Trends such as automation and globalisation are reshaping our jobs, making the once-clear career paths uncertain. No one knows exactly what the future holds, which jobs will get replaced by robots or outsourced, what skills will be required for the jobs that remain, and so on. Our work and the skills required to do it is also evolving quickly, which is leading to a widening skills gap that has become a pervasive narrative debated by analysts and pundits. There is also an increased sense of urgency about how we can prepare for this ever-changing landscape of employability. It is easy to feel helpless in this climate, but there are steps people can take to shore up their skill sets and be better prepared for the changes ahead.
Never stop learning
Learning is crucial because it allows us to satisfy our curiosity and in the process, it enriches our existing skills, productivity, and effectiveness. When you embrace lifelong learning, assimilating new skills is not a source of fear and stress—it is just another part of your career journey. Aim for a niche area that will optimise your potential, talent, and leading-edge capabilities amidst the fierce competition. Separating process from outcome will make you a better learner, too, as you get less hung up on immediate mastery of a skill and more appreciative of how moving outside your comfort zone helps you grow as a person. Learning is a continuous process which seeks a relatively permanent change in skills that are acquired as a result of experience.
Tech workers long have been accustomed to continuous upskilling as programming languages evolve and new software versions launch, but that cycle is accelerating. Staying current in a particular language or framework is not enough for techies, and a narrow focus will not be enough for workers in other disciplines either.
Be ready to pivot
If you are fortunate enough to be in a job you enjoy at a company you love, it is easy to settle in and not think about what comes next. No matter how comfortable you are today, however, it is smart to have your affairs in order so you are not scrambling when something unexpected happens. Stay motivated and be prepared.
Make sure your materials are always up to date: your resume, your website or portfolio, and your online profiles. This is where you can signal how you have been keeping your skills polished, so go ahead and list those online courses, bootcamps, workshops, and other ways you are proactively building your expertise. Also, always keep your professional network active. Too many of us reach out to our contacts only in a time of need, but these connections require to be nurtured, just like a plant needs sun and water.
Pursue a passion
Another great way to hone your skills - old and new, is to apply them to something real. So, launch that blog or sell that mobile gaming app. If your skills or hobbies do not lend themselves to commerce, you can still elevate them so others can see and appreciate what you are up to. Maybe along the way, you will discover a talent you did not think you had. This could highlight your adaptability for varied roles in front of potential employers.
Think beyond tomorrow
Identify your current skill gaps and some of the ways you can close them. Think about how you want to see your skills evolve, what is a realistic evaluation of your competencies now, and then work towards bridging that gap. It is crucial to start thinking along the new way our economies function. Instead of only valuing the immediate availability of a job, which is important, people need to develop longer-term thinking, keep learning new skills, and continuously shape their careers. Hence, feed your hunger to learn about your industry, assimilate knowledge, and then apply it in newer and different ways.
In addition to demonstrating what you can do, having a side hustle or passion project shows you are a motivated person who can bring a variety of experiences and interests to your full-time gig, too. It is a great showcase for your soft skills, as you signal your ability to initiate and follow through on projects, pitch your ideas, collaborate with others, and take ownership. Being a team player and knowing how to stay motivated in challenging times are also skills that have become just as important as technical skills and knowledge. You can start something of your own too. Through initiatives such as 'Startup India,' Government of India is also promoting entrepreneurship by mentoring, nurturing and facilitating startups throughout their life cycle.
The best way to predict your future is to create it.
(The author is managing director, Udemy India)