Are you falling “behind the times” in terms of your professional skills and expertise? Regardless of what level or type of position you hold, letting yourself get rusty (to use an old-fashioned term) is a big mistake. Whether you’re preparing for a new job search or just looking at your promotability in the job you already have, keeping your skills and expertise sharp is a “must do.”
What you don’t use–or improve–you’re all too likely to lose. Or, more accurately, it will be likely to cause you to lose something valuable–a new job, a great job you already have, a future career opportunity you’re unprepared for.
Back in the days of the Old West, a chuck wagon was used to feed and supply trail crews when herds of cattle were being moved long distances. After all, there weren’t any corner grocery stores around then! It was a fairly simple system, but it worked. Then.
Correspondingly simple methods could once be used to keep you up to date on what you needed in order to do your job effectively. In particular, before the days of the internet, job searching and on-the-job performance didn’t require you to tackle some of the challenging issues that confront you today when you need to ensure you’re well prepared to get and keep a desirable job.
Of course, it isn’t only advances in technology that have complicated the situation for you, although they’ve certainly intensified and accelerated the challenges. However, I believe an even greater contributor is the fact that we too often become complacent or inattentive regarding our skills and expertise, in effect assuming they’ll somehow be ready and in top shape when we need them.
That’s a fallacy–and one that can cost you big time. So what can–and should–you do about it?
Focus on maintaining and even expanding your skills and expertise. Just as athletes will plan and execute a program to maintain their fitness at peak levels, you need to keep track of the condition your skills and expertise are in. Are they keeping pace with changes in the workplace and in your profession or industry?
Even more important, do they give you an edge over your competition in terms of desirable qualifications sought by employers? Do they enable you to offer a more effective solution to an employer’s needs than they did years ago?
Remember, what used to work in the old days might not work so well now. If you can’t keep up with your competition–and preferably even move ahead of them–you could get lost at the back of the pack. Just as the old chuck wagon is no longer a viable option, so you risk being made obsolete if you don’t plan a way to stay current–or, better yet, cutting-edge.
Again, it doesn’t really matter what level you’re at. Keeping your skills and expertise sharp is something you can do and something you can’t afford not to do, whether you’re an accounting clerk or the VP of Finance. It won’t automatically protect you from being laid off, replaced during a post-merger integration, etc., but it will improve your odds of being the one who stays, instead of the one who gets walked out the door.