In their popular book A New Culture of Learning, organizational researcher John Seely Brown and US academician Douglas Thomas argue that the half-life of a learned skill in today’s world is just five years. Or rather, much of what you learned 10 years ago is of little practical use today while half of what you learned five years ago is now irrelevant. What’s even more startling is that the most in-demand skills today are vastly different than those that were in-demand a decade ago. For instance, careers such a wind and solar energy engineering, data architect and data scientist, and nursing informatics specialist are particularly hot today - even though some of these did not exist 10 years ago.
At the same time, traditional skills have become less relevant and entire industries have faced massive upheavals, resulting in thousands of lost jobs. The roles of middle managers without competencies in contemporarily relevant technical skills have especially become vulnerable. In response to these trends, a number of companies have started reskilling their staff globally. Nothing has changed as dramatically in the last 10 years as communication technology. Addressing this reality in a positive sense, American telecom giant AT&T is reskilling close to 100,000 employees in the use of new equipment, as part of a $1 billion initiative.
So, is it time for you to consider reskilling? Is reskilling worth the investment for you? The short answer is ‘yes’. Here’s how you can effectively retool your skill set to stay relevant in a rapidly changing job market.
ensure that your skills are not only relevant today but also in the future
All workers, whether Baby Boomers or those belonging to Gen Z, are facing an employment scenario that is rapidly shifting and more unpredictable than ever before. The industrial-age corporate ladder approach to career growth is now being replaced by the digital age phenomenon of multidirectional career paths. You are routinely expected to proactively ensure the relevance of your skills and career path. How can you future-proof your career in this scenario? Continually benchmarking your skills and capabilities to the market helps you ascertain their relevance. Go through online job sites to keep tabs on skills that are currently relevant and ones that are emerging, to understand the gaps in your skills. Alternatively, you can think of multidirectional career options by continually adding new experiences, networks, and transferable skills to your profile.
evaluate career aspirations in light of the investment in reskilling
Companies like AT&T and Amazon reskill existing employees not only because it is a socially responsible approach, but also because of the lower costs involved in retraining internally - rather than hiring externally. A reskilling program provided by your organization is a golden opportunity to retrain yourself in currently relevant skills. An employer driven reskilling program not only runs parallel to your career, it typically also involves lower costs than an external training program. An internal retraining program is also more likely to be oriented toward a fixed goal in terms of career growth in the immediate future. Again, it is critical to do your research and ensure that the skill you choose has more stability and longevity among the multiple options available.
Cultivate an early interest in a skill that you are targeting and proactively make a mark in the organization with regard to subject matter knowledge in the area. This can help you lobby effectively for a target skill profile. If your organization does not provide opportunities for reskilling internally and your research shows skill gaps that might hamper your career progression, it might be wiser to invest in reskilling through external training. Choosing the right training provider needs careful thought. Essentially any training should leave you with transferable and applicable skills rather than just a certification. Balance the decision by carefully considering the investment in terms of time, effort, and cost against the career benefit that you plan to derive from it.
job security today lies in your ability to adapt and learn as you go
Throughout your career, expect to be able to pivot in sync with the demands of the job market and identify new opportunities based on how much you can learn. Prioritize jobs that provide the opportunity to acquire new skills. Whether you are a nurse or a telecom engineer, job security today lies in your ability to learn new skills throughout your career.