“Soon the digital divide will not be between the haves and the have-nots. It will be between the know-hows and the non-know-hows.” – Howard Rheingold
“The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.” – B. F. Skinner
“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.” – Stewart Brand
One of the challenges professionals engaged in a job search face is how to handle being a non-techie in a contemporary job marketplace that is increasingly more technology-based and more technology-driven.
How do we survive, prosper and advance in a world where Moore’s Law now seems to apply to the adoption of ever newer technology platforms across the whole spectrum of the business world and much of our personal lives as well, with technology penetrating our lives twice as deep seemingly every two years?
As technology permeates ever deeper into every facet of our lives, lots of job searchers and potential career changers rightly worry about being left behind or passed over. Even among those whose functions are technological in nature – programmers, developers, engineers and the like – the concern is, “are my skills and is my tech toolbox up to date or am I becoming obsolete?”
Obviously, this concern is only heightened in those whose training and function is not technical. We encounter this all the time in our client marketing campaign engagements.
A mid-level management executive who has gotten by so far, but worries he won’t succeed in his next move because he is not current on the latest systems or even their predecessors…the executive looking to step up to the next level, who reasonably fears that her lack of formal technology credentials might prevent her reaching that goal…these are common and rational concerns.
How to overcome them?
The answer, both simple and complex, has multiple prongs and will be slightly different for every situation.
One solution to not having the requisite technical skills is to go out and acquire them. Take a course. Enroll in a professional development, certification, licensing or degree program. Study and read on your own. Master a new skill set and add it to the mix of what you’re trying to offer the marketplace.
This first solution certainly fits folks whose function is tilted toward, if not wholly, technical in nature. That represents a percentage of all the people out there looking to make their next career move, but it’s not everyone.
What about the rest of us – those who have been users of technology but who are anything but techies – how can those folks get by in this digital era?
Well, the same solution might apply to people in this category as well. Taking advantage of opportunities to learn new skills can be of immense value and can pay hefty returns on investment for non-techies. But, for most of us that is not all of what we can do to advance.
Marketing oneself — deciding how to define and promote the product that each of us is — can be a big part of how to be a stronger competitor in an increasingly technological world. In other words, figuring out how to better tell the market about the skills and experience you ALREADY HAVE can be a rather effective means of competing more effectively without adding new skills.
What’s required here?
First of all, you need to conduct a deep dive assessment into what your actual skill sets and experience factors are. Take a serious, analytic look into the mirror.
For those of us whose backgrounds are primarily non-technical, this kind of skills assessment should be aimed at uncovering all those areas we might be overlooking, such as technology platforms that we use almost all time. Platforms that, because we are not programmers or developers, we might fail to tell the world that we understand. In other words, undertake an exercise where we actually list out all of those software applications and other tools that we use almost daily.
Take ten minutes and try that right now: write out a list of every single technology you have used in your work in the past twelve months…. Finished? Great…. Take big gulp of coffee…. Done? Good…. Now, read through that list and ask yourself “which of these are so common that it’s assumed everyone in the workforce has mastered them? So, if you’re mid-level manager or above, maybe draw a line through platforms like smartphones, MS Word, etc. What’s left on your list?
For those of us who really are non-techies, the list can still be long and might still include some systems and technologies that make us valuable commodities on the job market.
In the case of your humble author, who spends most of his work time editing and writing, currently in my daily work I utilize numerous databases, distance learning platforms, direct mail solutions and a very widely used CRM system (Salesforce.com). In past roles, I used very high-end enterprise resource programs (Oracle for example), full-text database and search tools (BRS Search and Basis) and desktop publishing apps. Am I a developer or programmer for any of these? Heck, no. Can I convert my user-level mastery of these into potentially marketable assets? Yes, I can. And you can, too.
How can I highlight these skills?
Well, if you’ve taken the time to write out that list suggested above, why not compare your list to the qualifications you find organizations are searching for in the sorts of jobs you seek? How many tools have you used that you’ve not thought much about until now are showing up in help wanted ads and online job postings?
If the answer is none or almost none, you might need to circle back to the paragraph earlier in this article about acquiring new skills and credentials.
However, if your list had even just two or three tech platforms that match up with requirements you’re seeing in job postings, the solution for you might be as easy as selling those skills more effectively in writing (in your resumes, letters, applications, etc.) and verbally (in interviews and networking conversations).
Using my own background as an example, as a marketing communications writer, editor and manager, although I am definitely not a programmer, developer, IT executive, etc., I do have experience with and user-level master of number of platforms that I absolutely can market. You can be sure that my resume will include mention of these. You can be sure that I have thought about how to weave these into interviews and networking conversations.
Listing my experience and skills with those platforms might not be enough. So, the next level of incorporating them into my marketing efforts is to weave into a story-telling format examples of how I utilized particular technologies to create value. Literally going from a laundry list of “I’m familiar with Saleforce.com and x, y and z” to “I would be delighted to share with you how I came up with a way to use my firm’s Salesforce implementation to improve our client satisfaction scores by 10 points”, and then being ready to explain what I did, how I did it and what the impact of it was in a few short sentences. “I saw that we weren’t doing follow up as efficiently as possible. I collaborated with our IT department to add a new tool to our platform and helped train staff on using it. The result was complaints fell by half and survey scores went up from 85% to 95%.”
So, even for us non-techies, this can be done. Notice what I wrote above. I didn’t claim that I “re-programmed our application” or “reengineered the configuration and coding.” That wouldn’t be true. What I did though was to note that I worked with our IT team to come up with an improvement.
It is paramount here to never, ever, ever fib, exaggerate, prevaricate or lie about your skills. BUT absolutely, positively do unearth and explain to the world that “even though I am not an IT guy or gal, I have learned to leverage and even improve the benefits of our tech platforms in my work to add value. Maybe I could do the same for your firm.”
To recap: If you are not a techie, you can still survive and prosper in a technology-saturated world. To do so, you have to figure out how your occupation (and even perhaps some outside of work hobby interests) has intersected (sometimes without you being consciously aware of it) with hardware, software, applications, operating system, network, search engine, productivity, ERP, HRIS and other tools AND how you have taken best advantage of those tools to create value for your employer, their stakeholders and clients.
Let ECP Guide You
Still concerned that you do not have the right tools to highlight your transferable tech skills into words or on your resume? The team at ECP has done so for thousands of clients and can help you too. Schedule an introductory call with one of our Regional Directors today to see how.