Amid the Covid-19 crisis, career trajectories are being interrupted. While some have lost their jobs and are searching for what’s next, others who remain in their jobs are also having to pivot in order to meet different types of business demands.
The two groups are grappling with a common issue – employability. Whatever position you’re in right now, our conversations with employers reveal one thing – skilling, upskilling and reskilling are now more vital than ever before, especially since Covid-19 has altered our lifestyles and in tandem, accelerated digital transformation on the business front.
Employability and career longevity are determined by various factors – hard skills, soft skills, attitudes, personality traits, etc. Having the right balance can give you the confidence you need to take more concrete steps in your job search and career growth.
The process of starting the journey can be unnerving. Should you just look at growth areas, pick a skill and sign up to learn it? What if you begin the process, but soon realise it’s something you don’t enjoy or can’t handle?
We advise slowing down in order to speed up. Think about your career trajectory thus far and chart a new roadmap to navigate the present and take you into the future.
Ask yourself these questions in order to devise an upskilling and reskilling plan that puts you in the right frame of mind to begin a journey of lifelong learning. The key is to know yourself.
1. Where Are You Now?
The process should begin with an audit of your current situation. What soft and hard skills do you have today that are transferable and still valued by employers?
What new skills are employers beginning to value today and are likely to value in the coming months and years? Study the various growth areas in order to answer this question.
How many of these skills do you have?
As an employee keen on augmenting your existing skills or picking up new ones, you should initiate a career conversation with your supervisor. We often advise leaders to do this with their employees, but there’s no harm in employees making the first move.
A conversation about the strategic direction of the organisation and what skills will be needed to support it could result in valuable insights to help you determine where you stand and your future training options.
2. Where Do You Want to Go and Why?
Having answered question #1, do you want to stay in the same industry and job role, or would you prefer to perform the same role in a different industry? Perhaps you want to make a total career switch.
Most importantly, answer the “why” question. Knowing your reasons for making choices is vital to ensuring your commitment to the process.
Be completely honest with yourself. It could be that you think it’s a natural progression from a job role you’ve already mastered and you want to play it safe. Perhaps you have a natural talent that you’d like to take further in a particular job function. Those who prefer a challenge might enjoy embarking on something they know little about in order to make a career switch. Perhaps you just hated your previous job and want to explore something new. Depending on the situation, think about which skills you would have to augment or pick up in order to stay employable.
We also believe that enjoyment results in greater success, so we urge you to identify which of these skills you are likely to enjoy learning. Again, most importantly, think about why you would enjoy learning them. Knowing why will keep you centred and committed to the learning process.
Identifying your strengths and weaknesses could help you answer this question more comprehensively. Note your own perspectives on this, but also ask colleagues, ex-colleagues, family or friends for their observations and opinions. They might be able to reveal things that you’ve never noticed about yourself. Internalise their feedback and consider which of your skilling options can play to your strengths.
3. How Can You Get There?
This involves coming up with practical steps for skills acquisition. How can you do this while searching for a job or while hanging on to the one you have?
Of course, time management is vital, but with a wide range of online modular skills courses today, learning is easier. You could take multiple courses at once or move from one to another sequentially. Again, how you go about doing this hinges on knowing yourself. Identify your preferred manner of learning and execute your skilling plan accordingly.
If you currently have a job, be open to upskilling or reskilling on the job. A general shortage of skills in technology has prodded several employers to invest in training programmes for their existing employees with a view to redeploying them to various roles within the company to meet new business demands.
In our experience, more and more organisations are seeing the merits of training their existing employees instead of simply retrenching them and hiring new people. The cycle of laying people off, hiring, then laying people off again when the next crisis hits can cost organisations a lot of time and money.
Also, capitalise on career conversations with your supervisor by communicating your interests and career aspirations in order to give him/her an idea of what would provide you with a sense of professional fulfilment. A good manager would consider these factors as he/she matches you with training programmes, roles and functions necessary for strategic business growth. After all, employees’ job satisfaction is vital to long-term growth and the health of the larger organisational ecosystem.
Finally, remember that not all skills are learnt through training programmes. Having a mentor you can speak with and learn from is always useful. Widen your network in order to find suitable mentors that will be committed to your growth.