ATD Blog

How to Avoid Becoming Obsolete

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


In this day and age, becoming obsolete is a common fear among the employed and unemployed in equal measure. Rapid innovation and business model changes can disrupt whole industries. What used to take decades to accomplish seems to happen overnight.

So, what can we do to inoculate ourselves against obsolescence? Here are some useful things you can do to keep yourself up to date.

Know yourself. What are your strengths and what type of work environment allows you to do your best work? Knowing these things about yourself—and finding a position that brings out the best in you—will make you more valuable to your employer. Employers want to keep their top performers, and will invest in your future. Staying in a position where you’re not using your best skills or remaining at company that isn’t a good fit doesn’t help you OR your employer.

Keep your skills up-to-date. As a talent development professional, you know how important it is for employees to keep their skills sharp. But what have you done to update your own skills lately? Attending a conference or taking an online course are all good ways to stay current. Just make sure that the skills you’re sharpening are in demand.


Stay abreast of business news. It’s easy to get so busy with daily work that you lose sight of what is happening in the wider world. Reading your local paper or business journal is one way to stay up to date on what is happening in your region. Subscribing to news feeds online or perusing national business news on a regular basis will help you to stay current on business trends. If you find yourself frequently asking others what they’re talking about when they mention a fresh trend, new company, or business disruption, you may be getting out of touch.

Update your technology skills. With so much new technology, it’s easy to get behind on the latest developments. While it’s not possible to be up on every new app or program that is out there, make sure that you take steps to stay current. Some people subscribe to technology news feeds like or Mashable, and others follow technology leaders on Twitter. Personally, I ask my kids about the latest apps and download them so that I’m current on the latest "hot" new thing.

Whatever you do, don’t shy away from brushing up on your tech skills. Many people feel embarrassed to admit that they don’t know how to use certain technology. If you’re uncomfortable asking for help at the office, have someone outside of work coach you until you feel confident about your skills. Don’t know who to ask for help? Don't forget YouTube. It's a great source for free technology tutorials. 


Network. It’s easy to get so busy that you neglect your network and become get out-of-touch with what is happening in your region. What have you done lately to stay abreast of local and national trends? Attending functions of your professional association is a great way to stay up on the latest news in your industry.

Although this may sound self-serving now that I work for ATD, I have always recommended to my clients that they stay active in their professional associations—whether or not they are actively looking for a job. Bottom line: through your association or other means, it’s important to build and maintain strong relationships with others in your field and region who can help you to solve problems, find resources and stay on top of the latest news. So, if you’ve let your network languish, start today by setting up lunch with a friend or colleague.

Perform a career check-up. To help you identify skill gaps and other threats to your professional success, I developed the June Bonus TD at Work, “Keeping Your Career on Track.” It is designed to help you to identify your best skills and evaluate how your background compares with requirements in today’s job market. The TD at Work provides some great tools to help you pinpoint your best work environment and uncover any threats or opportunities you may have missed.

Not sure if you have time to do a full check-up? Join me for a webcast on July 8 at Noon, How to Avoid Becoming Obsolete, for more steps you can take to keep your career on track.

About the Author

Sue Kaiden is senior project manager, credentialing for the ATD Certification Institute. In this role, she supports candidates throughout the decision and preparation process and manages recertification for APTD and CPTD credential holders. Prior to joining the CI team, she served as manager of the career development community at ATD where she oversaw content and services related to career development, including ATD's Job Bank.

She is the author of “Keeping Your Career on Track” (TD at Work) and the editor of Find Your Fit: A Practical Guide to Landing a Job You'll Love, a book written with 16 top-notch career coaches, published in October 2016. Kaiden holds a master of business administration degree from Cornell University and achieved the Associate Professional in Talent Development (APTD) in 2019.

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