When it comes to preparing for the digital workforce and ensuring your employability for the future, no one – not your manager or CIO or HR rep – can do a better job of keeping your skills relevant than you. So have you asked yourself how you plan to keep yourself updated and retain your position in the age of smart machines, robots, and other forms of job-outsourcing automation. These are the tools and resources that will shape and characterize the digital workforce of 2020 and beyond. Are you ready?
Learn to code
There are more opportunities than ever for people from all backgrounds to jump into code learning right away. They can try free online tutorials like the popular teaching platform Codecademy or explore options on any number of MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Course that have sprung up in recent years such as Udacity, Coursera, Khan Academy, and edX. For the real ambitious, you can try out a growing number of coding bootcamps where you enroll onsite for usually 6 weeks or more of full-scale immersion in programming (80 hour weeks not uncommon!). These camps are not cheap either, with typical costs running anywhere from $5000-12,000 or more. Another option that gives a similar approach but with more flexibility is the online coding bootcamp. Firms like Bloc, Tealeaf Academy, and Thinkful represent a growing option for teaching code to newbies through a rigorous combination of online learning interactions, exercises, and projects, along with the guidance of either an assigned mentor or various teaching assistants.
Go the extra mile on your day job
When offshoring and outsourcing do come to your organization, you’ll want to be well-positioned as a person who is irreplaceable. To prepare ahead, get into the mindset of over-delivering on your work and providing the highest results. Become a thought leader and subject matter expert across different lines of your business. Develop an innovative mindset that embraces creativity and out-of-the-box approaches to solving old problems. Take ownership of your role and imagine where you want to see yourself in the next 5-10-15 years.
Focus on what you’re good at
Ultimately, you’re going to want to focus on what you’re most passionate about. This goes for both individuals and organizations. For a great read on this topic, check out the recent book called Creativity, Inc. It’s a story about Pixar, its beginnings and early years, the struggles, the successes – and the ideals and techniques that went into producing some of the most successful films ever made. Ed Catmull, the author of the book and co-founder of Pixar, recounts his own dream as a young man to make the first computer-animated movie, and how that vision unfolded and led to the philosophies that have guided Pixar through the years.
Try a startup
Eventually you may not have a choice but to try a startup. The following blurb will explain why:
Consultants and freelancers are cheaper than full-time staffers with benefits, software developers overseas cost a fraction of what they cost in the U.S. and, by 2030, robots will be able to perform most manual labor . . . Even employees who are employed in large corporations are encouraged to be “intrapreneurs,” meaning that they are in many cases given company time to come up with disruptive ways of thinking about corporate organization and practices.
You get the point. Competition is getting more and more fierce and employees today will increasingly find themselves constrained to think and act innovatively and to brainstorm new ideas and ways of doing business. All of these on-the-job skills easily translate to entrepreneurial opportunities that transcend the day job. In other words, skilled workers today are more and more likely to try additional gigs in their off hours. In the not too distant future, it just might be that everybody will be running a startup!
Preparing for the digital workforce boils down to having a mindset that thinks “outside the box” and is willing to go the extra mile to build and develop new skills and strengthen existing ones. Whether it’s learning code or challenging yourself to go further and deeper in a current project, individuals today should keep alert and open to new opportunities to expand their horizons and build new skills.
The approach of some folks is expressed in a funny one-liner seen recently on an old baseball cap: “Procrastinators Unite! – Tomorrow.” But there’s a better way. Avoid delays at all costs. Instead, be proactive and diligent to learn and update new skills at every turn. Don’t wait, start today!