Which Technical Skills Should I Acquire?

by Torrie Arnold

Among the most common and worst questions that recruiters are consistently asked, “What technical skill(s) should I acquire to increase my marketability?” It’s a question commonly asked and a clear answer from a recruiter unwittingly places the candidate at risk. Changing labor market demands, a misunderstanding of one of the most common elements of success, and the massive amount of time it takes to properly develop a skill should have already placed this question in obsolescence.

Typically I answer this question in pointing out what we all know to be obvious. With the general labor market changing rapidly, the tech sector is perhaps the most dynamic and rapidly changing of all. Skills that were in demand 6 months ago from any specific point in time within the last three years have almost all faded towards saturation at best, obscurity at worst. Successful developers, architects, security engineers etc. have all risen to and maintained their edge in either developing new skills of honing expertise in one area. Constantly developing new technical skills to keep up with the market allows one to remain marketable, but can sometimes feel taxing like a treadmill that won’t stop. Contrarily, developing a true expertise may allow one to carve out a particular niche within a larger industry, but limits the scope of future opportunities.  Remaining a successful engineer will require either diversification or specialization, and won’t be easy either way. It’s best to start where your interests are than where the market is temporarily placing its spotlight.

With the above in mind, it doesn’t make much sense to choose a direction purely based on current market demand. However, we are also aware that failing to plan means planning to fail, and we know where we will ultimately end up in choosing to develop a skill that has no market demand. What next? As naïve as it sounds; following your passion is the best way to start. Identifying those areas with relative demand is rather simple, just check a few pages of local job listings and assess what skills the labor market is in need of, and take a personal inventory of what interests you most, if you haven’t already. Few common threads run amongst the most successful people in the world, but passion for what they do is one that is undeniable. Not only will you have more fun in acquiring such skills that you love, but you will also be more driven to meet the changing landscape of what will be needed now and later to achieve your personal passions and goals. Where do you start? Wherever you most want to, the where you start shouldn’t be determined without first recognizing your passion as the why.

The massive amount of time it takes to learn a new element of security, learn a new programming language proficiently enough to list on your resume, attain a Microsoft or Cisco certification, etc. is not going to be the best use of your time unless the pursuit of these skills is at least partly for reasons of self-edification and sincere interest. Rather than pursue the in-demand skill of today that you are half-heartedly interested in and won’t be in demand by the time you acquire it, it may be best to spend your time networking, learning who the organizations in your particular field are and what they do, request and attend informational interviews, learn how to market yourself in the resume and in the interview, and make sure you have a recruiting consultant that listens and partners with you in helping you to reach your goals.

Your career will most likely be a long road, denying your personal interests and refusing to be ruthless with your time will make this road all the more arduous and all the less enjoyable.

#keeplearning

The Best Kept Secret of Top Performers

A common parallel among successful people is that they score highly in Emotional Intelligence. Even people who may not have the highest IQ can surpass their colleagues because of the ability to tap into their EQ to appropriately connect with those around them.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) has been thought of as an aptitude, something you either possess or don’t; however, it seems clear that the science is pointing to just the opposite. In fact, there is much you can do to assess and improve your EQ, the critical factor to both personal and professional success.

EQ is a nebulous thing we all possess at differing levels that affects how we understand ourselves and through the lens that we practice self-management, social empathy, and relationship building. Because it is so nebulous it is difficult to measure and to understand what you need to do in order to improve.

The good news is that there are seemingly infinite resources to help with both of these tasks – first figuring out where you stand currently on the EQ spectrum and second to practice and learn to improve where you can. The following are two resources by highly recognized researchers, consultants, and speakers, Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.

These books are a great introduction, assessment tool, and action plan toward greater abilities in EQ. There are also many online resources for assessments (paid and free) and skill building. It seems well worth the time to work on these skills as highly emotional intelligent people are the most productive and in turn the most successful.

High Emotional Intelligence = Top Performer = Career and Life Success

Keep learning!

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