The market for continuing education in technical fields is exploding, but are re-skilling efforts worth it? The answer is: it depends on your situation.
According to the 2014 Udemy Skills Index, an analysis of trends in American skills development based on data from Udemy’s top 100 paid online courses, technology courses have the highest enrollment numbers of any subject. We get that we need them, and so we’re signing up in droves. But how do you know if you need to upgrade your technical skills, and where do you start? Here are some potential scenarios.
Reason #1: You’re competing with younger candidates for the same jobs
Let’s face it. If you’re 40+, you grew up – and came into the workplace – mostly tech-free. The speed with which people adopt new technology can seem intimidating, but you can’t allow more comfortable (and usually younger) candidates to steal your edge when you in fact have more experience. You don’t, however, have to become a whiz at everything overnight. The pros at Udemy suggest that you start with a single new device, site, or software program. Expect that it won’t be immediately intuitive: there will be a learning curve. Fortunately, there are plenty of online forums, courses, sites, and even live people eager to help.
Reason #2: Your resume still lists Microsoft Office as the only technical skill
While Microsoft Office might give the impression that you’re still working in the 20th century, there’s no need to get an additional degree to upgrade your tech skills. Experience in coding, HTML, InDesign and other programs can set you apart, and these are easy to learn in an online environment such as Udemy. Want to show more in-depth expertise? Start a blog about something you’re passionate about – preferably but not necessarily related to your field. The process will open up new tech frontiers and show employers you’re not afraid to experiment and can manage change.
Reason #3: You can’t get promoted because you don’t understand the digital side of the business
If you feel stalled in your current job, adding new tech skills to your repertoire could help propel you to the next level. The Udemy experts suggest raising your hand for new tech-related responsibilities or projects at work. Sit down with the people who head up your digital and/or IT departments and learn about what they do, or consider a reciprocal mentorship in which you receive technology advice from a more experienced colleague. You might also volunteer to work on technology for a cause you care about as virtually every nonprofit wants to expand their online presence and use technology to increase efficiency – and you’ll get the opportunity to learn on the job!
Reason #4: You can’t get the results you need with the technology currently in place
Depending on your current role, it might not be enough to know how to use existing technology. In order to make a substantial impact, you may need to jump on the DIY (do-it-yourself) bandwagon. Techopedia defines DIY as a technique that allows general users to develop products or services without the help or aid of an expert or organization in that particular field. According to Udemy, employees can differentiate themselves by applying technology to create solutions to problems they’ve identified at work. “Udemy supports these problem-solvers by providing courses to teach the skills needed to create an app that fills some gap,” says CEO Dennis Yang. “We strongly believe that everyone profits from these immersive learning experiences.”