When I was filling out a résumé for my first job after an internship, my boss at the time chided me for including a “Skills” section at the bottom, rife with terms like “Microsoft Word/Excel/Access” and “Minor Spanish language fluency.” It was offered up as an essential marketing tool in many job search seminars, but my boss disagreed.
“Why would you want to leave them with a description of yourself as ‘minor’?” he said. “And who works in an office and doesn’t know Microsoft Word?”
They were good points then, back when everyone worked and sent messages from their desktop computer. But these days, basic mobile fluency might range from “I use a BlackBerry for email” to “I can sign a document you emailed me and share it with you through SkyDrive from my phone.”
There is a growing need for a common set of core mobile technology skills among workers. “Computer skills” are no longer what you need, but “web savvy,” or perhaps “data agility.” Here are some of the mobile technology skills that will soon seem irreplaceable among modern workers (and thus, unnecessary to list on a résumé).
MANAGING BATTERY LIFE (AND EXPECTATIONS)
One of the most important things you learn about driving a car is something you don’t remember learning: your understanding of how far your vehicle goes on a certain amount of gas. You find out, maybe the hard way, how much further you can go after the “low fuel” light comes on. You get the sense of how hills, wind, load, traffic and other changes will affect how far you get before you have to flip the gas cap.
The same goes for smartphones. What are the battery life estimates of your phone given by manufacturers, reviewers, or by anyone you meet who owns the same phone? That’s completely irrelevant, in almost every case. You’re the one who has your own set of apps, your own number of constantly syncing calendars, and your own habits of flicking on the screen whenever there’s an idle moment. Just as with driving, there are variables—scant reception, crowds, deep cold, and different charging cords with different wattage—that you can’t avoid, but can at least plan around.
But you still have to know the boundaries of how far you can go before you end up giving a presentation with a tablet that blacks out halfway through.
GETTING DECENT IMAGES OUT OF YOUR PHONE CAMERA
Not everybody is gunning to become an Instagram star, but most everyone needs to occasionally try and capture something for someone else’s understanding: a potential meeting space, a new product, or maybe just an inspiration. Even if you’re carrying the best phone camera around, make sure your mobile technology skills include knowing how to get just what you want out of a very tiny lens and sensor.
There’s a lot you can do: use your light, clean your lens, tweak your white balance, and see what you can do in the settings. Look for simple patterns. If you see a recurring problem with your phone, search Google for other people who report the same problem (for example, my HTC One’s “purple camera” issue).
KEEPING YOUR STUFF READY OFFLINE
Photos you take on your phone and the music you store on it are always ready for you. Same goes with your email and contacts, if things are working right. Nearly everything else is up to you to keep offline, if you want to have it available for airplanes, Wi-Fi that doesn’t work, or buildings that kill cellular signals.
Both Google Drive and Dropbox have tools for saving files for offline viewing. Many Android apps also have options to “Download,” “Export,” or “Save a copy,” which might later require you to be able to get to them using a file browser (Astro is a good pick). Having the mobile technology skills to manage online documents while offline? That’s one trick that’ll surely catch the attention of most colleagues.
MANAGING ALERT NOISE
When your phone alerts you about everything, nothing stands out as actually urgent. Your phone should buzz or chirp only when there is something that is so important that you need to know about it right then, whatever you happen to be doing. But most apps and services, by default, assume you want to be aware of every single thing that happens everywhere at any time.
iPhone owners should head into their Settings and check out the Notification Center, the little gear-like icons and “More” options in the apps themselves to choose what kind of notifications are sent by their apps. Android apps keep their notification settings inside themselves, so rooting around for those deeper notification settings is a five-minute job that pays long-term dividends. Keep only those notifications you really need to know about: text messages, important emails and the like.
SENDING, DOWNLOADING, EDITING FILES
What you use to keep your files handy depends on your personal preference, your office setup and security needs. But there is perhaps no better reason we have upgraded phones to tiny computers than to have information and files available to us wherever we happen to be.
Whether you’re using SkyDrive, Office 365, Novell, Dropbox, Google Drive, Zoho, or just the tools that come with your phone or tablet, your mobile technology skills need to include the ability to send someone a file. You also need to learn how to deal with any of the common attachments you receive (PDFs, Word documents, and so on), get files you were working on, and perhaps even edit files on the go, for the times you are away from your desk.
CAPTURING IDEAS, CONTACTS & CONVERSATIONS
What do you do when you come up with a great slogan for the next pitch, but you’re on the train to a hockey game? How do you handle the business cards you pick up along your way? If you need to record a conversation and get back some key quotes, how do you do that?
There are some answers to those questions such as Evernote, a smorgasbord of business card apps, and, among others, Rev Voice Recorder, but you need to find the solutions that offer the least resistance to your train of thought and how you do things, with easy retrieval for when you go looking.
HOW TO SECURE YOUR DEVICE
Despite all we know about how data gets out, and how effective social engineering can be for the wrong people, there is a definite trend in mobile devices used for work: employees who do not believe they are responsible for their firm’s data security. And data thieves keep finding new angles to exploit.
Every employee’s mobile technology skills should know how to put a secure passcode (“lock screen password”) on their phone and tablet, and how to ensure their device can be remotely located or wiped. Whenever possible, devices with work data should be encrypted, and wide-open services such as Gmail, Facebook, and others should be able to be signed out of remotely. And no two passwords should ever be the same for any two apps or services.
Fifteen years ago, perhaps it would’ve been appropriate for me to have “Proficiency in Word” on a resume. Today, people just assume that you have those skills. And as smartphones and tablets continue to become more important aspects of our professional lives in today’s new world of work, having these mobile technology skills will soon transition from a “nice-to-have” to being a “have-to-have.”