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How To Advance Your Career When Technology Is Changing Everything

How To Advance Your Career When Technology Is Changing Everything

According to a World Economic Forum report released in January, 1.4 million US jobs will be disrupted by technology (along with some other factors) between now and 2026. And (yikes!) 57 percent of those jobs being disrupted belong to women. The upside to the "technology is eliminating jobs and industries" headlines? Most at risk workers would find better career opportunities, at higher pay through up-skilling or re-training.

If you're already working for a technology company, an innovative startup or are a student looking to pursue a career in the technology sector of an established industry, all this disruption is just another opportunity. You likely consider yourself of creative and ready to adapt to the jobs market upheaval. But what happens when the role or function or industry being turned on it's head is actually the one you're in? 

I recently attended the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC), an annual gathering of women in technology. Actually, it is the largest gathering of women technologists (over 20,000 women attended this year's event in Houston in case you were wondering where all the women in tech were). During GHC, I had the chance to pose the question of keeping your career (linear or otherwise) on track when technology is changing everything - with technologists and industry leaders who are living the day-to-day disruption. Underlying (loud) message?  Be a lifelong learner! So obvious but how many of us actually take that advice to heart (in the absence of a career catastrophe such as job elimination or loss)?

Commit to your career by continually trying and learning new things with a little caveat on this advice (before you brush it aside as heard-it-before advice or rush to sign up for yet another online course). The caveat: don't simply invest in skills you can immediately put to use in your current job, also commit to investing in visible skills development (that is, ask in performance reviews for ways to improve, demand critical feedback and seek guidance from mentors (as well as others in your network whose careers you admire), because you want to be known in your company (and in industry as well as through your social networks) as someone who is invested in up-skilling. A reputation along with being a life-long learner will go a long way to landing you the next opportunity , regardless of technological disruption.


More ideas to put into immediate action to keep your career moving forward when technology is changing everything:

Look beyond the parameters of the role or department you're currently in.

Understand the business you're in, not simply the role you're performing, suggests Joanna Parke, Chief Talent Officer at ThoughtWorks. When you're in a technology role (especially), you  have "so much ability to impact how their company uses tech to improve customer interactions and operations' says Parke.

Embrace up-skilling and be ready to step into new roles.

This is a career mindset as much as an action item. Companies such as PwC are working to digitally up-skill their entire staff (senior partners included) in response to client needs and market demands. According to  Rod Adams, US Talent Acquisition Leader at PwC the goal of these comprehensive training programs is twofold: to give workers the skills they need to compete, while also giving them new avenues for career advancement. If your employer doesn't offer a comprehensive digital or applied learning offering, invest in career longevity making up-skilling your personal commitment. Great advice from a mentor that Lesley Slaton Brown, Chief Diversity Officer at HP, Inc. took to heart early in her own career was "to read, study, and constantly observe the thought leaders in her area".

Understand how and where you learn new skills best.

Self-awareness is key at all stages of your career, and likely more so when you've got years of experience and are expected to acquire a new skill. Cathy Scerbo, Manager of Technology Services at Liberty Mutual Insurance offers up some particularly sound advice on this point:

1. Know how you best engage with learning new skills (i.e. is your best learning format video, blog, reading hands on learning etc.), then be purposeful and seek learning opportunities in the best format for you; and

2. Look outside your company, regularly for opportunities to learn (or discover new resources). Network, go to meet-ups, ask other companies how they are solving the problems or challenges that you are trying to solve.

Become an active listener.

This is a skill and not an easy one to master (best-selling author Tom Peters writes the word "listen" on his hand before he enters a meeting as a reminder). Listening is your best career and networking tool.  This sentiment is shared by Muleine Lim, Senior Engineering Manager at Criteo who recommends managers "actively and carefully listen to people, learning as much as possible from different personalities and skills". Furthering Lim's point I'd add that as it is essential to master the skill of listening and observing start working on this sooner rather than later in your career.

Find your purpose as it will extend your career.

Yes, following your passion or finding your purpose is slightly overused (plus rather nebulous) so try this activity: start noticing when (regardless of the workload or challenges or size of the task) you are exhilarated by what you're doing and make a note of it in your calendar (no matter how big or small the project). Do this for a few months then take a look back on all of those entries to see the bigger career picture for your career. This is not a futile exercise but an intentional professional momentum focused one, according to Brown who shares that "finding and understanding my purpose has allowed me to unleash my passion and hone my professional skills, and be recognized for the hard work (and passion for my job)."


Credit : by Kelly Hoey (