Out of Style?

Out of Style?

You may have heard about this guy, Jeff Bezos, who has had some success in building a company or two. Regardless of your opinion of him, or Amazon, he's demonstrated that he knows a thing or two about longevity and focus. I want to focus on something that he said more than two decades ago

I very frequently get the question: "What's going to change in the next 10 years?" And that is a very interesting question; it's a very common one. I almost never get the question: "What's not going to change in the next 10 years?" And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two -- because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. ...

Many have commented on this quote and I'm not here to discuss it in regards to growing a business. But after starting the search for a new job I am here to share that this insight may be a cornerstone for building a career.  

Handshake vs High-five

I'll explain it this way: you want to be the one who can look someone in the eye and deliver a good, strong handshake versus the one who knows the currently cool high-five.

I'm learning that as a job candidate it is increasingly important to demonstrate that you have skills that are not going to be out of date in 10 years.

Being in the software industry it's hard not to feel that the opposite of this is true since many companies ask if you know the cool, new tech; if you are able to speak the jargon and make a sentence out of nothing but the concatenation of three and four-letter acronyms.

Don't get me wrong. There are core technologies and standards that as candidates we need to know.

But the question is: what happens if a technology stack is no longer used at a company? Or if the landscape changes and the business needs to pivot, as they say?

You want a team of skilled people who can learn and utilize the next thing. Because there will always be a next thing. Always.

Learn how to be good at skills that don't go out of style.

You want a team who can deliver their handshake for years to come.

Brandless Black T-Shirts

There's always a marketing gimmick around saying "_____ is the new black."

Even Netflix made a TV show that uses this line as the basis for the title. But the truth is: black is always the "new" black and will always be in style.

Starting three years ago, I switched to a wardrobe of the same, brandless, black t-shirts. This was done for several reasons but I promise you fashion is not one of them. I'm a #dadhat kind of guy (and ironically not wearing a black shirt in this photo - must have been laundry day.)

I love the simplicity and consistency of knowing what I'm going to wear. But the benefit is that I know I can wear a black shirt in any season and it'll fly. I can wear it to almost any occasion, with the right pants, and it'll work. I'm ready for whatever is ahead.

How does this relate to a career and being a candidate?

It pays off to have "brandless, black t-shirt skills."

What are these? This is my current, non-exhaustive, list:

  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to learn, think/comprehend, and take action. (This means know how to apply what you learn.)
  • Resiliency which means you know how to fail and keep going.
  • Discipline of paying attention; able to focus.**
  • Team player. We > Me.

I know. These likely sounds familiar but there's a reason for that. They'll never go out of style. Can you imagine a job posting that says: ideal candidate doesn't need to be able to communicate?  I cannot.

More importantly, and likely realistically, even if you do know the new cool technology, if you're not able to communicate about it or involve others well, the ceiling is lowering for you.

In short - focus on your core skills of being adaptable and resourceful. Once you prove that you can do that, you have a foundation for whatever is ahead.

* * Being able to pay attention and work focused and uninterrupted for more than 30 min is skill. It's one we need to encourage each other to practice.


What I'm trying to remind and encourage myself, and hopefully you, is that having these "black t-shirt" skills that will never go out of style will set you up for success in ten years...even if it feels like companies want the new cool stuff.

Not going to ask you to switch to black t-shirts like me, but I am asking you to take inventory of what your always-in-style skills are. Find them and then march on.

Keep practicing those handshakes.

Talk soon


Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

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