Why it’s important to upskill and stay relevant
Staying in touch with current trends from a place of continuous learning is something we all need to be doing on an ongoing basis. Here are 12 practical ways upskill to stay relevant
Staying in touch with current trends from a place of continuous learning is something we all need to be doing on an ongoing basis. Heather E. McGowan, Workplace Futurologist, sees skill acquisition as the “new pension” necessary not just for career progression, but for long-term financial security. A recent study by the consulting and recruitment firm Hays which researched 951 employers, found three in four companies (77%) indicated they are more likely to prioritise continuous learners in the hiring process.
Susan Joyce, Job Search Expert comments on the pace of change “Technology is everywhere and changing SO many things. New skills are REQUIRED now, and that requirement is picking up speed!
But it’s not always possible to find clear and practical ways to upskill and stay relevant. I’ve written this post to change that.
Before the pandemic, it was becoming clear that continuous up and re-skilling would be needed to stay in touch with changing job market conditions. Job skills at one time were considered to have a longevity of about a decade. Deloitte claims this time frame is now about five years or even less in certain highly technical areas. It is said that engineering degrees are almost out of date before a student graduates. More than ever you have to constantly learn, relearn, unlearn, adapt, refresh and upgrade. Our kids will do jobs that don’t exist today. We will do work ourselves that hadn’t been heard of a decade ago.
The shift to a demand for soft skills predicted by the World Economic Forum is also important because they are less obviously acquired. For those wanting to pivot into entrepreneurship, a meta-analysis including data from over 65,000 business owners points to the importance of emotional intelligence in entrepreneurship. The study, published in the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, found that emotional intelligence was a stronger predictor of entrepreneurial success than general mental ability.
Hannah Morgan Job Search Strategist, recognises the challenges ” acquiring tech skills means nothing without critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”
But how can you go about upskilling to stay relevant when we live in a constantly changing world? This is especially true in workplaces where soft skills are assuming even greater significance, as we can see in the infographic above. Sarah Johnston takes a broad-brush approach.
People who are doing NEW INNOVATIVE work will always be relevant. Even if your 9-5 job isn’t at the forefront of your field, you can stay engaged through industry conferences, reading thought leadership & volunteering for projects at the office outside of the scope of your job.
— Sarah Johnston the Briefcase Coach (@SarahDJohnston) August 20, 2021
To stay relevant, professionals need to seek out opportunities for development to broaden their outlook and extend the scope of their careers. This will help with career and salary progression. The Hays research also suggests that although 96% of survey participants said upskilling was “very important” or “important,” less than 20% are taking active steps to do something about it.
4% pursue no personal development at all. Don’t be that person. Paul Upton, Career and Leadership Coach, suggests that “Mindset and Attitude can be a “hard change”. It is true we can become stuck in the old way of doing things and are unwilling to move out of our comfort zones.
Read below for some practical advice with contributions from international experts.
Carry out a career audit
To get yourself started and to be effective you have to do your inner work so your energy is focused. This involves:
- Having a strong understanding of your career goals
- Identifying your current transferable skills
- Deciding what new skills you need to acquire in line with your goals. This can be in your current sector or in a new entirely different one.
- Knowing what skills need a tweak and polish up.
- Calculating what you need or are willing to do to make that happen in terms of time and financial input.
Donna Svei Executive Resume Writer recommends starting with LinkedIn Career Explorer to identify the skills needed to move to your next targeted role(s). If you don’t have targets, it can help you identify them. Next, use Career Explorer to identify your skill gaps and point you to LinkedIn Learning classes to do a quick, inexpensive, shallow dive on those skills. If the skills check out as desirable to you, then it’s time to design an experiential and training-based learning program. You can do this independently or with mentors, HR/Learning & Development, and/or your coach.
She prioritized experiential learning. “There’s no better way to learn complex problem solving than solving complex problems!”
Make a plan
Start off by making a plan. Do your research and find out what is available – there is so much out there which will need a deeper dive. With eLearning being so readily available the scope of your possibilities to upskill is potentially global. This will help you create a budget. Always add a timeline and be careful about taking on more than you can cope with. It may be counterproductive.
12 practical ways upskill and stay relevant
There are many ways you learn, adapt, and upgrade your skills that will contribute to improving your career prospects, here are 12 practical ways you can upskill to stay relevant.
1. Obtain a qualification
This can be a mix of formal academic training and qualification, or certification. Very often obtaining a formal qualification is necessary to do the job. I have worked with people who studied medicine at 40 and roof thatching at 60! It can also be done to enhance your reputation and establish credibility. Many people call themselves “coaches” for example, but are not qualified. Obtaining certification is a good way to stand out from the crowd. You can select an established educational institution or private training body. If you are doing a career pivot this might be necessary to head in your chosen direction.
Many people are attracted to qualifications such as an MBA, but these courses are expensive. Seek advice on how relevant the course you are contemplating really is for your target roles. You can do this in a number of ways which I cover below.
2. Take other courses
Expanding your knowledge has never been easier or cheaper. During the pandemic we saw an increase in “MOOCs” – Mass Open Online Courses. MOOCs offer an opportunity to study for free or at a low cost with leading international educational institutions. I took the Yale course on the Science of Wellbeing during lockdown and courses run by the Simon Sinek Academy.
LinkedIn Learning also offers a range of certification possibilities. Choose something that is in line with your career goals and don’t forget to add this to your LinkedIn profile. They have a free month introductory offer you can take advantage of. You can also check out Coursera and Udemy.
3. Read (books, newspapers, publications, blogs)
Books by well-established leaders and authors will help build your knowledge. Online resources are very easy to research and are also inexpensive.
Bookbub an online book company specialises in online offerings including a business ebooks section. You can sign up for a daily updated email – some books are even free. Blogs are also usually free. Some publications require a subscription, so think carefully about which ones you’re going to choose. It can mount up.
It’s hard to predict ‘in-demand’ skills.
My advice is to read as widely as possible to understand the mega-trends shaping our industries and therefore future work…
— Andrew Spence (@AndySpence) August 21, 2021
4. Listen (Podcasts, Webinars, Ted Talks, and YouTube videos)
There is so much to choose from now. The options range from webinars and podcasts from leading experts to short 60 second TikTok sound bites. Check out the reviews as some can be poor quality or misleading and are simply selling the modern-day equivalent of snake oil. Avoid anything that is expensive. If they offer a recording you can listen at your leisure.
Many offer useful advice on the topic in hand with concrete examples. This is also a great way to gain a deeper understanding around soft skills. I would highly recommend leadership specialists who focus on soft skill development such as Simon Sinek, Brené Brown, Mark Crowley and Susan David. Dr. Julie Smith, Clinical Psychologist posts short videos on a whole range of self-sabotaging techniques which are really worth watching.
Networking is a good way to gain the inside scoop on what’s going on in particular industries and the latest trends. Very often experts in the centre of something can alert you to the problems in the industry and also the shortcuts and opportunities. They can introduce you to other helpful connections. This may eventually lead to a mentoring relationship, but it all starts with the first networking contact. It also helps hone those soft skills around relationship building.
Make sure your network is diverse and as Jack Kelly says in this tweet, processing information from different sources helps fine-tune your information assessment and critical thinking skills.
Read a lot. Avoid echo chambers. Listen to folks with whom you disagree to find out if you need to readjust your outlook. Make friends with people much older and younger then yourself.
Take on new challenges. Don’t worry if you fail.
— Jack Kelly (@wecruitr_io) August 20, 2021
Sometimes the thought of taking in new information in a continuous stretch can be off-putting. Microlearning, that is training in short bursts, will be ideal for you. Making the most of downtime when you have a busy schedule and a full mind, is so much easier than it used to be. It’s also possible to fit many of these learning sessions into short focused bursts on the bus, on a walk, or in your lunch hour.
You can do this via dedicated groups on Clubhouse, LinkedIn lives, or panel discussions. Listen to audiobooks and podcasts. Many are posted on LinkedIn almost daily, so sign up for alerts.
7. Look for a Mentor and become a Mentor
Mentoring is a time-honoured way of gaining deeper insight from someone who already has accumulated experience. Read this eBook on Make the Most of Mentoring to put you on the right track.
Paying it forward and supporting others is a good way to learn empathy and work on your EQ. Even if you are entry-level you can still mentor school leavers or even older people. Generally, although not always, younger mentors have more advanced tech skills and reverse mentoring is a super way to engage with a more senior person, not just in years.
Sweta Regmi, Canadian Career Coach, has found this very helpful “We need to learn from a new generation and sometimes unlearn from our past to stay up to date. The new generation tries before saying no, an older generation second guess IMO.”
8. Gain skills inside your own organisation
Ask your boss for an opportunity to hone your skills in your current job. Make sure you think this through before you make that approach. If your career goals take you away from your present company it will be a problem. Managers will be very supportive if they think it will add value to your department. HR departments may also be supportive if they see potential in another part of the organisation.
9. Social Media
Social media is more than cat pictures and photos of breakfast. If you curate your content correctly you can follow industry leaders and thinkers via LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Many organisations have company pages and publish inside information. Be careful of the use of the word “Influencer.” Many are clickbait crooks and high numbers of followers doesn’t necessarily mean expertise. If in doubt ask for advice.
Online activity can also be a black hole time suck, so monitor how much time you spend on this part of your upskilling!
10. Join an industry or professional association
If you have ambitions around a professional qualification it can be helpful to become a member of a professional association or industry group. Whether in the world of Finance, HR, Marketing or Engineering they are solid and reputable. They offer courses and certifications and will add value to your CV and LinkedIn profile.
Frequently they hold conferences which can be a great networking and knowledge transfer opportunities and hopefully they will come back in some form or other soon.
11. Ask for corporate support
If your career goals are in line with your personal development plan in your current job, you could ask for corporate support. This can come in the form of funding for courses and/or time off to attend courses or study. Don’t be afraid to ask – the worst thing that can happen is they can say no.
Volunteering has always been a great way to enhance any new skills and get practical experience in your target area. You will also have the opportunity to network and meet potentially valuable connections.
Bob Korzeniowski, MBA, PMP shared concerns ” Employers do not care about skills. They only care about work experience, first and foremost. Employers believe the ridiculous belief that skills do not exist until someone else hired you to use them.”
Hopefully, this approach is changing. I have seen the skills gained from volunteering have been helpful, especially with an endorsement from the organisation.
Here is a list of my personal favourites to follow on trends around, disruption, the future of work, and the next workplace.
Don’t get left behind
Being open-minded and willing to upskill to stay relevant will be part of a mindset needed for career progression for all of us. The workplace is changing at a phenomenal rate and the days when we qualify in a chosen topic in our teens and early twenties and do very little after that, are long gone.
Make sure you don’t get left behind.
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