There was a time when the job skills you learned early on could easily, and unremittingly, carry you through your entire career. However, it’s safe to say that those days are long over. Whether you are seeking a brand new vocation, or simply looking to grow within your current role, there are truly no rules when it comes to age and the acquisition of new skills and competencies.
In fact, more frequently, individuals who are well into their middle-aged years are pursuing brand new careers; some even working past the age of retirement. It is this paradigm that continues to eradicate the stereotype of the naïve young “newbie” just learning the ropes of their job for the very first time.
Even those who are dedicated to their current roles and positions must always be ready to build upon their existing skills and expertise. This is especially important when it becomes necessary to keep up with younger counterparts in the same field or industry.
According to Karen Burns, author of “The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use”, one of the main challenges for older workers is communication. However, this certainly should not downplay the actual communication skills of middle-aged employees. What has really changed is the style of communication. E-mail and hard copy correspondence have largely, and swiftly, been replaced by texting and instant messaging applications.
Burns suggest being “open to trying new ways of keeping in touch. They may be ever-evolving, but they’re also more efficient”. She continues, “…you should assess what apps, software, and devices are newly relevant in your field and then learn to use them”. While some may be easy to learn on the spot, others may require further education in the form of a course or a video tutorial. However, Burns reminds readers, “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”.
The majority of new skills and knowledge which enhance your job market value as well as help bridge certain generational gaps you may encounter in the workplace, tend to fall within the technological variety. Moreover, Burns recommends letting go of the notion that mentors are only for inexperienced 20-somethings. She proposes “…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”.
The key is to start small. For example, commit to learning one new detail about a specific software, app, device, website, or social media platform each day. Burns asserts it’s important to remember that even if you do not personally make use of certain technology, there may be millions of others who do. Therefore, “…you should at least have some knowledge of what its’ all about”, should the occasion arise.
One of the most significant advantages of today’s ever-evolving employment culture is that fact that there is little chance for boredom or monotony. As Burns aptly concludes, “Commit to being a lifelong learner and you’ll be ready for whatever the job market throws at you”.
Further reading: Three Components of Experiential Learning in the Workplace
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