It’s easy to say that many skills are like riding a bicycle; that you never forget them, and can just start using them again after a long period of disuse. It’s a lot harder to actually do it. This is especially true when you try to keep track of several closely related skills. For instance, I’ve learned so many computer programming languages, that when I need to learn a new one, it’s faster to see how it’s different than one I already know than to try to learn the language itself. I’m sure the same is true of other fields.
When “Jacks of all trades” (I hate the term “generalist”) like myself job hunt, there’s usually a list of possible technologies and environments we’re willing to work in, so we can’t afford to just keep up on Java, or Perl, or PHP, or .NET. We not only need to keep sharp on all of these, but we need to keep track in our heads which is which (after all many programming languages are very similar). No matter how long you’ve used a skill, a few months of unemployment can blur the details. In this post I plan to cover some helpful techniques for being ready for the technical interview or test without flipping through 300-page books each time. I will not be addressing mastering new skills, because that is an entirely different activity. Some of them may be specific to software development, but I hope there are parallels in other areas.
Like many job hunting activities, you shouldn’t wait until you’re job hunting to start doing them. After all, you want to keep marketable on skills you’re not currently using at your current job, right?