasures, of today’s workplace is the opportunity for never-ending learning.
Time was, you could learn a job in your 20s and then work at that same job — with your same skill set — until you retired.
You can’t do that anymore. You don’t even want to.
These are the days when people pursue second, third, even fourth careers. Many work long past “normal” retirement age, both by choice and necessity. Even if you’ve stuck by your first career choice, holding onto that career means constantly tweaking your skills and knowledge. Everyone who wants to be effective, retain influence and connect with younger clients and colleagues needs to find a way to keep up.
For many, the first challenge will be communication styles. Think you can still get by with email and phone calls? Think again. It’s not only millennials who are addicted to Slack and new apps. Be open to trying new ways of keeping in touch. They may be ever-evolving, but they’re also more efficient.
In general, you should assess what apps, software and devices are newly relevant in your field and then learn to use them. Some can be picked up on the fly; others require attending continuing education courses or watching video tutorials. Don’t be afraid to dive in and make mistakes. You may be surprised to discover how many people (including some of the “young people” who you assume understand everything there is to know about technology) are themselves scrambling to keep up.
Those starting out careers are typically advised to find mentors to guide and advise them. Well, mentors aren’t just for the 20-somethings anymore. Consider finding yourself a “technology mentor.” Perhaps you could suggest trading skill sets — your contacts and experience for their savvy with Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and more.
Some tips: Start small. Aim to learn one new thing about a device, software, app, website or social media platform every day. Remember that even if you choose not to personally use a particular technology, if millions of people do use it you should at least have some knowledge of what it’s all about.
The world is changing fast but it also offers many exciting, even fun, opportunities to grow. Commit to being a lifelong learner, and you’ll be ready for whatever the job market throws at you.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use and of the novel “The Paris Effect.” Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.