​Upskilling Your Way To More Relevance In The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Another age of increasing mechanism and technology is here, forcing the employee who wants to remain relevant, and employable, to keep pace. When global recruitment agency Hays conducted a survey of nearly 1000 employers, they found that more than three quarters of them said they'd shortlist a candidate who continually upskilled over one who doesn't. So the message is clear – if you want more / better career opportunities it pays to keep your skills relevant and/or up to date.

The recruiter also asked over 1200 professionals about their views on upskilling and nearly every single one believed it to be important, or very important. Further, at least a third of these professionals were also conscious of the current industry relevant digital and technology trends.

However, when it comes to actually putting beliefs into action and regularly upskilling, less than a sixth of those professionals who agreed that upskilling is important make a point of doing so on a weekly basis. Almost a fifth do so monthly, and a further fifth make a point of updating their skills quarterly. On the other hand, one quarter of the professionals admitted they only upskill perhaps once a year, another fifth do so when they remember, or when they have to; and 4% don't bother at all!

By now you're likely thinking that upskilling as often as once a week could get very expensive, not to mention time-consuming. However, there are any number of convenient, inexpensive, and even free ways of upskilling.

But first, what exactly is 'upskilling'.

There's a common tendency to think of upskilling both as a process that either 'ups' or advances one's career, or trains one in new skills to replace old skills that are no longer required. The latter is more correctly called 'reskilling' but the lines between the two can get very blurred. 

Upskilling involves improving and/or broadening existing skill sets by learning new skills or gaining new knowledge relative to a current career. In other words, it's adding new skills to enhance a role and/or improve opportunities for promotion within that career rather than moving into a different career or position that requires completely new skills (ie reskilling). 

So how does one upskill without necessarily spending a lot of money, and time, on courses and training? Here are a few ideas to get you started. 

Take on new work at work that stretches your current skills / knowledge

One of the most obvious ways to upskill, or expand your skill sets and knowledge, is by taking on work that is outside your normal sphere of duties. In fact, the Hays survey found that three quarters of the professionals they surveyed felt that this was the best, and most convenient, way to get upskilled. The easiest way to do this is by asking your boss or office manager if there are any internal opportunities coming up where you may be of assistance. 

Another option is to keep your eyes open for ways in which the company may benefit from some specialised attention from yourself. For example, there may be a system, process, or program that you've long thought could do with refining, expanding, being made more user friendly, updated or whatever. Look into what's involved, and if it's something you feel you could learn to do, present a case for getting it done, and why you should be the one to do it.

Obviously it goes without saying that these additional extras shouldn't significantly interfere with your current work, which you do need to factor in before you go looking for stretch work.

Take advantage of courses provided by your employer

Many companies offer self-learning courses for employees, particularly if they need their workforce to develop particular skills or acquire specific knowledge. These courses are generally free so participating not only won't cost you anything, it'll also help you understand and learn skills that your employer has deemed important. That could help you land your next promotion!

Look into available outside courses, particularly online ones

Taking courses is the traditional way of updating and expanding skill sets and knowledge, and many professionals still take industry relevant courses. Many employers can also be persuaded to pay for professional courses for employees if they can see benefit in it for the company. However, technology these days is accelerating at a rate of knots so chances are that much of what you may learn in a course, particularly one that involves technology, will probably be out of date within a few years. This is why it's important to ensure that any course you do take is aligned with trends within the industry. That way what you learn will remain relevant for longer. 

The world of online degrees and certificates is also expanding so many of these courses are probably offered online as well. For example, Mass Open Online Courses or MOOCS​ for short, are free online courses that anyone can enrol in. Many of the available courses are with major educational institutions. Additionally, don't forget about the many, many 'how to' and online instructional videos and content now available for pretty much any topic/application/software program you care to name.

Professional associations are another good way of broadening professional horizons

Joining your local mining association has many benefits for upskilling. Many offer continuous learning programs and opportunities to network with other like-minded professionals. You may also find one with a mentorship program.

Plug into what's happening in your industry and profession

One of the best ways to keep abreast of what industry leaders are saying and thinking is via social media. Notably platforms like LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and TED Talks are great places to meet and mingle with other professionals, pick up new ideas, learn about new industry trends, and just generally keep in touch and up to date.

Just over one half of the professionals interviewed in the Hays survey said they kept themselves up to date by reading professional articles, reports, and other literature. Just under one half said they also attend industry seminars, webinars, and conferences whenever possible. A third make a point of tuning into online resources like podcasts and TED Talks, whilst a quarter actually read content posted by their connections. Just under a quarter make use of coaching and mentorship programs to help them upskill, and around a sixth participate in relevant LinkedIn groups.

Find a mentor or arrange group learning sessions

Mentoring, or learning new skills from a colleague is also a valuable way of upskilling. Likewise, offer your own services in this regard to those wanting to learn what you know. It may even be possible to arrange regular 'lunchtime' group talks at which a senior company member or an industry professional can be invited to talk about various topics relevant to their field of expertise. Of course, the interest needs to be there for this to be worth organising.

Have you mapped out your career?

Mapping out where you want your career to take you, and when, is a good way to focus your upskilling. It allows you to work out exactly what skills and knowledge you're going to need to reach each particular goal and then find the right courses and training to suit. Surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of the professionals interviewed in the Hays survey didn't have a career map at the time of the survey! Those that did have one said it had made a big difference to where they focussed their upskilling efforts, and dollars. Having a career map also puts you in a better position to change your upskilling direction as required by changing trends in the industry.

However you choose to do it, upskilling is a valuable professional tool that will let you remain relevant and useful in a rapidly changing world!
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Tuesday, 20 April 2021
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