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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

5 Excuses You Make for Not Learning New Tech Skills (and Why Every One Is Wrong)

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“You have to learn to code,” says that nagging voice in your head.

“I know,” you whine right back at it. “I will, soon. Maybe.”

Then you don’t even take the effort to look up a beginner class, and the cycle of “thinking about learning to code eventually” continues. Well, that stops today. You’re done making excuses for why you haven’t picked up any new tech skills since teaching yourself how to tag people on Facebook a few years back. No, really: I know every single excuse you’re making, and I’m fully prepared to rebut them all below.

Excuse #1: “I Don’t Need Those Skills”

Just because you don’t spend your days building Rails apps or customizing WordPress templates doesn’t mean you can pretend that tech skills aren’t important in today’s world. Virtually every industry and job involves some kind of software or hardware. In fact, having a handle on the digital basics is often a job requirement now, and going beyond the minimum can be a sure way to keep your career on track. Because even if you don’t have to know anything now, you eventually will—regardless of your field. (Spoiler alert: Welcome to the future.)

How to Get Over It

Ask your boss what tech skills she thinks would most benefit your current position, as well as what she believes will be most important in the coming years. If she draws a blank, take it upon yourself to look at your daily responsibilities and goals and think about what would make them easier or make you more efficient.

Excuse #2: “I’m Not Smart Enough to Learn Tech”

Sure, maybe you got a C in high school geometry. And maybe you still struggle to figure out the tip when you’re paying for dinner. But tech isn’t all about math, and it also doesn’t require being a genius (although, I’m sure you are one!). At its core, it’s about problem solving, and that’s something you’ve surely got down pat if you’ve made it this far in the world.

How to Get Over It

Instead of feeling intimidated by the end goal of, let’s say, learning HTML, find a class designed for beginners. Before signing up, make sure the syllabus breaks the concept down step-by-step so that it’s not quite so overwhelming. Before you know it, you’ll be coding email newsletters and whipping up web pages all on your own. OK, maybe not all on your own, but at the very least you’ll have a better understanding of how it all works.

Excuse #3: “I Don’t Have Time to Learn Tech”

So, you’re totally into the idea of mastering some code, and you know you’d be a programming powerhouse—if only you weren’t so busy, busy, busy. Tell you what, we all could use about a billion more hours in the day. But it doesn’t take a lifetime—or even more than a few hours—to learn new, applicable skills. In fact, you can make a real difference to your knowledge level by just committing a little bit of time.

How to Get Over It

Sign up for an online course that you can do at your own pace. Then, and here’s the tricky part, designate a time every week to do it. If that’s still too much commitment for you, try downloading some podcasts and catching up on the latest news and trends while you’re at the gym or on the way to work. You have to admit, that’s probably a better use of your ear than listening to songs you’ve already heard over and over.

Excuse #4: “I Can’t Afford to Learn Tech”

You’ve heard about those coding bootcamps that cost tens of thousands of dollars and require quitting your job and relocating across country. And those rumors are true. But that’s not the only way to pick up next skills. Nowadays, there are free (or very affordable) options to learn wherever you are. Plus, many employers are happy to support your education if there’s an obvious benefit in it for them.

How to Get Over It

First, see if your company offers training or will pay for a course or two at a local school. If that’s a no, look for tech meetups in your area where you’ll learn everything from how the web really works to programming languages like JavaScript, Ruby, or Python. Or, dig into the wealth of online resources available. I’d suggest starting with Skillcrush or Codecademy. These choices cost almost nothing, and all of them are worth any investment required since they’ll give you skills you can convert into a higher-paid salary.

Excuse #5: “It’s Too Late for Me to Learn Tech”

You know that Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook while he was still in college, and you’ve read the tales of 20-something startup billionaires. So, you just assume that tech’s a young person’s sport and you’ve already missed the play-offs .

Sorry, but your laptop, phone, computer programs, and apps don’t care what year you were born. And they don’t know if you have a computer science degree or not either. If you have the skills, you can come up with the code or do the design—even if you’re in your—gasp!—40s (like me!) or if you weren’t born with a mouse in your hand.

How to Get Over It

You’re not too late, but there’s also no reason to wait any longer. If you’re motivated and interested, you can learn whatever you set your mind to. So, set aside those limiting thoughts and start today with baby steps. For example, you can have fun getting into image editing with a simple (and free!) online tool like Pixlr Express or just learn some useful tech terms so you can stay on top of discussions of the latest trends at your job.

So, stop with the excuses and start your journey into tech. The trip can be smoother than you ever imagined, and it’s 99.9% guaranteed to be a good direction for your career.