Business Technology

Friday 24 November 2017

I'm in my 50s and desperate to quietly upskill to keep up with my tech-savvy younger staff

Career development is vital throughout your working life to keep pace with industry change. Stock image
Career development is vital throughout your working life to keep pace with industry change. Stock image

Michelle Murphy

I am a female in my late 50s and am enjoying my work at my job in the media sector. There are a lot of younger employees coming into the workplace with IT skills that are far superior to my own. While I am their manager, sometimes I feel like my lack of tech skills is putting me at a disadvantage. I wonder are there ways in which I can quietly upskill, without drawing too much attention to my own lack of knowledge to newer employees and bosses?

AIt is important to be aware of the area you are working in, as many sectors change rapidly - information technology in particular. This requires employees not only to keep their skills updated, but also learn new ones. Upskilling is a personal endeavour, as everyone has unique interests and talents that align with certain skills. Tackle one skill or skill set at a time, instead of trying to build several skills in one go.

Although many employers offer on-the-job training and the chance to take more formal qualifications, it's still up to you to keep your skills sharp. This is particularly true for a manager or leader, as by keeping up to speed your team can see how committed you are to your role and the company will see you as a leader and expert.

By refining and updating your expertise, you can ensure that you always stay relevant. It puts you in a more competitive position in your industry, makes you more valuable to your company, provides job security, and highlights your desire to learn and grow, illustrating a great attitude.

In the long term if your industry hits a downturn you will have kept ahead of the game by upskilling, and it also makes you more appealing for promotions or for future employers. Of course, it will also increase your own job satisfaction.

I feel as a manager you have an obligation to guide, coach and mentor your team so you need to be confident you can do so should any questions arise around new technologies and changes.

Committing to just a few hours training can boost your confidence as a manager and lead to increasing your team effectiveness and the organisation's competitive advantage. You can ask your own boss if there is a budget in place for upskilling or career development. Work with them to put in place an annual training plan to ensure you are ahead of the curve when it comes to technology - this discussion will normally be part of your performance appraisal on an annual basis.

But if you don't want to make it as obvious that you are upskilling, there are many timely, cost-effective ways to learn.

Use webinars, podcasts, etc...

They are effective and efficient, so you can tune in when it suits you. There is a wealth of content out there across a wide spectrum of subjects, so conduct a search and narrow down so you can hone into the topics you need. This gives you the opportunity to benefit from the online training experience of professionals.

Attend meet-ups or industry events

This will take more of your time but you will be meeting people and this is often more beneficial as you can ask questions, discuss changes, etc. It's a great way of learning from the experts and making new contacts.

Build your network

Join groups with other professionals inside and outside your industry - both online and offline. This will build your pool of connections while learning from a wide range of professionals and will also heighten your own interpersonal skills.

Use a mentor

Learning from someone within the industry can help you avoid mistakes. Ask them how they got to where they are and what they learned along the way - they can advise you on the particular skills you need to have moving forward.

Go back to reading

An obvious one but a great way to expand your awareness - research leaders in your field and read about them. Once you feel comfortable, you could contribute to a blog or a particular forum so you become more of a market expert.

Don't forget to document what you have been researching/learning so you have your own personal account and you can also inform your boss regarding your development. Update your CV and social profiles so your skills are all up to date. Once you start into this journey you can set a monthly goals plan.

Michelle Murphy is Director of Collins McNicholas, Recruitment & HR Services Group, which has six offices in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Sligo, Athlone and Limerick.

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