Update: Want to know what happend to the engineer in the 1976 photo above? Click here to find out how he he managed to stay relevant for almost 40 years: How To Thrive In The Tech Industry For Decades.
If you want to know the most in-demand tech skills, that info is readily available. Want to learn the programming skills most coveted by employers? Done. But what are the skills and specialties that no one wants any more? What core competencies raise red flags instead of call backs?
A survey of 1,100 tech-hiring professionals by Dice, a job firm for tech professionals, offers some insight. Combining the Dice survey and other research, including an off-the-record conversation with an engineering VP who participates in hiring decisions, here are some of the outdated tech skills and withering technologies to be wary of putting on your resume:
1. Windows XP Admin/Help Desk
Many IT professionals, from engineers to help desk support workers to system administrators, have significant XP experience. Unfortunately, this may no longer be a useful attribute. Windows XP still holds the #2 spot for desktop operating market share (just behind Windows 7), but its fate is sealed. Microsoft ended XP license sales more than two years ago and plans to cease supporting it in less than a year.
2. Adobe Flash Developer/Designer
Web developers, app developers and designers have long relied on Adobe Flash to create interactive features. Yet Flash's future, particularly on mobile - is quickly drying up. It's now been three years since Steve Jobs created a stir when he posted his Thoughts on Flash memo outlining the reasons why Flash would not be part of Apple's iOS. At the time, Flash was considered so dominant that many analysts wondered if Jobs' decision would crush iPhone sales.
It did not.
Just over a year after the Jobs memo, Adobe announced it would stop developing Flash for mobile devices. Today, Adobe's former CTO, Kevin Lynch, works for Apple. The future belongs to HTML5. Learn, write and build accordingly.
3. Software Support
The transformation of computing from desktop to mobile, and especially the transition of software and services into the cloud is limiting opportunities for traditional/packaged software support. Today, you need to know how to manage software services and software configurations in the cloud.
(See also Legacy IT Vendors Shoot The Sales Messenger.)
4. SEO Specialist
Google no longer has a Search group. It's now called "Knowledge." That should be a telling warning for all the search engine optimization (SEO) gurus and ninjas looking for work. Expect SEO work to be de-valued going forward. The explosion of smartphones, apps and real-time location information - and especially social media recommendation - is diminishing the importance of search results. Eventually, information may be delivered to us even before we search for it as our integrated, connected systems anticipate our needs.
5. Quality Assurance Specialist and Managers
Hiring professionals in the Dice survey placed Quality Assurance (QA) on the "low priority" side of the ledger. Do not expect this to change. These days, the tech industry seems to be following Google's lead and turning everyone into beta testers. Users are the ultimate quality assurance staff - and they don't get paid!
6. - 9. Mainframes, Voice Telephony, PC Support, COBOL
According to a recent story in the Austin Post, tech recruiters "recommended (that) a 40-year-old still working in COBOL reevaluate why they're a coder." Pretty harsh. But the fact is, technology continues to move forward with no time spared for sentiment.
If you are gainfully employed as a PC repair tech, a COBOL coder, or are working on any of several older technologies, such as voice telephony or as a PBX technician, say, good for you. But don't count on keeping that job for the long-term, or being able to find another one like it.
10. Something That Seems Secure Today
The TIOBE Programming Community Index lists C, Java, C++ and Objective-C as the programming skills most in demand right now. But here's the thing. In 2009, Objective-C was barely in use. The rapid success of the iPhone and iPad vaulted the language's popularity. Now, however, just over three years later, its popularity is already stabilizing.
In today's superheated technology environment, even the most popular, most secure seeming technology skills can suddenly become obsolete. That's just the way it is. No matter how in-demand your current skill set, you can never rest on your resume.
Learning Is The Key
Will highlighting the wrong skill set to a recruiter brand you as out of touch - or too expensive to hire? Perhaps. But don't expect anyone to tell you that's what going on. More likely, they may just won't return your call, or let your resume vanish into the ether. (There will probably always be a few legacy jobs in all these areas, but that's about it.)
The only solution is to keep learning - and keep showing that you can learn. While the pace of skills disruption may well be increasing, learning new skills has never been easier. That includes formal schooling as well as free and low-cost resources like Khan Academy and CodeAcademy, for example.
Here's the bottom line: Since so much technology is fairly new to everyone, why should a company invest in experienced candidates - rather than someone just starting out? Writing for The Wall Street Journal, business professor and entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa, was brutally direct:
It may be wrong, but look at this from the point of view of the employer. Why would any company pay a computer programmer with out-of-date skills a salary of say $150,000, when it can hire a fresh graduate — who has no skills — for around $60,000? Even if it spends a month training the younger worker, the company is still far ahead.
(See also Vivek Wadwha in How A $20 Tablet Will Change The World [Video].)
It's not just about the money, of course. To justify any salary, it's not only about what you know - now - but what you can learn going forward. The key to a long career in Silicon Valley, or anywhere in the tech world, is showing that you can learn and adapt - and master - constant change.
Lead image courtesy of Flickr.