Communications Professionals Have 5 Years to Understand Digital, or Become Unemployable

Back in 2009 I started telling communications professionals that they had ten years to understand digital channels and integrate them into their thinking, or there would no longer be jobs for them in the industry.

I also blogged about this in February 2010.

At the time this was highly confronting to a number of experienced comms people, and I got quite a bit of push-back, particularly from more senior and experienced professionals about how their skills would always be necessary and valued.

I’ve stuck to this prediction and still refer to it regularly when presenting on the topic, adjusted for the number of years remaining. We’re now at five years and counting.

Today I came across a post by Anika Johnson in her LinkedIn blog ‘Why digital is no longer optional (or why digital shouldn’t exist at all)‘ which points out that communications professionals with strong digital skills are now earning more than traditional communications people – and their jobs didn’t even exist a few years ago.

She also has a prediction on timelines:

My prediction is that if you work as a communications, media relations or marketing professional and you continue to avoid digital you will probably have trouble finding a job within five years. It’s harsh I know but the horse has already bolted. My world is already digital – yours, whether you like it or not, is too.

Five years left if you’re a traditional communications professional, unwilling to build your digital skills.

However the digital transformation society is undergoing isn’t restricted to communications, so it isn’t only people working in media, PR, strategic, internal and corporate communications, marketing and market research who are affected.

For everyone else out there, the digital steamroller is encroaching on your turf too.

Police and emergency services increasingly use social media to gather intelligence, coordinate and communicate during emergencies.

Human resources (or ‘People’ as they now like to be known as) personnel conduct the majority of their recruitment and employee checks online and increasingly employee issues involve the use of digital channels.

Teachers source materials and learn via online mechanisms, communicating with busy parents via emails and running portals for gathering assignments.

Policy officers conduct their research and source views online, tracking influencers and activists on social channels.

Service delivery officers increasingly respond to requests and complaints via digital and social channels, and the services they deliver are increasingly digital-first.

Engineers and IT professionals manage and host their projects in the cloud, as do accountants and bankers their books.

Lawyers keep up with common law rulings and law changes via digital repositories and carry tablets instead of trolleys of files, and senior executives increasingly access their board papers and organisational dashboards via handheld digital devices.

Landscapers and builders plan their work via online tools and taxi drivers live on their GPS systems in most large cities – even when they know every street, their internet connected device gives them the fastest route for the day’s conditions.

Soldiers are increasingly using digital tools to assist in everything from surveillance (like drones) to logistics support, with the first autonomous robotic sentry devices currently in active testing

There’s few professions unaffected by digital and, in most cases, the better the understanding of the digital tools at their disposal the better an individual can perform.

Of course many of these professions has more than five years before someone with no interest or aptitude for digital becomes unemployable, however in most cases it won’t be longer than twenty years.

Indeed some of these professions may even disappear or be replaced – who needs taxi drivers when we have autonomous cars?

So if you’re in any profession and still resist learning and applying digital approaches and tools to your job requirements, you’re probably in the twilight years of your career.

Enjoy these years while they last. There will be plenty of digitally savvy youngsters (and oldsters too) ready to take on your role when you are no longer suitable.

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