August 13, 2012, 6:32 AM —
I read your column saying that a techie’s technology skill set has a two year marketability half-life and cried. I left the workforce three years ago, can’t find a job, and your column told me why. You’re right, at least for me. How do I retool my IT skills to improve my marketability and find a job?
Thanks for your email, thanks for your question, glad I was able to provide you some insight into your predicament, and sorry I made you cry.
There are a number of things that you can do to update your skill set and reestablish your professional marketability. I don’t know your specific technical specialty, so I’ll try to make my suggestions applicable to technical jobs in general.
1. Do your research: Your first step is to gain an understanding of what exactly has changed in your technical area. If your specialty is related to using a software package, then find out what has changed architecturally and functionally within the software package. Alternatively, if you are in the datacom side of the house, identify what new hardware devices have entered the market and what enhancements have been made to existing hardware and its related software.
2. Pick your battles: With your research complete, divide the technology changes you found into two primary categories; first, technologies you really want to dig into and learn, and second, technologies you just want to be cognizant of so you can speak intelligently about them during an interview. After all, you can’t become an expert in everything. Note that when choosing which technologies you truly want to learn, consider the accessibility you will have when trying to learn the technology.
3. Find access to selected technology: In many cases, the hardest part of studying a technology is gaining access to it in a way that it can be studied. That said, if your selected technology is free to attain or inexpensive to purchase you’re all set and off to the races. If, however, this is not the case, here are few tips on how to gain this access:
a. If your technology is software based, call the vendor, explain your situation, and ask if you can have access to a cloud-based test region of their software.
b. Call your old employer, explain that you are trying to update your skills and ask to work on the technology free for a month or two. The company will get free labor. You will get professional-level experience with the technology and recent work experience, thus illustrating your reentrance to the work force. Also, who knows, after some volunteer work your old employer may offer you a job.