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Jobs: Find your Career

Keeping Skills Up-To-Date

by Beth Casamassina

I admit it - I'm an old timer. A couple weeks ago at a job fair, I reminisced the days of typewriters and carbon paper. A recent college graduate perusing my table looked up, confused, and asked simply, "What's carbon paper?" My associates and I chuckled; after all, in a short time, computers have taken over our lives and printers can spout dozens of copies per minute. In the old days, the TV news was on for half an hour each day on all five stations; today, I can watch news 24/7 or click through 500 TV stations. In the thirty years I've been matching employers with candidates in the staffing business, I've seen a lot of changes. I've only to wonder what the next thirty years could bring.

Pick up any magazine, newspaper, or tune into your favorite news station and you will see how we are fast becoming a global economy. China, The Philippines, Ireland, Japan, (to name a few) are all becoming a daily part of our work lives. Are you prepared? Do you know how this global economy will affect you? Or how will it impact your skill set? In this fast-moving economy we must all look to the future and be mindful of where our skills and talents will fit in tomorrow.

For example - Information Technology is a ever-changing field. Mainframe programmers were "it" in the late 70's into the early 90's then came client servers and everything changed. Today the Web is changing the field even more. And throughout the changes, from mainframes, mid-range, client servers to the intranet, web servers, and wide area networks, thousands of people have lost their jobs because they did not bother to keep an eye on the technical future or consistently update their skill set.

Once not all that long ago, a person could easily expect to work the same job at the same company, with the same skill set, for most of their career and never have to worry if they would soon be outdated. Those days are gone. Companies are demanding fresh faces, sharp skills, fast thinkers, creative ideas, and a variety of skill sets that will help them move quickly into this ever changing global economy.

Here's another well-known example: Customer service jobs are heading offshore in masses on a daily basis. However, we are still going to need professionals in the United States to maintain communication between the offshore companies and onshore. Regardless if you work in a call center, tech support, computer programming, or administrative help, here's some ways you can become a valuable asset to your organization.

Learn Another Language

The ability to read, write, and speak a second language will be a top priority in the near future when hiring employees. Maybe smiles are the universal language but they won't get us too far when we are trying to assist someone in tracking down a lost order, or providing computer support, or other business challenges we have not even begun to uncover. Will your company require a second language? Perhaps learning a second language such as Chinese, Russian, Filipino or Quechua (look that one up) will make you a top-ranking asset to your current (or next) employer.

Keep up with your computer skills.

No matter what you do from programmer/analyst, help desk, to executive assistant, learning new computer related skills will keep you hot in the job market. Visit the website of your local community college on a regular basis to see what new classes they are offering. When a new version of the programs you use comes out, take a class to learn about it. Learn how your computer works and how to fix it or learn more about creating websites. Many employers today offer tuition reimbursement if their employees take work-related classes. Take advantage of this terrific perk and keep sharp.

Join An Association, Then Attend Conferences or Continuing Education Events

Some industries, particularly professional services, require you to achieve continuing education credits to keep up to date and maintain certification. Even if your industry doesn't require it, find an association or attend conferences related your field. Hone your skills by listening to the latest from the experts. Again, if these conferences are related to your job, your employer may be willing to pay for all or most of it.

Read The Latest Books or Subscribe to Trade Magazines

About once a month or so, peruse your local bookstore or Amazon.com and see what's new. If you're in business, study the profiles section to learn from other successful people. Or study your specific field like human resources or sales to glean any new insights. Your field's trade magazines or websites have glimpses of even newer tips and information that you can infuse into your job ahead of your peers.

Update your resume on a regular basis even if you are not in the job market.

Interview outside or inside your company at least once a year, peruse the want ads monthly to see what employers are advertising for, keep up-to-date with what your companies' future plans and what skills they will be requiring. Shake the dust off that backpack and take a course at the local college, even if it's not job related, you never know when you may stumble into your next career or find a career path that really excites you.

Work With A Career Counselor

Partner with a career counselor like the experts at Headway. These are the people who are watching the job market every day; they know what it takes to get hired by the best. If you're feeling like you need a change or you sense change may come on its own, start working with a career counselor to start planning for your next advancement.

Beth Casamassina was an Account Executive with Headway Corporate Resources in Raleigh, NC. A 30+ year veteran of the staffing business, she has seen first-hand the rise and fall of all sorts of "hot" skills.