Career Coach: Don’t let technology disrupt your career path

August 12, 2012

It’s no secret that keeping up with advances in technology is critical to surviving and thriving in the business world. There are numerous examples of top companies that suffered by resisting change (Kodak, Blockbuster and Borders are recent examples).

The lessons learned from these failures can be applied to individual career potential: To move up the ladder, you must embrace new technology. If you don’t, there are plenty of other individuals who will be waiting to sweep past you.

You know many of the tools you should be using — LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube — and you need to keep abreast of new advances in technologies that are specific to your particular industry.

What can you do if you’re not a born “techie”? Here are some ways to increase your savvy:

Get over your denial. Avoid jumping to the conclusion that a new technology will not affect you. Don’t get hung up on the way you’ve always done things.

Think ahead. Don’t rely on a history of success to save you in the future. Your job history has led to your present position, but if the nature of your business changes because of a new technology, that history may have little bearing on your future success. Have a vivid imagination and think about all kinds of different possibilities for the way technology could impact your position and your industry.

Embrace change. It is always frightening to change, especially if you have been successful in what you are currently doing. But with the waves of technology that are sweeping across different industries, change is becoming the norm.

Seek a tech mentor. Ask the advice of a colleague who actively engages with technology. This may not be the same type of person who you’d approach for a more traditional mentoring relationship — here’s the opportunity for millennials to mentor the baby boomers.

Set goals. Outline clear, measurable goals to achieve mastery of a new technology, whether it’s creating a professional blog and posting three times per week, or resolving to update a LinkedIn profile quarterly.

Practice. Like anything else, becoming a master of technology tools requires practice. Commit to spending a set amount of time each day blogging, Tweeting, or scanning tech headlines and blog posts.

Stay current. Keep up on technology trend to familiarize yourself with new tools that might become integral to your position or industry. Invest in your technology education, if necessary. You may have to learn a lot of new skills to keep up with the advances in technology in your industry.

Become a technology advocate. The best thing you can do for your firm is to become an advocate for disruptive technology. Encourage co-workers to think about how the technology could impact your business. Work with them to develop a strategy to respond to the challenge.

The final conclusion? Avoid denying that a technology will affect your career, your organization, or your industry. Lead the charge to change the status quo and embrace the technology. The alternative of ignoring disruptive technologies and allowing them to destroy your career is far worse.

Henry Lucas is the Smith Professor of Information Systems at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. He researches how information technology transforms organizations, markets, industries and our daily lives. His new book, “The Search for Survival: Lessons from Disruptive Technologies” (Praeger), uncovers how several companies responded — or didn’t respond — to innovative technologies.

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