Welcome to Episode 2 of Fear of Becoming Obsolete (FOBO). I am Tom Auld, your friendly neighborhood Product Owner. Today we are going to talk about value. Specifically your value in the job market.
Grab a cup of coffee, tea, or favorite adult beverage and let’s talk about staying relevant at work.
Today we are going to start with our favorite topic; ourselves.
The great philosopher, Socrates, coined the phrase “Know thy self”. He believed that in order for us to live a good life, we must self-reflect and learn from our past.
With that in mind: What is your value in the job market? Are you rising in value or are you dropping? How do you know?
The challenge is that we know the way we want things to go in our careers. But what is the world of work truly telling us?
How can we take what we have learned through the course of our career use that knowledge to make better career decisions.
A personal example:
In 1997 I was a COBOL programmer. COBOL is a mainframe computer language that was heavily used in finance and banking. It was very popular. But new clients didn’t want COBOL. They wanted to use the latest and greatest language for their operating systems and programs.
So, I took training, and I became a C++ programmer. It was the next “big thing” in programming.
A few years go by, and this new thing starts making waves in business. It was called the internet. Everybody wanted in on it. It was going to be HUGE.
So, I learned HTML, ColdFusion, and Flash.
Every few months a new software language was being released.
Each promising faster performance, more functionality, and more stability.
During an annual assessment, my manager asked me what I wanted to do next.
I wanted to keep programming. I loved the challenge of the work and the fact that I could see the result of my work every day.
My manager said, “That sounds good., but you do know you will need to keep re-inventing yourself every 18 months or so, right?
And developer work is starting to be outsourced and off-shored.
Your competition in this space is going to get fierce and it will likely push down rates”.
Yikes. That’s not what I wanted to hear.
We just had our second daughter and I didn’t want to think I was at the top of my earning potential.
So, I asked for my manager’s advice.
He said, “There is this new need in the market. It blends a knowledge of business and technology. It is called “Project Management”.
I think you might be really good at this because you can combine two of you strengths in a market desperate for that skill set. And the rates reflect this need.”
So, I joined the dark side and became a project manager. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being a project manager. I still have my PMP certification because it was such a beast to get.
My manger helped me baseline my reality.
I could have stayed a programmer and enjoyed that work, but the competition was picking up and the rates were going lower.
Instead, I decided to pursue a role that was in high demand with low supply.
As an economics major, it was an easy choice for me. And it didn’t take me completely away from technology.
I was still building business solutions with technology, but from a different point of view: the business.
I loved project management work. Getting something done for a customer and solving their problem was exactly what I wanted to be doing.
So, when is the last time you did a similar self-assessment?
How can you quantify your skills and their respective value in the job market?
Let’s start with a simple exercise.
Grab a piece of paper or open an excel file.
Draw a column and label it “SKILLS”.
Now start listing off all the work skills you have. Just start writing or typing away. Don’t overthink or self-edit. Get it all out there.
PAUSE TO COMPLETE LIST
Well done, I am sure the list is very impressive.
Now add a second column and label it “VALUE”.
This is the value in the job market. Not the value you place on the skill set.
This is more of what a company would pay for this skill set.
We will talk about skills you like and want to maintain in a future episode, but for now just think of it in value to an employer.
Now start going down the list:
Put a “1” in the VALUE column next to every SKILL that you believe has value right now and 2 years into the future.
Put a “0” next to a skill that you believe has value now, but will likely go away or evolve within the next 2 years.
Put a “-1” next to a skill that you believe is exhausted in the job market. A skill that can be automated, easily outsourced, or easily replaced by cheaper workers,
Now add up the “VALUE” column. If you have a score above 0, congrats! Based on your baseline of reality you have skills that are valued in the market place for at least the next 2 years.
If you have a score below 0, that is fine, it is just data. It is not your worth as a human being.
Now you have a baseline of reality to reflect on and put a plan together to address.
You are not in a unrecoverable position. You just need to address the situation before the job market deems you obsolete.
What if you are unsure of what skills to go after? How can you fill that knowledge gap. Here are a few ideas:
Talk to your manager. See what skills they are seeing in your area of specialty or at your company. Your current company may have internal training, or they might even send you to external training. Remember, they do have a vested interest in keeping you as an employee. You have proven your value in other areas, and you know the company culture, so it would be a win-win for them to help you upskill.
Maybe you don’t have a great relationship with your manager and that conversation is not available to you. Do you a mentor you could have this conversation with you? Is there a different manager in your current company that you have a good relationship with, and you could talk to them? Look around and see. I always invite people to exhaust all of the options at their current employer before leaving. But sometimes you have to move out to move up.
Next, talk to recruiters. They talk to hundreds of people and dozens of companies on a constant basis. They see where the requests are coming in and can spot the trends. Ask them for advice and guidance. Again, they have a vested interest in helping you. They get paid when they help fill a job req. Their company might even be open to helping you get upskilled. You never know until you ask.
Then there is always GOOGLE. Do some searching around “Top Job Skills 2023”; “Most valuable job skills” and other like search queries.
Now that we are getting some clarity on the skills that you may want to improve upon and how you can add those skills to your tool kit, you might want to understand what is that going to reflect in a salary. I know money is not a comfortable topic to discuss, but until mortgage companies accept hugs as a form of payment, we need to understand our financial options.
There are a few good sites out there. I have found Salary.com does a nice job giving you a range of salaries based on your geographic location. It even provides job descriptions for you to review.
Again, this is just another piece of data to put into your equations so you can make an informed decision about your next step.
I know this can be hard to hear, but I think it is important. We are all products in the eyes of our companies. We are very expensive products usually equaling 67% of the entire company’s budget. It would be naive of us to not think that they are looking for ways to reduce that cost.
To protect ourselves that we must stay relevant and valuable. Our skills need to keep evolving to meet today’s needs and tomorrow’s needs.
I hope this exercise gives you a way to baseline your reality. Make sure to do this on a regular basis so you never get in an obsolete position with your company.
Do you have other ways you baseline your reality? How do you evaluate your skills in today’s market? Please share your idea in the comments. You might help someone you have never met.
Don’t forget to check out our other FOBO videos at our website and YouTube channel. Please like. comment and subscribe. Every little bit helps.
Let us know if you have ideas, questions, or topics you would like us to address in a future episode.
This is your friendly neighborhood product owner; thank you for joining us today and i look forward to connecting with you in the future.