In the beginning was the skill, and the skill was good. But over time, it wasn’t enough to succeed.
In fact, a one-off acquisition of an in-demand skill of the day is never enough to achieve sustained success in the marketplace.
Consider, for example, the fate of the typist pool. At the turn of the last century, hundreds of thousands of typists flooded the workforce to aid junior and senior-level executives with the creation of their memos, letters and other essential documents. Over time, the skills possessed by the typist pools were absorbed by their superiors, and the need for rows and rows of typists in between corner offices diminished.
Today, as Moore’s Law wreaks its controlled havoc, new skills are coming down the pike much faster than ever before, and rapid acquisition of the latest proficiencies and technologies is becoming its own dedicated skill.
Take the possible modern-day analogue of the typist pool: The internal social media specialist.
In the late 2000s, social media mavens blazed bright on the job market. If an internal or external candidate knew how to post updates to the Twitters and Tumblrs of the world, they were hired or promoted within organizations with astonishing alacrity.
But as more and more employees acquire these skills, they’ve weakened in demand, if not become less valuable. Job titles that contained the words “social media” in the title grew only by 50 percent in 2012. While that seems substantial, it represents a 50-percent decline from the gangbusters growth of social media jobs in 2011. At the same time, the jobs site Indeed reports that job descriptions with “social media” increased by 89 percent. In other words, social media prowess—once the province of a few specialists within an organization—is fast becoming a de-rigueur skill for everyone.
Call it “The Great Convergence”: a new skill is rare, and mastery of it becomes profitable for a short time. Then, it’s mastered by the masses, and transitions from rare to required. Whether it’s being adept in deploying a new device or becoming proficient at something like coding, it’s a phenomenon that will continue to grip the marketplace.
What does that trend mean for job seekers? Should you continue to develop your social media prowess? Of course, but don’t hang your hat on your ability to use Vine. Instead, position yourself as someone who is tech-literate and as someone who can rapidly master new skills (and be prepared to cite examples of how you’ve done that it in the past).
How do you survive in the new economy? Identify skills that are in demand, and work to coincide with your natural strengths. Rinse and repeat.