This is one of the best pieces of career advice I can recommend to someone looking to get ahead in almost any career field.
Learn and get really, really good and proficient at the most popular (or used) software programs in your industry and field.
When I was aspiring to be a newspaper journalist, I learned QuarkXPress and Adobe Photoshop. Those were the two dominant programs used at newspapers at the time. And knowing them very well got me my first job. Then it helped me get offers and other jobs years down the road.
In fact, because I quit college before finishing my degree the first time around, I know that knowledge was the only reason I kept getting jobs, which typically required a college degree. (Of course, experience helps too, but that’s another blog post.)
Now, fast forward a couple of years, and because I started learning another software program — you might have heard of it: WordPress — I’ve been able to successfully freelance for 10 months and eventually built an entire business around that particular software program.
As I review the last 12 years or so of work experience, I see this pattern emerging: I keep getting good jobs because I had something valuable — experience, knowledge, proficiency in software programs.
Sure, there were other variables … like as I mentioned experience, tenacity, and personal drive … but here’s why this piece of advice is valuable and also valid:
- People who know niche software applications are rare
- If you’re good and dependable, and also happen to know niche software applications, you are in demand
It’s the simple law of supply and demand.
So my advice is this … find out what the hot, emerging, popular programs are in the field you want to be in and learn them!
Get really, really good at them. Take a class if you have to, buy a book on it, look over someone’s shoulder and ask questions (what I’ve done many times), or just invest some sleepless nights figuring it out for yourself.