When I started the MBA program last fall, I knew I was in for big changes. I would leave my old job, move to Iowa City, make new friends, and take the next step on my career path. What I didn’t anticipate was how much I would need to change my technology habits.
I never considered myself a tech stalwart. However, when I came into the MBA program, I did not have a smart phone, a Facebook page, or a LinkedIn presence. I certainly didn’t grasp the ‘Cloud’ or know how to get several people working on a digital document at the same time. Part of my aversion came from a strong appreciation of my privacy – both online and off. Another part came from feeling overwhelmed by a number of pitfalls such as data tracking by companies, navigating personal and professional relationships online, copyright laws, and customer databases getting hacked and passwords stolen. It can be a scary digital world out there.
I was initially skeptical when Career Services set me up with a ‘to do’ list to get me up to speed on technology and networking platforms. After all, I was doing alright on my own – I got by just fine without Facebook or a smart phone before. What I learned quickly is this: there is a big difference between getting by just fine and having an edge in the marketplace. This is the difference I sought in my career and one of the major reasons I chose to attend Tippie for my MBA.
Employers are looking for connected individuals who can navigate the digital landscape. There is a notion out there – a generally held belief that someone who is not up-to-the-moment in technology, someone who doesn’t have a strong online brand or presence, is obsolete. While you won’t really see “has Facebook page and smart phone” on the requirements list for any job listing, being technologically savvy is an assumed qualifier for any position – just as it is assumed that all MBA students have similar exposure to marketing and financial analysis skills. Not having those basic skills is equivalent to self-selecting out of the job search or at least standing out from other candidates in a slightly weird and unflattering way.
I now have the smart phone and a Facebook and LinkedIn page. Through classwork, guest speakers who are experts in social media, and a bit of hand-holding from Career Services on my personal brand, I have come a long way in my use of technology. Despite feeling resistant and overwhelmed at times along with the occasional discomfort when new platforms emerge or new features become available, I have developed a confidence in my new skills. I have opted in and by opting in, I have made myself more accessible to my classmates, my professors, recruiters, and more able to reach my career goals.