It would be absolutely impossible to try and list every single thing I’ve learnt about working in the digital sector so far. But, when I look back at my journey from a personal perspective, I thought it might be quite valuable to share some of the skills I’ve had to develop in order to survive in this crazy-wonderful sector.
So, as a 21-year old young woman working in the digital sector, here are the 5 most important things I’ve had to learn so far:
1- Be adaptable.
The digital sector is constantly evolving. If you don’t keep up, you get left behind. I vaguely remember reading about this concept of fighter pilots (so please don’t quote me if I’m wrong). But basically, it doesn’t matter how powerful the plane itself is, if the pilot isn’t able to adapt to different situations, then they wouldn’t be able to turn that plane into a fighter jet. It’s all about reacting to surroundings, learning as they go, and adjusting their behaviour / actions accordingly.
On a far less dangerous and impressive note, the same concept can be applied to how you are at work. If you’re able to adapt to new surroundings, embrace change and forward ways of thinking, you become far more valuable – just like a fighter pilot, well, kind of…
2- Pay attention to how your behaviour affects others.
I recently read a book that discussed this idea of the The Betari Box. So the Betari Box (exhibited below) is a model that’s been designed to help people understand the impact their attitudes and behaviours have on those of the people around us.
So, you’re sat at your desk, you’ve had a great morning, no traffic, made it to work early and you’re on top of everything, you’re feeling positive. You smile. You laugh. You compliment and empower those around you. It’s a cycle of happiness.
But, let’s say you’ve had a terrible morning, you’re stuck in traffic, you’re behind on your work, you feel negative. You’re impatient. You’re frustrated. With the weight of the world on your shoulders it’s easier to snap and be off hand with people. This then sparks upset in other people and the cycle spirals.
When you think about it, it’s a very simple concept.
If you’re working with other people, or especially in an open plan office, it’s so important to develop the skill of recognising when you’re stuck in that negative cycle, and putting things in place to break out and remedy it.
We’re all going to have those days, everybody goes through a hard time, it’s about understanding that, processing it, and dealing with it in a way that doesn’t negatively influence those indirectly related to the initial problem.
Similarly, it’s important to recognise when someone else may be in that negative cycle. The last thing that person needs is insensitive comments. Being mindful and aware of our own attitudes and behaviours can make the world of difference to the overall office environment.
3- Never stop learning.
I’ve read so many books and articles that discuss this idea of ‘lifelong learning’. I personally think it’s so important. Every situation is a new chance to learn something different, and yes that could be learning that your way of doing something is the best way for now. Alternatively, it also could mean discovering that there’s actually a more efficient way to do it. One of the best skills you can learn, especially in the digital sector, is to keep an open mind. The constant changes and updates mean there’s just no room for complacency.
If you’re constantly looking for ways to improve and develop both yourself and the work you’re doing, there’s also less chance of looking like a know-it-all. When people see that you’re making the effort to learn from them and understand their way of thinking, it makes working life so much more enjoyable.
In the words of Kendrick Lamar,
4- It’s ok to not think about work.
Now, this is something that sounds painfully simple, but is actually something I really struggle with.
When I first realised I didn’t really stop thinking about work, I did a lot of Google-ing and reading to find ways that would help. In most instances, I found that those who experienced through similar feelings, felt that way because they were stressed or unsettled at work, hence why it played on their mind and often found it difficult to switch off.
Although this seems to be the most common case, it’s also true that when you love your job and like being at work, it can be really, really hard to switch off too. I’m lucky to have an exciting and fun role at work, but it does mean I find it extremely hard to shut up about it when I get home. It’s great to enjoy what you do, but it’s also great to have that balance between work and home life.
I used to be notorious for getting to work for 7am and not leaving until after 5pm, not because of my work load, but because I wanted to be there (sad, I know). I’m always up early and look forward to work in the morning, then found myself wanting to cram as much into the day as possible. With the help of my employer, I’ve been able to realise that you can still demonstrate a strong work ethic without spending every hour of every day in the office.
It’s taken just about 12 months but I’ve finally got into a healthy balance. We’re incredibly lucky that our company has flexi-time. Being a morning person, I’m able to get to work early, and leave when I’m on top of my work for the week. If like me you struggle to stop thinking about work, I’ve found that going to the gym after work really helps. Doing something active that focuses your mind elsewhere gives your brain the chance to unwind and switch off from your job. That, coupled with finishing work a little bit earlier, really gives me the time to process my day, compartmentalise all my thoughts and enjoy my evening.
On a similar sort of note, I’ve slowly learnt how important it is to use your time off work wisely to recharge your batteries. Burning yourself out and working yourself into the ground is not productive (or healthy) for anyone. A bit of time away from work every now and then to relax and unwind can make you both more productive and more positive. Making sure you use your holiday allowance to recharge is extremely important.
5- Develop a thick skin.
Last but by no means least, developing a thick skin and ‘toughening up’ is something you’ll have to learn.
Anybody close to me knows I’m a crybaby. Kind words in a birthday card, X-Factor, the John Lewis Christmas Advert, you name it, if there’s something even slightly emotional about a situation I’m reduced to tears. Luckily for me, that meant that the whole “you need to toughen up” is a phrase I heard quite a lot when I was growing up.
It’s completely fine to be sensitive, it’s good to be aware of and talk about your emotions, but it’s also equally as important to be able to control these emotions when you’re in the workplace. People are going to say things that will upset you. You will make mistakes. Sometimes you’ll feel sad. It’s important that you handle these testing emotions with strength and professionalism.
Everyone deals with things in different ways. Some people are able to brush things off and forget about them easily. But others are prone to overthinking and worrying. It’s all about putting things in place that are tailored to your personality that help you deal with things.
So, if you’re looking at starting their career in the digital sector, if you have these traits – that’s great! However, if you don’t, don’t panic, neither did I, but rest assured you absolutely can develop them! Like I mentioned in my previous blog post, I’ve relaunched This Teesside Girl to encourage more women into the digital sector. The technology sector is a truly fantastic place to work and if we can help break down perceptions, and combat the fear of the unknown by providing a glimpse into what you can expect working in it, then that’s a step in the right direction.
As always, if you have any thoughts, or questions about any of the points I’ve made, please feel free to drop me a message on my facebook page or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.