A couple months ago, I saw this list of essential tech skills and ever since I’ve been thinking a lot about how little technology expertise I had before joining Idealware and how much has changed for me in the past year.
Last spring I was in college, where I typically spent 70% of my working time reading books (made of paper, not the e-kind), and the other 30% writing. I wasn’t all that picky about the tools I used—Microsoft Word was good, but Google Docs did just as well, and sometimes a pen and paper was preferable if I just needed to concentrate. In a few art classes, I developed a deeper relationship with software such as Adobe Audition and Max 6. My use of calendar and reminder apps was minimal at best.
The technological ecosystem I inhabit now is far more diverse. My daily tasks include broadcast email, file sharing, CRMs, CMSs, spreadsheets, and social media. I spend so much time working in these tools that it can seem as though my professional potential is determined by what I can make technology do, rather than how hardworking I am or how intelligently I look at broader world issues.
But looking down the list, I still can’t immediately do half of what’s here. And that’s fine, because my success isn’t actually dependent on what technology I can use. My ability to learn and adapt has been far more important than what I knew last year. I can Google articles and videos that will show me how to make a chart like Edward Tufte or export a list in CSV format. These are things I can learn in a few minutes, or an afternoon.
A lot of Xers and boomers expect college graduates to be technology experts in a box, but that’s not actually what an organization needs. Technology changes too fast for that. And the reality of life outside of a cubicle is most people have little reason to use many of those tools before taking the job. Besides, it’s too much pressure to be expected to know everything about so many complex functions and software programs.
To recent grads, I say don’t sweat what you don’t know. Convince your future employer that working with technology is not a skill set—it’s a mindset. The flexibility and intelligence to figure it out the system is what will make you stand out.
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