Social media discussions are alive with information about blockchain and the analysts and media have been talking about it for a long time. The trend has given rise to a new breed of cryptocurrency millionaires that have created excitement and buzz for the technology. While most of us are aware of blockchain, few really understand what it is. If you’ve looked for a job recently, you may have come across it in a job description.

Whether you’re currently looking for a job, or just trying to stay current in your present position, knowing a little more about blockchain will help you enter into the conversation.

To get you up to speed, let’s start with a simple definition for this market reality that is taking the globe by storm. Here is one definition; Blockchain is a continuously growing block of records or units of information linked together via timestamps or other information indicators in a highly secure and trusted manner.

What is blockchain?

Blockchain can be seen as a transparent and secure transaction ledger where transactions are both recorded and confirmed. All participating parties in a distributed network can share access to this continuously growing database to address their needs for information. Users in the network can contribute to the database by adding new transactions (or blocks) to the ledger stream. And, more importantly, every transaction across the network is recorded and stored without the ability to alter it, whether intentionally or accidentally. This level of security creates a beautiful new reality for a decentralized trusted information source in a landscape of broken global trust.

While there are numerous reasons that this is game changing, here are a few of my favorites:

  • The entities do not need to know each other to create a secure valued exchange—only their relevance to the information content and purposes defined by the particular chain.
  • By distributing evidence and details of transactions and providing means of access through a highly decentralized process, the chain simply cannot “go down” and is thus, remarkably more secure, stable, and available than other solutions.
  • Blockchain eliminates the need for third party information processors and central authorities, driving more direct and efficient (cheaper) transactions.
  • Blockchain turns David and Goliath onto its proverbial head-allowing for the transfer of power from large, controlling entities to the many.
  • It allows for the cryptocurrency markets where currencies can be solely digital, creating a new model of currency ownership from tangible units to purely digital representation.

These blockchain characteristics and features are attracting innovators from across an expanding number of industries and business services and operations. Soon, most enterprises will see value and develop practical strategies for leveraging the power of the blockchain idea.

Blockchain is relevant to every person's role

While we could spend hours extolling its impact, the bottom-line is blockchain is becoming important in every conversation due to its innovative nature. As the global population transacts in this new ecosystem with distributed user control, the normal course of business will be severely impacted in every industry.   

Why should you care as a job seeker or a professional? Let’s take a few real-world examples to demonstrate why it matters to you.

As a Marketing Manager- Blockchain can record ANY structured information, not just financial transactions. Think about the implications of the expedient and accurate recording of market data that shows what people own, their demographics, and their day-to-day transactions in real-time. If you knew you could have trusted and verifiable information at your fingertips, how would that change your day-to-day? 

As a Banking Executive- Blockchain has made it possible for parties to transact and satisfy their respective economic needs in a trusted way -- without a middle-man. How will that knowledge change your offerings? Do you see new methods for assessing financial risk or identifying new product opportunities?

 As a Healthcare Leader- Think about the possibilities. Could you capitalize on blockchain by accessing fragmented healthcare information systems allowing for more comprehensive records and more holistic patient or healthcare analysis? Think about the impact of verified data sharing between multiple healthcare providers along with access to linear treatment records? Would that dramatically increase the accuracy of diagnosis?

We could take every single industry, business process, and job role (present and future) and spell out examples of how blockchain will likely impact each. So now that you are convinced that you should care, what should you do about it to get up to speed?

5 career tactics to optimize your job search and professional development plan as they relate to blockchain:

Tactic #1: Research the impact to your industry and your role

There is an abundance of information and resources available on blockchain. Top consulting firms like Bain, McKinsey, and Deloitte have published numerous whitepapers and articles about the impact on industry. The mainstream press including Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and many others have also covered blockchain from many different perspectives. One of my favorite resources for tracking industry or job role information are the professional associations serving professionals in your same field of expertise. For example, if you are in marketing, take a look at the American Marketing Association resources. Similarly, if you are in the legal industry, you may want to take a look at the information on the International Association of Privacy Professionals. The bottom-line is you’ll need to do a little research and conduct your due diligence for your personal career endeavor.

Tactic #2 Find a subject matter expert to mentor you

We are big proponents of mentoring and have seen first-hand the incredible impact that mentors can make on an individual’s career trajectory. Finding a mentor who understands blockchain intimately (even if they aren’t in your industry), can lead to a much quicker understanding for you. Harnessing their wisdom will allow for an expedient application of strategy and operational implementation.

Tactic #3 Anticipate future skillset requirements

When you are conducting your due diligence, be mindful of thinking through how you can leverage your previous experience and specific expertise to be on the cutting-edge of your business. Think strategically about what you bring to the table for the inevitable business shifts, and know which new bodies of knowledge, skillsets and technology you will need. 

Tactic #4 Address your new skillsets in your branding

If you are job seeking, you have multiple branding documents that showcase what you uniquely bring to a company. Make sure you incorporate your new skillsets into each of those documents, along with any new learning or credentialing that has occurred. We also strongly recommend that you download five job descriptions from the target market, list the top 10 common areas of expertise that they are looking for and address all of them in your branding. Even if you aren’t job seeking, it’s always a good idea to keep your digital profiles and resume up to date – you never know when your dream job may find you.

Tactic #5 Verbal communications and interview prep

All of your verbal communications and interview stories should showcase your skillsets.  Not only should you incorporate your newly acquired skills and training, but also make sure that your interview stories and accomplishments directly address where your industry is going and how your experience in the past would help you make an immediate impact. Be prepared to share your new learnings at your next review session, or before if you have the opportunity to bring your new knowledge to bear as a solution to a current problem. 

When you are thoughtful about the potential impact of blockchain on customers, products and services, you'll be better prepared to sell yourself and to identify strategic opportunities to a potential hiring manager or your direct report. Showcase your thought leadership and demonstrate that you are one step ahead of your competition.

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HINT: Never get complacent about staying at the forefront of skillsets of the future.

Blockchain is just one example of how industry can change in an instant. Whether you are leading a team, or you’re an individual contributor who is a natural leader, continually learning is the key to success. Plan to spend several hours weekly reading relevant news about your industry, role and the global markets at large. Make it a point to attend at least one or two networking events on a monthly basis in order to broaden your viewpoint on happenings. 

Blockchain is here to stay for the near future. You don’t have to understand all of the inherent complexities and modalities to know that it is disrupting the way business happens today. You also don’t need to be an expert on blockchain to interpret what it means for you as a professional and leader, identifying the potential career liabilities and opportunities to stand out from your competition. This is one market reality among hundreds that are changing at a rapid speed. Managing your career and planning for future skillsets should be your constant market reality.

Shelly Gorman is a RiseSmart Certified Career Coach. Shelly's expertise lies in executive coaching, talent development, transition program management for large corporations, and individual development. She earned her bachelor's degree from Auburn University and her MBA from the University of Tennessee. Shelly is passionate about helping individuals leverage their full talents and potential.