In 1977 the Internet had 70 million users. Today it has over 2.2 billion users. What does this mean to you, as a company employee or as a job-seeker? It means that knowledge of technology is now a job requirement.
Knowing how to use Microsoft Word and Excel, or open a browser window and find a website, are no longer core skills. Yes, they are useful and often necessary, but you need to know a lot more, and you need to be willing to continue improving and expanding your skills because technology evolves very rapidly.
Just a few years ago, the operator of a printing press or a milling machine learned how to turn handles and wheels to operate her machine. Today those machines are controlled by computer keyboards and monitors.
When I was young, I could do most of the basic maintenance servicing on my ancient first car: lube, oil change, check the plugs, adjust the timing – those were simple tasks if you had a little mechanical skill and the illustrated owner’s manual showed you how. Today at the service place a mechanic connects my car to his computer, the computer “talks” to the many computers in my car, and the mechanic’s tasks for the tune-up are displayed on a computer screen. Many of those tasks involve a dialog with the computer. That mechanic is now a digital expert.
So you are not a press operator or a mechanic? Let’s consider a typical commercial business. HR people now make extensive use of Identified, LinkedIn, and BranchOut when seeking job candidates. In larger companies, the HR department itself makes daily use of specialized databases and software tools.
Marketing departments are hiring “community managers” for their social networking efforts. Marketing departments are also adding pay-per-click and direct marketing functions to their traditional print models. Job candidates who do not know the difference between SEO and SEM will not fare well in this new environment. Learn how to measure the ROI (return on investment) for online marketing campaigns. Understand the basis of Google Analytics, because it and similar tools are central to measuring Internet marketing efforts.
Similar examples exist for pretty much every department in a modern business. Computers, databases, and Internet tools are impacting everyone.
Learn by Using
Possibly the best thing you can do to improve your technology skills is to use technology. If you are involved in marketing or brand management, get involved with Twitter, Facebook, and similar communities online. You are not going to understand what can be achieved via these tools if you are not an involved user of them.
With the Internet being an increasingly pervasive part of the business world, technical skills will be in demand for a long time to come. Take some basic courses in programming. HTML and CSS are the foundation upon which every web page is built, so learn at least enough to create a simple web page which validates. There are free courses online (such as Codecademy.com), community colleges frequently offer introductory evening classes, and most cities have for-profit and non-profit groups offering classes.
The Internet knows no borders. Just a few years ago, a family business selling services sold locally because dealing with distant customers was expensive. Other small businesses, such as a bed and breakfast hotel in a tourist area, also limited their marketing range because of the costs of print advertising and long-distance communications. Today, those businesses can literally sell to the world by using digital tools ranging from websites to Skype and more. When they hire, relevant technology skills are high on their “must have” lists.
Print publishing has worked one way for decades: an author sends us a manuscript (usually in Word), we edit it and prepare it for printing (much of the work happening on paper), and eventually send digital files to a printer. The resulting books are sold mostly in the US and Canada; distributors in other countries purchase quite small quantities to resell, recognizing that the shipping costs are going to make the printed books expensive.
Printed books are beginning to be replaced by digital books (ebooks). And this changes everything. Preparing an ebook involves using XHTML and CSS coding, very much like a web page. Editorial skills, long based on expert knowledge of proofreader’s marks and an understanding of what happens in the preprint, typesetting phase of print production, now has to change. Editors need to understand the basics of XHTML and what can be done with CSS, and the typesetters need expert skills in those coding systems. The workflows shift from paper to digital and timelines grow shorter.
The Internet eliminates shipping costs, so an ebook can be sold anywhere on the planet. And our ebook customers are not brick-and-mortar retail chains, now they are the individual readers of the ebooks we publish. We supply the distributors (large technology companies like Apple and Amazon) with the digital data they need to sell via their websites: everything about the ebook that appears on the site, pricing in a multitude of currencies, and a lot more. But we don’t market to those technology companies, we now market to the individual consumer, and that involves things like Internet brand marketing and product conversations on social media sites.
Everyone here is having to adjust to the new way things are done and many of us are having to acquire new technology skills, quickly. Any future hiring we do will undoubtedly place emphasis on digital technology skills.
There are very few industries or jobs which are not in some way impacted by the Internet today. Recognizing this and acquiring the skills you need for the career you want is something you should be dealing with today.