We may not commute by flying car, jetpack, or teleporter, but technology has made enormous changes to how we work over the past 10 years. Even if your last job search isn’t a decade behind you, it’s still useful to review your skills to keep yourself up to date.
Keep in mind that in many jobs the shifting economy and new technologies have left core skills unaffected. Students still need teachers with empathy and knowledge, whether they’re physically in a classroom or not. Businesses still need detail-oriented accountants, even if those details are in the cloud. And chat platforms and chat bots don’t eliminate the need for customer service staff able to think on their feet and deal with emotional customers.
Job Search Essentials
Career skills start before you even land the job. Technology has transformed how you find and apply for jobs. Increasingly, making your resume effective is less about buying extra fancy paper for your printer and more about ensuring that the PDF will look sharp on their monitor. (You should still consider splurging on that paper if you’re going in for an in-person interview, though.)
Keep in mind that your industry, role, and even the kind of employer you work for may have different specifics. Public sector jobs tend to have very specific hiring processes that may not have adopted these hiring practices, at least not yet. And software developers may benefit more from an informative GitHub page than an well-written LinkedIn profile. And finally, a small-but-established business may have seen no need to update its hiring practices given the few people they hire over a decade.
1. Virtual Interviews
In some ways, an interview is an interview: you need to communicate basically the same information, both explicitly in what you say and implicitly in how you carry yourself.
However, translating this to a virtual setting requires some practice.
While you can definitely read about the difference between in-person and virtual interviews (and it’s a good place to start), the real way to develop the skill is to practice. You can work with a tutor, or just practice with a trusted friend or family member on the other end.
2. Social media
Employers increasingly look at social media when judging candidates. This makes it more important to cultivate your public profiles to maintain a professional image or, at least, keep hiring managers in mind.
Beyond learning how to post, it’s important to learn what and when to post. Learning what kinds of posts resonate with people—and are favored by the algorithms websites use to determine where those posts appear—is a skill in itself.
3. Personal branding
Some career experts take cultivation of your public profiles and image further and recommend “personal branding.” What does this mean?
Sometimes personal branding is merely a new buzzword for being thoughtful about your professional reputation. But when used more precisely, it means borrowing from marketer’s playbook: using a consistent profile image everywhere, defining an audience, having a brand statement you ensure you communicate on resumes and social media profiles, and even creating a logo or slogan.
Career Strategy shifts
As the economy changes, it’s important to know how new forms of work fit in with your job search. Of course, if you find a stable job that meets your needs, you’re not obligated to strategize your way to a different one. But if career advancement is a priority for your or your job isn’t meeting your needs or goals, it’s important that your strategy adapts to the changing economy.
Despite the academic connotations of “tutor,” many tutors have industry experience. You may want to reach out to one to give you an overview of the industry, as well as how contracting fits into it.
4. Side hustles
Increasingly, people are supplementing their main income with side gigs, probably driven by a mix of stagnant wages and new opportunities in the form of apps like Uber and Instacart. (The flexibility of this app-driven work comes with significant downsides).
If you do have gig economy experience but are looking for a traditional job, it’s important to know how to fit it in to your resume. On the flip side, if you’re looking for a gig job, it’s important to know what considerations apply.
Often, gig jobs favor work examples and other ways of showcasing your experience over the traditional cover letter and resume. This especially true for platforms like Fiverr and Freelance, since potentially clients are focused on what you can bring to their specific problem, rather than hiring you for the long term.
More and more companies are using contract workers in place of full-time workers. It’s helpful to learn about how contract work, well, works in advance so you can evaluate job postings and (fingers crossed) offers. While many contractors like the arrangement, they are less likely to have health insurance and other benefits.
Perhaps the most obvious new skills are those around specific new technologies.
Keep in mind, however, that with many technologies, especially communication tools, it’s not mastering the tool as much as figuring out how to use it effectively in the context of your role. Take an established technology for an example: Dialing numbers on a telephone is much easier than learning how to have effective conversations or the appropriate person to call.
6. Meeting remotely: Zoom, Hangouts, and more
The pandemic may have already given you a crash course in meeting tools. But if you’ve stuck to plain old calling or texting, give video calls a spin. And even if you’ve used these tools for social, it’s helpful to explore the more business-y features like screen-sharing.
You may also want to make sure that you know the specific online meeting tool used by the employer you’re interviewing with or starting a new job with. Online meeting software isn’t complicated, but you still don’t want to be fumbling with the unmute button during an onboarding call or interview. If you’re using your own computer for work or still searching, trying the software for yourself beforehand also ensures that the program is installed and works on your computer.
7. Online Productivity: Google Apps and Office 365
Increasingly, office tools are no longer installed directly and run like traditional apps. Instead, they’re run by the software developers themselves on their servers and you use them in a web browser.
Google, Microsoft, and others have generally tried to maintain continuity with previous incarnations, there are some changes. In particular, files are handled differently by necessity. Rather than being stored on your computer (and being visible in Finder or Windows Explorer), they’re stored online, with a new interface to find and organize them.
They’ve also souped up the amount of communication available. Rather than locking out other users when you open a document, these suites allow you and another person to work on the same document simultaneously. The reliability and delays vary, so you’ll often have to experiment with them to get a sense of what situations simultaneous editing is good for.
8. Chat: Teams and Slack
Online chat has existed since the mid-90s, including in some workplaces, but in the past few years have seen the rise of workplace apps that have even started to displace email for some workers.
Chat programs are relatively simple, so it’s less a matter of taking an intensive course and more being familiar with their interface and purpose so you aren’t caught off-guard on day 1.
9. Bringing your own device: two-factor authentication and VPN
As more work has moved online and to mobile devices owned by the workers themselves, new technologies are needed to help that work stay secure. Two in particular are good to know about:
Two-factor authentication is a security measure growing in popularity among enterprises. If your bank or email has ever been prompted you to enter a code you got in a text, you’ve already used it. The idea is that your device becomes a second security measure (or factor) to verify that you are in fact you. Often corporations will have employees install dedicated applications instead of using texting.
Virtual Private Networks make a secure bridge between your company’s network and your computer or device, regardless of where it is. The network is private because it’s encrypted and virtual because it is done over the internet. This means you can work from home as though you were in the office, which gives you more flexibility and simplifies security for IT.
These tools are highly specific to you workplace and usually come with detailed instructions, so like with chat, the key is not mastering a specific piece of software but knowing what the software is for, its role at the company, and its impact on you.
These technologies aren’t new, so you may be familiar with them if you last worked at a technology firm or one with additional security requirements.
One subtlety of VPNs is that they often send all traffic on your computer through the VPN. If you leave your VPN running when you stream a movie after work, from the network’s perspective, it’s equivalent to watching it from your desk at work. While you probably don’t mind if your employer knows you watched Knives Out with your friends last night, you may want to be more discreet about other traffic.
Just as they bridge the boundary between your home network and your employers’, VPNs and other work-from-home technologies can erode the separation between work and personal life. You may have to set boundaries with your manager —or your inner workaholic—to keep a healthy work-life balance.
How are you keeping your skills up-to-date?
Maybe you’re excited to learn these new skills! Maybe they seem like a distraction. Either way, updating your skills ensures that you won’t be derailed and can focus on the value you provide to the people you work with and for. Whether you’re upskilling to advance in your career or just looking for a new path forward, ensure your success by getting the help of an expert tutor.