What defines your career? For most people, it was a simple decision made as a (barely) young adult heading into college for the first time. Over the past few decades, it has been the norm to have this decision set you on a straight career path in one domain until eventual retirement. If this sounds a bit scary, you are not the only one feeling the same way. The modern workforce is quickly evolving to become a landscape where career change is not only encouraged but expected. The age of committing to a single domain for your entire career is over, and upskilling learning new professional skills is here to save the day.
The idea that one stops learning at the end of their educational journey is no longer a viable option for professionals wanting an exciting career. Learning used to stop at the commencement of ones educational track, however, for those wanting an exciting, constantly evolving career, upskilling (teaching oneself a new set of skills within their domain) is the best option. A recent study found that the average half-life of a skill is five years, which means that five years from now, the current skills within the workforce will be half as valuable. While this seems like an overwhelming statistic, upskilling is an easier process than most would think.
As much as everyone cherishes the memory of sitting in an overcrowded lecture hall (not), upskilling does not require reschooling, and can be achieved quickly through means of technology and digital tools. It is normal to feel odd about learning a new skill after spending a good chunk of your life learning another, but skills are something you can easily acquire over the course of your career without much interruption.
If you are still feeling unsure, here are a few ways that upskilling can benefit your career path.
It closes the skills gap with an in-demand skill.
As technology continues to advance and automation replaces once-manual jobs, there is a need for new skills that may not have even existed a decade ago (such as an AI Engineer). As digital transformation continues to sweep the business landscape, executives are now scrambling to fill positions that require a specialized set of skills that are high in demand but rarer to find due to the pace of change. This skills gap presents an opportunity for workers seeking to freshen their resume or switch careers completely.
By 2022, it is predicted that 54 percent of the workforce will require significant upskilling. The best way to get ahead of the movement? Do your research now to avoid needing an upskill along with the majority of professionals. Even within one domain, there are plenty of skills you can pursue for upskilling. If you are unsure of which skill you would like to pursue, research the most in-demand skills to help you decide and understand what companies are currently in need of.
Remember the statistic about the half-life of a skill? Make it a habit to upskill every five or so years to keep your resume and general skill set up to date in case you find yourself needing a new job unexpectedly. The old ways of working the same skill for an entire career have passed. To maintain a successful career, upskilling will be crucial for professionals seeking to adapt and evolve their domain knowledge over time.
IT keeps your resume fresh and makes you marketable.
Most professionals can likely agree that resumes are not the most exciting part of anyones career, no matter how many buzzwords you fit onto one sheet of paper. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that they are an essential element to your career path, as they one place where it is acceptable to boast about your accomplishments (humblebrag). By upskilling, you will receive invaluable experiences to feature on your resume that will showcase an ability to adapt quickly to industry trends.
The purpose of upskilling is to learn a skill that will make you more marketable and attractive to companies in need of trending skills. Although tedious, resumes are still unfortunately the most popular way that recruiters and executives review to evaluate a candidate (sigh). We have all heard it before: add keywords to your resume to help it stand apart from the competition. The truth is, upskilling can give you an enormous advantage by showing your commitment to catching up to change.
Career transitions have begun to become the new normal and are even typically expected. However, upskilling provides the opportunity to discuss hands-on work you have been able to achieve with the skills that are considered the future of your domain. Even if you are interviewing within your own company for a promotion or new job in another department, upskilling demonstrates a commitment to self-improvement and guarantees at least several years of in-demand skills that an organization can benefit from.
Your work may pay for it.
Who does not love free? After paying for schooling for most of your life, free education is a welcome idea and not unthinkable for professionals looking to upskill. As digital transformation has hit many industries hard, organizations have scrambled to catch their workforce up to speed. Forty-two percent of companies have improved their upskilling efforts after the Covid-19 outbreak. That number is expected to grow as the skill gaps continue to force executives to compete for in-demand skills. For employees, this means free upskilling resources could be coming their way.
Even if your current employer does not mention upskilling opportunities, it never hurts to ask. There is a chance they may be connected to a third-party organization to provide upskilling education, or you could be the one to broach the subject and inspire HR leaders to offer these resources. Of course, there is always the chance your employer refuses to offer upskilling and you will need to seek it out on your own. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to professionals seeking to take on new skills by themselves, most being online and requiring little to no travel on your part.
At the end of the day, everyone wants the ability to have a job they truly enjoy, and know is going to provide them with stability. You deserve to have control over your career and enjoy the work that you do every day. Upskilling provides the opportunity to continue on a successful path that you choose, rather than feeling stuck in the same role for years.