How to thrive in a Changing work environment
Businesses don’t embrace new technology quickly and only upgrade software when it’s a definite must; this could cost us dearly in terms of career growth. On the other side, we have startups and well-funded tech companies that readily use new tools and embrace change.
The difference between the two is what we call a lack of “SKILLED LABOR”. Let me prove just how quickly things are changing in 2014
Let’s take a look at a job description for a simple administrative assistant role in 2014 I found on indeed.com
Who would have thought that a simple administrative assistant should know crystal reports, Salesforce.com, and what the heck is SQL?
Notice how next to Salesforce.com they wrote Sales support software. From my experience simplifying things on the job description, usually means that they are having a hard time finding people who know what salesforce even is.
Hint – it’s not a team of salespeople
They also wrote, “experience with geographically dispersed management teams”. – Interesting…. but we will come back to this a bit later.
The reason job growth is so slow is not due to lack of administrative assistants , there are millions of job seekers ready to apply each day… I bet not even 1% of them knows SQL. How about Salesforce?
#todayilearned – 100,000 of business are using sales force
As with any new technology, it takes time to catch on but more often than not it evolves into a norm over several years. As a job seeker or somebody who is looking to further one’s career, it helps to stay on the bleeding edge of things. Not only will this send a horde of recruiters your way but it will also increase your hourly wage.
I have used this phrase time after time
“It takes experience to get experience”
Well not really, I was always stuck in old mindsets thinking that a job is the primary way to gain experience. Just for fun I went to Udemy to see if I can find any courses on SQL and I found this one for $67 bucks- Introduction to Oracle SQL. If that’s expensive then here is a great book on Amazon that I used to learn SQL – Head First SQL: Your Brain on SQL — A Learner’s Guide (roughly $25 dollars)
I am not trying to sell you on the idea of learning SQL, I’m simply demonstrating that there are cheap methods of learning advanced skills that are in very high demand. There are ways to get unstuck and move your career forward. The only question that we need to ask is “HOW”, break it into actionable steps and do a bit every day.
Other ways our work-environment is changing – Cloud Computing
Cloud Computing is slowly making desktop computers even more obsolete than they already are. Switching completely to cloud based applications for day-to-day tasks ensures that all of our work is saved instantly. We can also retrieve, change, create and collaborate with multiple people on a project without having to be at the office. You don’t have to worry about a file not opening on a mac or PC, or not having the right driver for certain software. Additionally thumb-drives and hard-drive failures can also be a thing of the past. I use Just-Cloud to literally store everything.
Yes I know it may seem scary to save everything onto the internet. Think of it this way – If most businesses make use of Google Documents, Google calendar, Justcloud, Podio, Google hangouts, Wikipedia… (the list is endless), then you should at the very least be familiar with each.
Take Google Docs for example – Don’t email documents back and forth, instead collaborate and update at the same time. You can see who made changes; you can even revert to earlier versions. And guess what – it will open up on all computers YAY
Another example I love to point out is Wikipedia. Most people think it’s just a very useful website; others use it at work on a daily basis. Business uses it to amass a wealth of information that can be retained for future employees effectively minimizing the effects of turnover.
This could be a great tool to introduce to your employer and possibly solve some internal problems though collaboration. Imagine if you became very familiarized with how to create wiki for a company, including permissions, assigning roles, hosting, ensuring participation though incentives, training etc.
Imagine if you could produce a complete company wide guideline on how to answer specific customer issues in just a few days, simply by organizing the best answers that people have contributed. Meanwhile it would take a consultant or some other business unit months to complete a project like that. A system such as this can also measure employee contribution to projects; to see where the ideas are coming from and how they are shaped by the group is fascinating to me.
If you want to learn how to set up a private wiki here is how by PCMag.com
Open Source and Crowd Sourcing
Did you know that chaotic collaboration of thousands led to Firefox, Linux and millions of other software products. It’s not limited to just the tech world; there are open source projects for non-profits, biologist, and many other sub groups where people collaborate, hang out and work on things just for the fun of it. Open-source projects are a great way to build up experience.
Imagine if you could put on your résumé that you are a contributor to Firefox. This is unbeatable job experience and what employers love to see on a résumé. Look into crowdsourcing and open source projects to see if there is something that fits your interests. Strong networking and various other opportunities will come your way if you stay consistent, and commit fully to the project at hand.
Here are some open source projects to check out
GNOME – A unique user interface for your PC/MAC that aim to give you more control and make you more productive. I love it
MOODLE – a complete platform to create online courses and learning material. One of the largest open source teams in the world, join them.
Some cool crowdsourcing projects that you can join
Recruiters Tip: You can list these as selected projects on your résumé
etaRNA – This is a giant science project that non scientists can take part in and contribute. Through a game you are essentially trying to build synthetic RNA models that can then be used to wipe out diseases.
ZOONIVERSE – This is cool, you can search though never before seen data and help discover the birthplace of stars
The rise of Temporary Labor, Contract work, and Freelancers
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, temporary employees accounted for 70.6 % of new jobs generated in the United States. There are 2.7 million of temporary employees in the United States, the highest number to date, and I don’t see that number declining anytime soon.
Companies have become lean and learned how to stay competitive by making just in time labor a permanent practice. Instead of getting discouraged, let’s discuss some ways we can thrive in this changing work environment.
Use staffing agencies strategically
What I mean by this is that you can use staffing agencies to build yourself a strong career path. Let’s assume that you just graduated in Accounting without experience. A large accounting firm downtown hires you through a staffing agency because of your impeccable excel ninja skills. You work there 3 months as a bookkeeper, politely make friendships with co-workers and ask them for LinkedIn recommendations. Now you have a BA in Accounting, experience with a large accounting firm and a few public endorsements that every recruiter and hiring manager can see.
In that regard, I would decline any other contracts unless it aligns well with my career goals. Some recruiters will try to push you into positions just to fill a pressing need, so it helps to discuss and be direct about your preferences. Recruiters will appreciate when you set minimums in terms of wage or contract length.
If you are signed up with a staffing agency, it helps to call your recruiter and ask what specific skills are in demand for you role. Learn the skills then call the recruiter back and ask for a skill assessment. Numbers always speak louder than words and will enable recruiters to market you better.
Accept Big Name Company Contracts. Having popular companies on your résumé will raise your value as a candidate that you can then leverage for bigger and better things with other companies.
View staffing agencies as a strategic tool to use, and do not feel bad about it. Staffing agencies profit when you work for them so it’s a win-win scenario in the end. Be direct with recruiters, tell them your preferences and keep a good relationship because in many ways every job is becoming temporary.
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