— November 9, 2018
If you read enough articles about the future of work, you might start to picture a cross between Office Space and Westworld. Headlines would have us believe that before too long, the average cube farm will be staffed by robots and artificial intelligence bots while the rest of us monitor algorithms on our laptops.
These sci-fi visions of the future of work would make a great TV series (The Office meets The Jetsons?), but the reality is actually much more nuanced.
If you’ve ever woken up in the middle of the night wondering if you need to enroll in a coding academy or risk never finding a job again, take a deep breath.
Although learning technical skills will be very important in most industries, there are 3 reasons that being a technical wizard matters less than you’d think.
- Companies Want to Hire Critical Thinkers
A spin through any given company’s job board will show that most companies are hungry for technically skilled workers, including frontend developers and sales reps who are adept at navigating specialized software.
However, a recent survey of over 500 workers revealed that both hiring managers and individual contributors value critical thinking skills even more.
If you think about it, this makes sense. Most people can pick up technical skills, but it’s much harder to train an employee to be a flexible problem solver or a flexible worker capable of adapting to frequent changes.
Both men and women avoid applying jobs if they don’t fully meet the qualifications to avoid wasting their time and energy.
But these new survey findings suggest that if a software proficiency or similar technical skill is the only thing holding you back, you should probably apply anyway. If you would otherwise love to do the job, you may be able to emphasize other aspects of your background to persuade an employer that you could dive in and get up to speed on the technical aspects quickly.
- Managers Appreciate Proactive Workers
If you’ve been noticing that your industry is gradually becoming more technical, your attitude can make a huge difference in how your boss views your potential.
Workers who rarely ask questions or volunteer to learn new things have less of a shot at getting promoted, observes LinkedIn Learning Editor Paul Petrone.
A good attitude goes a long way, especially if your colleagues are grumbling about having to change their workflow to master a new tool. Some key strategies to try include:
- Volunteering to be on the search committee for digital tools
- Vetting professional development material to help your team master new technology
- Setting aside a few minutes each day to read an article or listen to a podcast about new technology in your industry
- Express appreciation when others help you master technology
- Become a master note taker who others can ask for help after tutorials
By maintaining a consistently proactive attitude, you can show that you’re eager to try new technology no matter how you actually feel about it.
Even if you’re not the best with technology, resist the urge to crack jokes about being clumsy or struggling to learn. Your boss will definitely notice.
- Online Resources Help to Quickly and Easily Fill Knowledge Gaps
I took a basic coding class in college, and I’ll never forget something my professor said. He told us we wouldn’t be coding experts by the end of the semester, but that he planned to teach us something even more powerful.
“You won’t emerge from this class as a coding expert,” he said. “But by the end of this class, you’ll know exactly where to look for information.”
As my career has progressed, I’ve learned the wisdom of his approach. No one is capable of knowing everything – but anyone can become a fast, accurate researcher capable of finding answers with lightning speed.
Next time you’re stumped by a technical question, know where to find answers on your own:
- YouTube: There are a surprising number of kind souls out there who make tutorial videos for everything from Adobe Suite to Ikea furniture. Try searching for your question and you might find the answer you need, with a video showing you how it works.
- Check Your Local Library: Here in DC, a library card is all you need to access Lynda’s full library of video classes on anything you can imagine. Sign up for a library card in your city and see what resources are available.
- Help Forums: Try Googling your question in quotation marks + the name of the tool you’re working with and the word “forum.” Most technical tools have help forums with solutions to common sticking points, so you may find a solution there.
If you’re really organized, you might even be able to search your own notes. Organize your notes from any staff trainings in Evernote and tag it so you can find it later.
Technical Skills Alone Won’t Determine Future Success
As most industries adopt new technology to become faster and more profitable, it’s easy to fear that anyone who isn’t a Mr. Robot-style hacker will be left in the dust.
However, the future probably won’t be quite that extreme. Technical skills matter more than ever, but employers still value critical thinking, enthusiasm, and research skills when thinking about who to promote or who to hire.
As you think about your future career, definitely plan to keep pace with your industry’s changes. But before you freak out about robots taking your job, take a deep breath and remember that there are plenty of ways a machine will never be able to fully replace you.