How to stay relevant in the digital era?

Individuals who can demonstrate their versatility in this ever-evolving professional environment, invest in their ongoing development and build their networks will have a competitive advantage in this digital era

How to stay relevant in the digital era? - CIO&Leader

We all are living in the digital era, which is creating shifts in the workplace creating a disruption which is changing the world of work. This change is not only reshaping any companies’ bottom line but also forcing the employers to think about their workforce and how and what skills do they recruit. We hear many discussions on either ‘digital disruption’ or how to create a ‘meaningful workplace’, but very few bring these two concepts together.

We have two options, either as humans we could attempt to compete and outperform a machine, which seems to be unlikely, or create an augmented workforce, which implies that individuals’ roles and competencies need to be redefined to work effectively alongside robots with clever cognitive computer capabilities like Artificial Intelligence (AI), etc. in order to create a meaningful and balanced workplace for all.

This disruption will continue to impact the workplace and that too at a rate faster than we anticipate. Business professionals, regardless of their industry, will have to keep pace, adapt and expand their existing skill set in order to be considered a valuable candidate or employee. The shift of the digital era can be seen in the rise of numerous new jobs and job titles in recent years like the Chief Marketing Technologist (CMT), whose job is equal in parts to a strategist, creative director and technology leader. The Digital Storyteller, or Chief Digital Officer (CMO), is another new role that has evolved recently as the need to collaborate across marketing, sales, and technology teams to foster digital thinking through a creative and distribution context has evolved. There is an explosive demand for the role of UX/UI Designers, Campaign Managers, Data Scientists, etc. which is another proof of jobs being created, as in this case, companies need to ensure that the experience their consumers have on their websites are simple, intuitive and fun.

In this digital era, humans are left with this big question on what I should be doing to make myself valuable and employable. The answer at a high level to this question is quite simple: To stay relevant in the digital era, professionals must demonstrate the capability to constantly learn. More powerful than the possession of a laundry list of skills, what will make one an indispensable employee is the proof that you can learn new skills and adapt to solve complex and novel problems. Agility is going to be the key in adapting, thinking and implementing in this dynamic work environment. Versatility is king today!

While it’s impossible to identify all the skills that are required, some key skills which are needed today and will be continued to be relevant even tomorrow are:

The ability to ride and enjoy the wave to change

The need for candidates today is not to just be able to do well with sudden changes. Organizations are looking for candidates who are creative individuals who welcome change and, even more so, anticipate, drive and relish it. In a job interview, it is best for one to be able to demonstrate their change management skills with relevant examples. We all have gone through this wave of change in the current or prior jobs. It’s important to reflect and think through these instances where we were required to demonstrate our ability to decide in an instant or change the course of our project. It will be an added advantage if one is able to talk about a situation like this, where they anticipated change and how were they able to influence and drive it.

Your value proposition and networking skills

While one must be able to talk about their own value proposition depending on their field of work like working alongside AI, understanding of cloud, analytical thinking and intuitive abilities to work with data is also critical to be able to have the right professional and personal network to know what skills you may need in the future. A strong network, which enables you to understand a new challenge that you may face at work is invaluable and may also be able to support you for learning new skills and abilities. Organizations today are increasingly looking for candidates who bring a strong network to work with them. Not only will such candidates be able to solve problems quicker they may also be able to attract the right talent to build teams.

Thus, it is advisable to invest the necessary time in building your network and for you too to support your network in turn so that you can leverage it when required.

Desire to constantly learn and grow

Today, organizations are investing heavily in talent. There are some serious investments being made in talent development and developing in-house learning programs so that they have resources that are future-ready. One can ride the wave of digitization by taking advantage of these career development and educational opportunities which will help to keep one’s skills sharp and relevant. Asking your employer about continued education opportunities not only shows you’re committed to furthering yourself professionally, it also reinforces that you anticipate your job and industry evolving in the future and want to be prepared. It is also recommended that you enroll for mentorship programs and career development seminars. Most of the time even though these options exist we are just afraid to ask. In a situation that your organization is still in the process of setting up such programs, it’s never too late to make that investment yourself in any of these programs which may be available externally.

The world around us is constantly changing, thus pushing us to keep reinventing ourselves in this dynamic environment. Individuals who can demonstrate their versatility in this ever-evolving professional environment, invest in their ongoing development and build their networks will have a competitive advantage in this digital era.

The author is Head - Professional Search, India at Korn Ferry

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