In her 2018 memoir, Becoming, former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama opens with a reflection on how, when she was a little girl, adults would ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up: “Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child – as if growing up is finite. As if, at some point, you become something and that’s the end.”
It’s an observation that people in the modern work world might also appreciate because career changes have become a part of life. Long gone are the days when a worker might retire with a gold watch from the same company at which he launched his career. Nowadays, American workers stay with an employer 4.1 years on average. Chances are good that whatever you set out to do at the beginning of your career is far from what you now do for a living. And whatever you do today may not be what you will be doing tomorrow.
We can all thank (blame?) technology for that. For better or for worse, rapid technological innovations are changing the landscape for workers of all calibers, and the pace is only accelerating, especially since Covid.
A few years ago, management consulting literature was heralding the “future of work” as nothing short of a transformation of business as we know it. Until recently, analysts predicted this phenomenon would play out in five to ten years – a timeframe that seemed scary and head-spinning. Then Covid came and compressed the transformation into several months.
Almost overnight, people went digital, moving their lives and livelihoods online, and businesses, in a mad scramble to maintain business continuity, moved mountains to support the shift. People who had never heard of Zoom calls, met with a doctor virtually, or ordered household goods online, got a crash course.
The Covid experience has demonstrated that automation, artificial intelligence and digitization are quickly expanding into every aspect of our lives – and they’re here to stay. This is unnerving because the skills workers currently have fall short of those needed for future jobs. And the gap is increasing. At the same time, technology will create job opportunities that don’t yet exist.
It’s clear that the situation is complicated, and uncertainties abound. Navigating them will be challenging, and individuals must shoulder the responsibility of preparing for the jobs of the future if they want to remain relevant.
The good news is that many smart people are already thinking about how best to do that. Here are some of the ways they recommend to future-proof your career.
One of the most important things you can do to prepare yourself for your professional future is to start learning new skills today – and don’t stop. Ever.
If you aren’t familiar with the terms “upskill” and “reskill” yet, you soon will be. Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum raised the alarm about the widening skills gap in the world, launching a major initiative to future-proof 1 billion jobs that are estimated to be transformed by technology by 2030 – almost one-third of all jobs worldwide.
“Upskilling” means learning new skills in an existing job in order to do it better or, perhaps, in a different way. Why is this important? Because skills used on the job are estimated to have a half-life of five years or less. That means that half of what you learned five years ago is irrelevant, and much of what you learned ten years ago is obsolete.
“Reskilling” means training or learning to do a job in a completely different occupation. This will prove crucial for people whose jobs are at risk of being automated.
What skills should you learn? That depends on what you do for work, the demands of those fields and the specific competencies that you, personally, might need to grow. They might range from hard skills, such as data analytics or coding, to soft skills like leadership or emotional intelligence.
Rest assured that individuals aren’t alone in facing the evolving nature of work. Businesses are facing them, too, and business leaders are worried. It’s become abundantly clear that it’s in their interests to help workers bridge the gap between the skills they have and those they need for the jobs of the future.
According to PwC’s 2020 annual survey of 1,500 CEOs of major companies, 74% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of the talent they need to ensure their company’s growth – up from 53% in 2012. (Notably, the survey was conducted before the Covid crisis gripped the world.) They recognize the need to offer training opportunities to employees to both fill skills gaps and reduce turnover. Targeting companies with skills-building programs will give job seekers an advantage in the employment market.
Unfortunately, most companies are more talk than action. Only 18% of global organizations have made “significant progress” in developing upskilling programs – in the United States that figure is only 8%.
Companies should do more, and they likely will, but until they do the onus will continue to be on individuals to do what they can to remain competitive.
For some people, learning new skills is easier said than done. They can’t just take a course on a new topic and immediately master the material. It often takes time, context, and countless iterations before they can truly learn a new skill. It also takes a unique frame of mind.
The latest thinking on upskilling and reskilling is that the first lesson that some people need to learn is howto learn. “Learning itself is a skill,” according to a report by McKinsey, “and developing it is a critical driver of long-term career success.”
People who are effective learners can be called intentional learners. This means they approach every experience as a learning opportunity and, thus, squeeze more value out of it than the average person.
According to McKinsey, intentional learning can be developed by adopting two critical mindsets and five core skills. The first is a growth mindset – that is, a belief that your competencies are unlimited – that you are capable of evolving and changing as a person. This is in contrast to a fixed mindset – a belief that you are who you are, that you cannot change, and your talents are finite. Cultivating a growth mindset requires you to recognize that “failures and mistakes are not indicative of the limits of your intellect but rather tools that inform how you develop.”
The second critical mindset is one of active curiosity, which McKinsey labels the “engine of intentional learning.” Curiosity is an openness to new ideas and a channel for inspiration, and it motivates people to learn more and more. Many people are naturally curious, but those who aren’t can cultivate it, which is great because curiosity is useful at any stage in your career.
Once these two critical mindsets are in place, McKinsey identifies five best practices to support and develop them. They include setting goals, protecting time for learning, actively seeking feedback, conducting deliberate practice, and reflecting to evaluate yourself and determine your progress.
Practicing intentional learning is a personal investment, to be sure, but the pay-off is improvement in your skills and performance, using a method that keeps you inspired and engaged, which will help you prepare for the changing demands of the jobs of the future.
There is a huge opportunity awaiting those who are willing to redevelop themselves. It’s just a question of seizing it.
Everyone knows the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” This maxim offers a great lesson to people who are trying to navigate the demands of the modern executive job market because it’s no longer prudent to leave the task only to recruiters.
There is an endless supply of people who don’t know how to find an executive job. If you’re smart and capable, you can easily manage the succession plan of your career up to a point. But at a certain level you won’t go any higher if you haven’t learned 8 key lessons on what it takes to get tapped as an executive.
1. Understand that executive positions are filled predominantly by word of mouth – as many as 75% of them. Really!
When hiring managers need to fill an executive role, the first thing they do is blast out a note to everyone they know to ask if they know someone who might be a good candidate for the job. Professional contacts and networking are THE most used tools to source executive candidates.
Most people wrongly think that third-party recruiters account for the bulk of all placements. They used to have a much bigger share than they do today, but when LinkedIn came onto the scene in 2003, it democratized the recruiting process. Today, third-party recruiters are responsible for filling only 10% of executive job openings.
A tool used even less frequently than recruiters is job postings. If they’re used at all, job postings will simply fulfill a regulatory obligation after a candidate has been determined. Why? Because hiring managers want to hire someone they know and respect or someone who is recommended by someone they know and respect.
2. Always be looking for a job before you need one
Good career change skills aren’t limited to when you are actively looking for a job. It begins way before you are thinking about a transition and it extends well past it, too. In fact, a good career transition in the short-term hinges on good career management in the long-term.
You should never miss an opportunity to increase or enrich your network. The essence of this lesson is: Who do you know? and Will those people advocate on your behalf? If it seems like a chore or too time consuming, remember that networking is a core function of any executive job. It’s very important to build time to network into your work week. If you lack the time management skills to do this, put it on your calendar until it becomes a habit.
In addition to building relationships, networking helps you stay abreast of industry trends and know what the competition is doing. It is a way to keep your ear to the ground and keep yourself in people’s minds. You never know where your next opportunity will come from and networking keeps your options open. Executives who learn this early are most successful.
3. Pay it forward
Many job seekers get the importance of networking, but might miss the equally critical step of building up social capital first. The only time they think to reach out to people is when they need something. That is a huge political mistake. It’s a lot harder to take from the pot if you haven’t contributed to it.
People are far more inclined to help you if you’ve already put something into the relationship. People who pay it forward have learned this crucial lesson. Paying it forward has a way of paying us back.
If your career seems to have plateaued, it may be that you’re not doing enough to nurture relationships with people. You should be responsive to requests for favors from others – even better, you should proactively help people who aren’t asking for it. The more you do, the more likely it is that people will think of you when they learn about opportunities.
4. Learn how to verbalize your value proposition
Lots of people can be extroverts in their work and in everything they do that relates to their competencies, but when it comes to talking about themselves and marketing the value they bring to the table, they hide in the corner. They aren’t comfortable verbalizing their value proposition.
The best way to understand what value you offer is to talk to people – that is, to network. Solicit feedback from people about the work that you’ve done so you can understand how your efforts contributed to the success of your projects. Log your achievements regularly in a book so that you can refer to them when you need to.
5. Ask not what a company can do with your experience, tell them what you can do for the company
A lot of people lean on the traditional measuring stick of academic credentials, experience, and time served in a job to demonstrate their value during a job search. But thinking about recruiting in terms of function and credentials is old-fashioned. Much more important to hiring managers is: What specifically can you do for me?
Hiring managers want to hire an executive who can change the company for the better.
They look for someone who can minimize risk, drive revenue, improve efficiencies, innovate new practices, and so on. In the age of Covid, this is especially true. Some industries are in big trouble and need leaders who can lead in times of crisis. They may need to reinvent how they do business. In their mind, it’s far better to hire someone with a stellar reputation for demonstrable achievements than someone with an impressive pedigree or with the right number of years of experience.
To boost your appeal as a candidate, it is incumbent upon you to tout your abilities to meet a company’s known needs. Don’t know what they are? Ask! Ask hiring managers what keeps them awake at night or what opportunities they wish they had time to pursue. Explain clearly the value you will bring to the company if they hire you.
6. Recognize the opportunity to create an opportunity for yourself
In today’s world, it is common for savvy people to convince hiring managers to create a position for them that didn’t otherwise exist. If you’ve saved business partners millions over years and you are actively interacting in the job market, people will learn of your amazing qualifications and realize that they can’t afford NOT to hire you.
How does this work? It starts with a conversation with a hiring manager about the challenges her company faces and the opportunities in the business that need to be addressed within the year. If you articulate your value proposition well enough, they will find a place for you in the business.
Your value proposition rests on the results that you’ve produced. Therefore, it is important to do a really good job in your current position so that people are enthusiastic about supporting you. But that’s not enough.
Upping your game has become a must just to stay competitive. According to a Pew Research Center survey 87% of workers believe it will be essential for them to get training and develop new job skills throughout their work life in order to keep up with changes in the workplace, and 54% see continuous training as essential to career success.
A great, non-traditional way of honing your executive chops is by doing board service for a nonprofit organization. Doing so gives you valuable experience, demonstrates your social responsibility, and builds your network – often with some pretty impressive people.
8. Hire a professional
Job search tactics change over time, and during the Covid crisis they have accelerated. How can you stay on top of market changes? When in doubt, consider hiring a pro. There are many benefits to professional assistance:
Because pros are constantly working with job seekers, they have the most up-to-date information on current hiring practices and hot button issues
Pros are best positioned to help you identify any blind spots or unknown needs that are holding you back
Pros can help you consider career options you encounter from an objective perspective
Pros can offer new tactics to try when you just can’t seem to reach the golden ring
Pros keep you motivated, on task, and are your best cheerleader
Growing professionally is an ongoing process, and your route will likely change over your career. To maximize your potential as an executive and optimize your options, use these lessons to manage your career, and you will see the payoff.
Most people considering a career change know that LinkedIn is THE place to start a job search. But few fully understand the richness of the tool. Sure, they are “on” LinkedIn, they re-create their resume on their profile page, they create a job search, they add suggested contacts to their network, and they “like” posts in their feed. But there is so much more you can do.
LinkedIn is one stop shopping for leveraging your network for so many aspects of your career. That is true whether you’re actively job hunting or simply want to maximize your potential for opportunities not yet on the horizon. But it’s especially powerful during a career change. If you are preparing for one, there are a several ways to harness the power of LinkedIn to make the most of your career change.
1. Reverse engineer your job search
Pros know that the least useful way to get a job is to apply to a job posting. The most successful job searches begin with reverse engineering the process. What does that mean?
Reverse engineering means to take something apart to study how the individual components work together to enable you to duplicate it. In the context of a job search, this means identifying the job that you want, figuring out the prerequisites of that job, remaking yourself as the perfect candidate – and ensuring your resume reflects it – and positioning yourself in such a way that hiring managers recruiting for that job will easily find you.
Easier said than done, you say? It’s not as hard as you think – and it’ll be worth every minute you spend.
Consider how a typical job search plays out. You go to a job search platform, plug the desired company, job title, and location into a search engine, see what pops up, and apply to the most attractive opportunities. There are significant problems with that approach, however.
First, resumes submitted to online job postings invariably get screened by Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) before they are ever seen by human eyes. ATS offers hiring managers numerous filters to quickly scan thousands of resumes for keywords that match the job description. If your resume doesn’t reflect the keywords sought by the hiring manager, you may as well throw your resume into the trash.
Second, a ridiculously high number of job openings are never even posted online. Rather, they are available only in what is called the “unpublished market.” Anne Lipsitz, senior career consultant at The Barrett Group, estimates that the unpublished market represents over 50% of the job market. In other words, half of all available positions are never publicly advertised. (Click on image below to listen to Anne’s podcast.)
You can solve for the first problem by studying the keywords of appealing job postings. Make sure your resume mentions all the required experience and skills. Note whatever gaps there might be and upskill if it makes sense to do. (You may even find a course on LinkedIn Learning that meets your needs.)
The trick to solving the second problem is to access connections in your network and, in turn, their connections. The more you plumb the reaches of your connections, the better your chances of locating hidden opportunities in the unpublished market. Doing so calls for strategically managing your network.
The first rule of thumb in a successful job search is: the bigger the network, the more the opportunities. According to a survey published on LinkedIn, networking is the biggest factor in finding a job for all types of people – whether they are actively job hunting, employed, or any combination of the two. By some estimates, 85% of all jobs are landed through networking.
So, if you are looking for a job and your LinkedIn profile doesn’t show 500+ connections, get busy! Get in the habit of sending a connection request to everyone you meet.
3. Leverage your social capital
Most people understand the concept of using first-degree connections in LinkedIn. But the real magic happens when you open up your second-degree connections and reverse engineer companies and roles.
“It can be a real game changer,” said Lipsitz. “We are finding that a LinkedIn member with just 150 people in their first-degree circle can access up to 250,000 social capital contacts through their second-degree contacts. It’s fascinating to see the explosion of opportunity when we move from one circle to another.”
LinkedIn allows you to creatively and strategically navigate your networks – whether it’s alumni networks or former colleagues that now work at company where you want to work. Ideally, you will connect with people at an organization that are close to the gatekeepers of your target position to create the groundswell of support that you need BEFORE you apply.
A great way to connect and participate in discussions with new people in your target industry, job function, company, and so on, is by joining groups. LinkedIn allows you to join up to 50 groups. This is a fantastic way to build ties, especially if you’re trying to trailblaze a career in a new industry. Once you’re in a group, make your presence known by actively engaging in discussion threads. Inviting key players from these groups into your network can have a powerful impact on your career opportunities according to Anne Lipsitz.
“I have some clients who have seen triple digit increases in the number of people that have viewed their profile after having joined groups,” said Lipsitz. “There is a lot of benefit to contributing content, liking, sharing, commenting, and using hashtags to engage a new audience. Plus, you gain specific subject matter expertise. It’s a brilliant strategy.”
5. Keep in touch after leaving a job
One of the great things about LinkedIn is that it is an aggregator of all your business contacts. Once upon a time, a job change also meant a change of email and phone number – and a risk of losing contact with former colleagues. LinkedIn resolved that problem. Still, don’t neglect your old relationships. Maintaining them is as important as currying new ones. Be proactive about dropping a line to say “hello” to people, especially those “high asset” contacts. You never know when you’ll need to leverage that social capital.
Create Your Personal Brand
Let’s face it, the employment market is like any market. If you want something to sell well, you need to manage the public perception of it. That includes yourself. To ensure you aren’t missing out on opportunities, you need to create a clear personal brand and stand out from the crowd. There are several ways to do it. Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit…
The “About” section is underutilized by many LinkedIn users. But this is the ideal spot to showcase your personal brand. Pack the text with keywords of the positions and industries in which you’d like to work, the better to funnel recruiters to your profile page.
7. Manage your personal profile
Be sure to always keep your resume and professional responsibilities updated. List your relevant skills, and keep them current. And remember, “relevant skills” doesn’t mean ALL of your skills. List skills that are relevant to the industries and job functions that you’re focusing on, and omit the rest.
Take the time to edit your personal profile to highlight the attributes about yourself that you want people to notice. Many of these edits can be made in a matter of minutes.
(Hint: Click on “Me” in the top bar, then on “View Profile.”)
8. Customize your headline
Your LinkedIn headline is automatically the same as your most recent job title. But it doesn’t have to be. If you’re striking a new career path or just want to jazz up a boring title, you can rewrite it. Don’t feel restricted to using a conventional title, either. Make it specific to what you do, but feel free to make it interesting enough that people will want to learn more about you.
9. Make a statement with your photos
A picture is worth a thousand words. Make them count in your favor. Choose a photo that shows you in good light, not too far away, and with a smile in your eyes. It never hurts to splurge on a professional photo. And while you’re considering your headshot, don’t forget to leverage the background photo to help drive home a message about your personal brand.
10. Customize your LinkedIn URL
LinkedIn automatically generates a URL for you when you create an account – and it looks it! But you can change the extension to anything you want. It makes you easier to find, it shows your attention to detail, and, well, it just looks more professional on your resume and business card. Why have “www.linkedin.com/in/julie-norwell-5600929” when it takes only 30 seconds to have www.linkedin.com/in/julienorwell?
Post content that shows readers that you are a thought leader in your field. This is especially important if you’re in a professional services industry. This includes posting original content, sharing media that might interest others in your field, and commenting on the posts of other members. You can even write and publish long-form articles, create videos and advertise events right from LinkedIn.
12. Show off your creds
Having someone else vouch for your skills is a great way to build up your credibility. Ask people in your network to write you a recommendation or endorse you for something. If making an outright request for an endorsement makes you feel uneasy, consider proactively endorsing someone whose endorsement you’d value. Doing so often spurs people to reciprocate. If you find that the endorsements you are receiving are skewing your image too much in one direction, you can manage which endorsements to show and which to hide.
While the advantages of maximizing your LinkedIn account are greatest during a career change, it makes sense to stay actively engaged during all stages of a professional career. Even after you’ve landed an amazing job, never underestimate the present – and future – value of maintaining connections, building social capital, and just paying it forward on your career.
With no end to the health crisis in sight, it’s clear that using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, BlueJeans, Google Meet, and many other video conferencing platforms will be part of the “new normal” work experience for the foreseeable future. For those new to the job market, this trend will include remote job interviews.
Interviewing for a new job is stressful enough in the best of circumstances. It’s especially fraught when you face the double whammy of a health-economic crisis. For one thing, the stakes are higher. With the unemployment rate topping 10%, there are many more job seekers per job opening than there were prior to the pandemic. Adding in a remote interviewing component is bound to challenge job seekers of all stripes because it introduces so many more opportunities for things to go wrong.
But things don’t have to go wrong. If you know how to prepare, there is a lot you can control. And what you can’t control you can manage. If you’re fresh to the job market it is worth reviewing some best practices about remote interviewing to make sure you avoid the most common gaffes and put your best foot (face?) forward.
Before you do anything else, make sure you are comfortable with the technology you will be using. Make sure to download the required app well in advance of the interview so that you aren’t caught needing to update your software minutes before you are supposed to go live. Showing up late to an interview is a cardinal sin – even when the reason for your lateness is that you were struggling to get the video technology to work.
Test your mic, your camera, and your connectivity. Are your voice and image clear? Are you framed well? (The top of your head should be half an inch from the top of the screen.) Ideally, you will be looking neither up nor down at the camera, but straight into it. And make sure your lighting is good. If you’ve got a light source behind or to the side of you, you risk looking like a ninja, like you have a halo, or are the subject of an artistic exercise in chiaroscuro. All of them are distracting. The best practice is to be lit from the front, near a window, if possible. Everyone looks better in natural light.
Ask a friend to help you test things out to be absolutely certain that you are ready before your interview. Attention to these details are the low-hanging fruit of remote interview prep. Failing to do them could signal a fatal lack of preparedness to your interviewer…and first impressions are lasting.
One big difference between in-person and remote interviewing is that you bear all the responsibility of managing the visual perspective that a hiring manager has of you. That’s not limited to your attire, which is still as important as ever, by the way (at least from the waist up). It also includes the backdrop of your living environment.
Many people new to video conferencing have unwittingly displayed their unmade bed, streaking toddlers, family squabbles, or worse during a call.
“I was once in a corporate meeting with several people, including one guy whose roommate began using the toilet behind him without closing the door,” said Anne Lipsitz, executive career consultant at The Barrett Group. “He had no idea what was happening behind him, and it was pretty awkward when we suggested he close the bathroom door during our meeting.
Auditory distractions – like barking dogs, crying babies, and door bells chiming – should also be managed as much as possible. When in doubt, keep yourself muted at all times except when you are speaking.
Many online conferencing platforms have a designated button on the keyboard for quick mute/unmute function, like the space bar for Zoom, or the “M” key for Bluejeans. Make sure you know which button to use during your call and employ it as necessary.
If you like to use headphones during video calls, best to ask permission before your interview, to ensure they won’t divert your interviewer’s attention. In short, the rule of thumb is to minimize any possible distractions lest they become things by which your interviewer judges you.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Controlling for potential problems is crucial, nevertheless, the best laid plans often go awry. How you handle those situations matter. When things go south unexpectedly, make sure you have a contingency plan. If a sudden hurricane comes through and wipes out your power, make sure you have a phone number to let your interviewer know that there is a problem.
In the world of remote working, an embarrassing family interruption is much more likely than a hurricane, as demonstrated by the now famous BBC interview of a man whose segment was disrupted by the hilarious appearance of his two young children bursting into his office, and the even funnier commotion of his wife skidding into the scene to hustle them out.
It’s a very bad interview when no one remembers – or even cares – about your comments because something more interesting has happened over your shoulder. So how to handle it?
“Acknowledge it and absolutely own it,” said Annie Meisels, an actress and public speaking coach whose business, A Powerful Voice, now caters to workers trying to connect with others in a virtual setting. “If you seem embarrassed, it becomes a negative. But if you own it, you don’t look bad – you look human. Introduce your child or your dog to your onscreen audience, crack a joke, then try to move forward smoothly.”
Done right, the situation could end up demonstrating some pretty great characteristics about you, like adaptability, humor, and grace under pressure – all highly valuable assets during the current crisis. It may even help build a human connection with your interviewer – which is much more difficult to do remotely than in an in-person setting.
Try to Make a Human Connection
You absolutely have to work harder to make a human connection through a screen. A number of studies suggest that a huge percentage of interpersonal communication is non-verbal, and during a remote interview you don’t have the luxury of a handshake, a walk down a hallway, or a leisurely lunch. You have 30-60 minutes to be authentic, and small details count more than you think.
“Project your voice! Make sure you are articulating well,” said Lipsitz. “And be mindful of where your eyes are – try to look at the camera and not at the image of your interviewer or of yourself more than necessary. It’s as important to get people at “Hello” in a video interview as in real life, so you need to seem attentive, responsive, and have a smile in your eyes.”
People who aren’t naturally high energy personalities might need to fake it lest they come across as disinterested and lose an edge to their competition. Tricks include leaning in to show interest, deliberately varying your vocal range, and asking conversational questions that can connect you to your interviewer. Try to prepare some appropriate anecdotes that might help your interviewer relate more to you. People who reveal personal information about themselves are more likely to feel a human connection.
By the way, if you want to take notes, ask permission so that your interview doesn’t think you’re distracted, unengaged or – worse – checking your phone. Set expectations up front to avoid judgement.
With luck, the next time you’re planning to change jobs, you will have the option to interview in person. Likelier than not, however, remote interviews are here to stay in some form. Not to worry – with an eye to these basic tips, and a little practice, you can be as successful in your job interviews whether they’re conducted live at an office or remotely from your home.
The employment numbers for May are still ugly, but by this point they shouldn’t shock anyone. Economists have been telegraphing for the past two months that the economic worst of the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic is yet to come. If Goldman Sachs is to be believed, the economic worst has arrived – with GDP shrinking to unprecedented lows and unemployment stretching to unprecedented highs.
But there is a silver lining to bottoming out. Now begins the upswing.
To be sure, the labor market has borne the biggest brunt of the economic downturn. In just eleven weeks the unemployment rate has rocketed from one of the lowest it’s ever been to one of the highest it’s ever been.
We can all take heart in the indicators suggesting that the second half of the year will be better, and that investors expect unemployment to improve relatively quickly. But, let’s not kid ourselves – business in the post-Covid world is likely to be dramatically different, and some of the hardest hit industries – amusement parks, movie theaters, hotels, clothing stores, and airlines – may not recover for some time, if ever.
Other industries will rebound, however, as will companies that are bold and agile enough to adapt to a new business-as-usual. The employment market, too, will likely transform, with job opportunities growing and declining in unexpected places and ways. Jobseekers who know where to look will have an edge.
The breathtaking speed with which the pandemic swept the globe caught everyone off guard and every sector has been affected. Industries such as Video Conferencing & Software Developers, which enjoyed an overnight surge (growth is up 19.1% in 2020 so far), have even faced unique challenges (think Zoom). Still, the pandemic and the uncertainties about when it will end creates better conditions for some businesses than others.
Top performing industries to date according to industry research platform, Vertical IQ, include liquor stores, fruit and vegetable manufacturers, grocery stores, home centers and hardware stores, internet, TV, and mail order retailers, janitorial services, paper products manufacturers, and pet food manufacturers.
Focus on remote working
Going forward, industries and businesses that support the exigencies of social distancing and the practice of spending more time at home – be it for work, schooling, or entertainment – will make out well, especially in the short term.
According to industry market researcher, IBISWorld, which offers specific analysis of the coronavirus impact on individual industries, technology will be a sure winner, especially software and systems that facilitate remote business continuity, unified communications-as-a-service platforms, and cloud computing capabilities.
Other industries with a rosy outlook will include online furniture sales (for remote workers setting up home offices), and Employee Assistance Program Services (for the anticipated uptick in mental health issues associated with remote working and quarantining).
Because many educational institutions will continue remote learning into the fall, online tutoring services and educational consultants (to help train teachers and administrators in online teaching) are expected to see greater demand.
Retail stores have shuttered, but online shopping has surged – a trend that is expected to grow. Online grocery shopping, in particular, is booming. Compared to pre-Covid days when just 11% of consumers bought groceries online, in the four weeks ending April 7 more than half of shoppers reported placing an online grocery order – 33% of them first-timers to online grocery shopping!
Besides groceries and tangible goods, people are also consuming all kinds of media online, especially video streaming services and video games.
Business advisory services
Not surprisingly, many businesses will be seeking advisory assistance on whether to maintain operations and how best to do so. Management consulting, accounting services, and other advisory service businesses, therefore, will likely see a boost in demand.
Demand for Janitorial Services and other industries involved with the prevention of infection will boom as state and local economies open and try to stem fears by a wary public.
Industries related to medical instrument and supply manufacturing, medical services, software, medical supplies, and, especially, labor in the healthcare field will see a rise in demand. In addition, many medical providers can expect to see a surge of caseloads by patients who opted to put off discretionary procedures until after the pandemic peaked.
The pandemic has also supercharged the prospects for telehealth. McKinsey recently reported that “Covid-19 has caused a massive acceleration in the use of telehealth. Consumer adoption has skyrocketed, from 11% of U.S. consumers using telehealth in 2019 to 46% of consumers now using telehealth to replace cancelled healthcare visits.”
Industries Likely to Sink
In the post-Covid world there are many industries that jobseekers should think twice about targeting. In fact, when it comes to sinking and swimming, Forbes contributor Stephen McBride minces no words: “For many industries, this crisis will prove to be the final nail in the coffin. [Three] industries will NEVER return to what they once were,” he writes.
These industries are:
Movie Theaters – Why risk infection when you can stream movies at home?
Department Stores – Many first-time online shoppers will eschew shopping in physical stores now that they know how convenient online shopping is.
Office Space Operators – The growing awareness that widespread remote working will be part of the “new normal” means many businesses won’t renew their office leases.
Many industries will take years to regain their former strength, especially if human contact is important to the business. Leisure & Hospitality, for example, was hit harder than any other industry, with unemployment reaching nearly 40% (see graph). And because travel has dried up, demand for hotel rooms and restaurant seats may not rebound for a long time. Individual hotels and major operators are projecting occupancies below 20%, a reality that may force many to close. According to IBISWorld, sector revenue is forecast to decline 11.2% in 2020.
Within this industry are subgroups, such as performing arts, spectator sports, museums, amusement parks and national and state parks. Some will fare better than others, but all will face challenges going forward.
This sector is victim to substantially reduced industrial and consumer spending. According to IBISWorld, revenue for this sector is forecast to decline 18.4% in 2020. The segment of the industry related to medical supplies, however, will be an outlier in the overall decline.
This sector is volatile in the best of circumstances, and pre-Covid it was already facing stagnant productivity, low levels of digitization, and low profitability according to global management consulting company McKinsey. It was ripe for disruption, and the pandemic will force it to innovate if it is to fully recover. The sector revenue is forecast to decline 6.8% in 2020.
On the upside, low mortgage rates and pent up demand will kick in once the larger economy recovers. Moreover, public investment and infrastructure projects are sorely needed in the U.S. Initiative on these is unlikely before the presidential election, but if the government moves forward on projects in 2021, it could offer a lot of employment opportunity.
Automakers have started to reopen plants, but continuing supply chain and health safety concerns, not to mention waning consumer demand, will continue to hamper the recovery of this industry.
The air travel industry will be even more vulnerable. Revenue is expected to decline 6.3% in 2020 due to the Covid-19 fallout. U.S. airlines carried 51% fewer scheduled service passengers in March 2020 than a year earlier – the largest year-to-year decrease on record and the lowest level of air travel in almost two decades. Demand is unlikely to recover without a concurrent rise in consumer sentiment and improved economic conditions.
Accelerating Trends and Paradigm Shifts
It’s important to keep in mind that the pandemic isn’t fully responsible for the trajectory of a given industry. New trends in the global order of business have been underway for years thanks to advances in digital technology. Analysts say the pandemic is simply accelerating these trends.
The result may well be a paradigm shift.
“Covid-19 will force a rebirth of many industries…, re-assessing and re-imagining modes of consumption, supply, interaction and productivity,” writes Mohit Joshi, president of global technology firm, Infosys Limited, in his article, Who will be the winners in a post-pandemic economy?
As counterintuitive as it may seem, now is a great time for talented workers to consider a career change. No matter the industry, companies will survive based on the choices they make now, and choosing good talent is paramount.
McKinsey notes in a recent report that “forward-looking companies know that…the only sustainable advantage is rooted in harnessing the passion, skills, capabilities, judgement, and creativity that people bring to work…This means getting the right people in the right roles to create value.”
This is good news for jobseekers, but they shouldn’t forget that, like companies, those with a healthy combination of resilience, agility and a willingness to adapt to the new normal will be the most successful.
The coronavirus crisis has unleashed a maelstrom of uncertainty about every aspect of our lives. It has introduced concerns as disparate as mental and physical health, financial stability, children’s education, screen time, the presidential election, humanity at the end of life – for heaven’s sake, we even worry about where our next roll of toilet paper will come from!
Paramount for some Americans are anxieties about employment. Just six weeks into the Covid-19 crisis, a jaw-dropping 30 million people hit the unemployment rolls. And that number is expected to climb. Economists estimate the unemployment rate may ultimately hit 20% – a staggering figure that is now being compared to the Great Depression, when a quarter of the American population was unemployed.
For now, there are still way more questions than answers about the uncertainty – especially for those who have lost, or risk losing, their jobs. Two questions topping the list are: How do we get to the other side of this crisis, and what will it look like when we get there?
The short answer to both questions is that no one knows for sure. This crisis presents the U.S. with two equally harrowing alternatives – a modern day Scylla and Charibdis: Reopen the economy and risk thousands more deaths, or keep the economy closed and risk unparalleled economic damage.
How it ultimately turns out will depend on so many variables, not least of which include when a coronavirus vaccine can be produced, and how effectively our leaders navigate us through this impossibly difficult strait.
But Americans are nothing if not resilient. Somehow, we will get to the other side. And the path forward isn’t so bleak if you resolve to prepare yourself well for work life after the coronavirus crisis. Here are a few observations to help set your expectations.
We Are Unlikely to Get Back to Where We Were
When investors tuned into the most recent annual Berkshire Hathaway stockholders meeting, they were heartened by the optimism of billionaire and financial guru, William Buffett, who dispensed with some folksy wisdom. “Never bet against America,” he said. At the same time the “Oracle of Omaha” was realistic about the changes we face.
“We do not know exactly what happens when you voluntarily shut down a substantial portion of your society,” said Buffett.
To be sure, the return to any semblance of “normal” will take time, and it’s unclear whether the timeframe should be measured in months or years. But businesses are already planning for the next phase.
Consulting firm KPMG, for example, has published a useful conceptual model for how organizations might safely restart in a way that incorporates infection testing to mitigate the health risks to the workforce.
They’ve also looked at the struggles American workers currently face to understand how businesses can better support them. A survey reveals that 60% of employees say their jobs have become more demanding – even overwhelming. This is especially true of parents who are juggling work and childcare.
And the higher they are on the corporate ladder, the more likely people are to find work more challenging now. Few managers have experience overseeing an entirely virtual workforce. It requires a special set of skills to maintain employee morale, productivity, and a human connection at a distance.
Again, no one knows for sure what the new normal work life will look like, but it will probably look a lot like what prognosticators were forecasting in the pre-Covid-19 period. The future of work is now standing at the front door.
Most evident, is that there will be a burgeoning role of technology, especially anything pertaining to remote working. Virus or no virus, it will be impossible to put that genie back in the bottle. Now that companies and workers know that remote working works, fewer people will be going to an office.
Instead, business-as-usual will involve working from home, less travel, more video conferencing, and new apps and platforms that enable team communication and collaboration at a distance. In fact, there is a good chance that Covid-19 will trigger a permanent exodus from dense, metropolitan centers to rural and suburban locales. After all, why would city dwellers opt to pay high rents for a small apartment if proximity to an office is no longer a requirement?
Until a vaccine is available, only those for whom it is critical to be in an office will be expected to go. Those that do will find new floor layouts and safe zones in elevators that promote social distancing. Previously open work spaces may have sneeze guard partitions and ramped up cleaning regimens. If they don’t already, businesses will stagger work schedules to minimize contact among office workers.
Some changes may challenge privacy concerns, such as regular temperature scans. According to the Washington Post, PricewaterhouseCoopers will soon launch a contact-tracing tool for businesses. The tool adds an app to workers’ phones that detects the phones of any co-workers that come near.
The Covid-19 Impact on Career Management
To stay competitive in this new work environment, it’s imperative that workers keep up with technological advancements and prepare themselves for imminent changes to conventional modes of work. The rise of the Gig Economy was well underway before Covid-19. In the short term it will expand even more because companies concerned about their bottom line are likely to hire people on a temporary basis until the dust settles.
“In the past month and a half, we’ve had more clients landing than ever before,” says Dan Resendes, chief consulting officer at The Barrett Group. “Companies that are affected the worst are looking to replace leaders that are failing to handle this crisis.”
Recruiters are also actively beefing up their lists of leaders proficient in dealing with crises, transitions, and virtual business. In addition to these skills, a savoir-faire in managing relationships and leveraging social capital outside of the traditional format is more prized than ever before.
Indeed, Resendes notes that the successes of clients at The Barrett Group is due largely to their efforts to check in on people in their network to make sure everyone is doing okay during this crisis. Networking is hugely important in the best of times. During a crisis such as this, where in-person meetings are risky, this kind of soft skill is crucial to building relationships and creating a community.
“We are seeing a fundamental shift in the skills and leadership background required by companies,” said Resendes.
Some Silver Linings for Job Seekers
It is difficult to see past the daily grim headlines, but there are some silver linings for motivated job seekers. Many job seekers are simply deciding to wait out the storm, which means the pool of competitors is smaller than it would otherwise be for those actively looking. Also, many older workers may simple opt for early retirement rather than reinventing themselves for a few more years, which will shrink the pool even more.
It’s important to remember that when a vaccine or widespread testing puts the worst of the health crisis behind us, the employment picture gets much brighter. Because the economy was victim to an exogenous shock and not internal rot, hiring may well be supercharged when it recovers.
Sure, some industries, like travel, hospitality, and tourism, may take a long time to recuperate, but others, like technology, healthcare, construction, and consulting firms, will be catapulted way ahead as innovators race to respond to new social and commercial needs and new consumer expectations.
Going forward, job seekers should highlight different skills and experiences than they used to. Anything that shows an ability to achieve a vision or a mission by leveraging calm, decisive leadership during times of adversity and crises will grab attention, as will skills in managing a remote workforce, an ability to restructure policies and procedures, and distance production.
Most organizations have never experienced a disruption on the scale of the Covid-19 crisis, and they will do all they can to minimize the fallout and ensure it never happens again. If you can contribute to that goal, you will be hired!
Even before the novel coronavirus outbreak, the global labor force was changing. Developments in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are at the forefront of changes in the workplace and herald a future of automation that will make work drastically different. Technologies can already do tasks that we once believed only humans could do, and this trend will only continue.
Analysts from such august institutions as McKinsey, Brookings and MIT anticipate that the disruption in the labor force stemming from technology will be of a similar magnitude as the shift from the agrarian economic model to the model ushered in by the Machine Age. Some speculate that it might even be greater.
Although such dramatic prognostications are fodder for alarmists who warn that robots are killing jobs, you shouldn’t panic. Yes, some jobs will be fully automated in the future. Most, however, are likely to change rather than disappear entirely, and many new jobs that we can’t even imagine today will emerge.
Global Management Consulting firm, McKinsey, has undertaken an ongoing effort to study the future of work. McKinsey’s analysts studied 2,000 work activities across 800 occupations.
They found that, the majority (60%) of all occupations have at least 30% of activities that could be automated, and that almost every occupation has at least some automation potential. However, given current technologies, less than 5% of all occupations can be automated entirely. In other words, more occupations will change than will be automated away.
That doesn’t mean you have nothing to worry about. In a related report McKinsey estimates that 75 million to 375 million people globally may need to switch occupations by 2030.
Not surprisingly, the jobs that will be lost to automation involve physical activities in very predictable environments, such as in manufacturing, food service and hospitality, as well as the collection and processing of data, such as in certain financial work and back office transactions.
The jobs of the future will require technical skills, math, statistics, and logical thinking. Comfort with data will be essential. We will likely see “hybrid jobs” – that is, jobs that combine different disciplines in ways that we haven’t seen before. But they will also increasingly involve humans working side-by-side with machines, using skills that machines cannot match, especially those that rely on social interactions, such as managing people, applying expertise, or research and writing skills.
The more “human-centric” a job is, the more likely it is to resist absorption by automation. Such jobs are likely to involve four basic competencies – sometimes called the “Four C’s:” creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication.
In some ways, older professionals are well situated for such jobs because they have been in the workforce longer than younger professionals. They have more experience and have acquired valuable interpersonal skills and expertise that will serve them well as the work landscape changes. But in the Digital Age no one can afford to rest on his laurels.
In a 2017 Deloitte report, analysts anticipate that the half-life of skill sets will decrease to five years in the future of work. For example, technical skills that are in high demand today will become less sought after as more workers become skilled in those areas. Meanwhile, the demand for expertise in other areas will grow. Above all, workers must constantly focus on upping their game and making their own opportunities.
Factors in Job Growth
Demographics, climate change and global economic forces will all be determining factors in job creation by 2030, too. Our aging society is catalyzing the growth of jobs in the healthcare industry, for example, and climate challenges and rising energy demands will spur jobs promoting energy efficiency.
Investment in technology and infrastructure by government and business will beget jobs in technology, construction and construction-related sectors.
Historically, developing technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed. McKinsey found, for example, that since the advent of personal computers 3.5 million jobs have been lost versus 19.2 million jobs created – a net gain of 15.8 million jobs. Looking ahead, McKinsey forecasts that new jobs will result from growth in current occupations and the creation of new types of occupations that may not have existed before. If history repeats itself, job growth (i.e. jobs gained) could more than offset jobs lost to automation.
Specifically, McKinsey reports, “the categories with the highest percentage of job growth net of automation include:
professionals such as engineers, scientists, accountants, and analysts; IT professionals and other technology specialists; managers and executives, whose work cannot easily be replaced by machines;
and ‘creatives,’ a small but growing category of artists, performers, and entertainers who will be in demand as rising incomes create more demand for leisure and recreation.”
Tours of Duty
To smooth the transition to the future of work, it will be incumbent on government and businesses to implement policy changes to train and retrain people to accommodate the demand of new and different workforce skills, to retool healthcare and income support systems to promote more fluidity in the labor market, and to help displaced workers find employment.
By all appearances, these institutions have a long way to go. Andy Wyckoff, director of the Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation at the OECD, writes that governments are lagging behind the need to adapt policymaking to the fast pace of technological developments – and the gap is widening. Businesses aren’t doing much better.
According to a Deloitte survey, employees give their learning and training departments a low -8 net promoter score, complaining of outdated learning management systems and legacy content. The smart worker, therefore, will shoulder the responsibility to continually learn new midcareer skills and adapt to changes in the employment market.
LinkedIn co-founder, Reid Hoffman, views careers today as “tours of duty,” whereby workers stay at a given company just a few years.
He believes the time has come for a new employer-employee compact that acknowledges the probable impermanence of the relationship yet seeks to build trust and investment by way of an alliance that offers both parties value.
In other words, companies should try to attract and retain talent by offering employees real skills, new relationships or the opportunity to enhance their personal brand.
As an employee, if a company isn’t offering you these things, you might do well to look elsewhere because, as long-term job security slips away in the future of work, learning and development opportunities will be the hallmark of a good job and your ticket to a better career.
Reading the news is depressing stuff these days. In addition to the tragic loss of life that now seems inevitable, the coronavirus health crisis has turned into a full-blown economic crisis that promises to rival every economic crisis in the post-war era.
Bank of America “officially declared” in mid-March that the U.S. economy has fallen into a recession – and that was even before the U.S. Labor Department reported unemployment claims had surged to 3.3 million, up from 281,000 the week prior. In the week ending March 28 initial claims leapt to 6.6 million – an all-time high.
Experts expect these numbers to worsen yet over the coming months.
A sobering analysis by management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, estimates that up to one-third of U.S. jobs could be vulnerable. The most affected industries – hospitality, food service, and retail – account for 42% of vulnerable jobs. With Americans retreating to their homes, consumer spending – which comprises two-thirds of the U.S. economy – has narrowed to grocery, hand sanitizer and toilet paper purchases.
McKinsey’s analysis find that lockdowns disproportionally affect low-income workers. But unemployment is likely to spread across most industries and income levels until businesses see the economic rebound that invariably follows an economic crisis.
When will that happen?
At this point, it’s anybody’s guess. It depends entirely on the economic policy and the public health responses to the crisis.
But it’s never too early to start preparing for a job search. Whether hiring picks up in the third quarter of this year or sometime in 2021, you should put your worries to work now so that you can hit the ground running when we emerge on the other side of the coronavirus crisis.
This Economic Crisis Is Different
The rapidly worsening doom and gloom news is head-spinning. Events are moving so fast that in the last two weeks of March Goldman Sachs revised its economic forecast of the second quarter three times; first, to a contraction of 5%, then to 24%, then to a jaw-dropping 34%. That’s 3.5 times bigger than any decline in history. Goldman Sachs’ lead economist, Jan Hatzius, says that unemployment will hit 15% by the second half of the year.
Still, this economic crisis is different from other economic crises.
Unlike the 2008 financial crisis, which was the result of complex structural problems in the U.S. economy, the current crisis is the result of an exogenous shock to the economy – that is, an unpredicted event that comes from outside the economic system.
In theory, an exogenous shock to an otherwise healthy economy can absorb the shock and rebound in a classic V-shaped growth curve. That is a big difference from the slow, 10-year recovery after the 2008 crisis.
A quick rebound is exactly what Goldman Sachs forecasts. It sees GDP surging 19% in the third quarter. Likewise, Morgan Stanley forecasts growth of 21% after a sharp contraction of 38% in the second quarter.
To be clear, there is no consensus on what the recovery will look like.
Morgan and Goldman expect a more drawn out recovery than initially anticipated, and some experts foresee a full-on U-shaped recovery. Unfortunately, an L-shaped recovery isn’t out of the question.
But economic relief efforts are underway. In the first week of April Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin tweeted that community banks have already processed over $875 million in loans of the $349 billion small business Paycheck Protection Program, and big banks will be following suit soon. Treasury officials also plan to ask Congress to commit an additional $200 billion to the program.
Experts do agree that the recovery very much depends on the policy response to the crisis. McKinsey has modeled out various economic scenarios based on the aggressivity of the government’s economic policy and public health responses to the coronavirus crisis. To avoid a grim outcome, it strongly urges quick and bold leadership.
What’s the bottom line: Should you postpone your job search?
The answer is no. Here are three reasons why:
1. No one can guess the bottom of this market and it won’t get easier to wait. Back in 2008 many would-be job seekers waited for the market to recover, which took a long time. If current estimates hold, a rebound in the third and fourth quarters would be 3-6 months from now. A typical job search also takes 3-6 months, so starting the process now is the right time to research the job you want and make yourself the best candidate possible for that job so that you’re ready to go when hiring picks up.
2. Hiring managers are always working back channels to place people in open positions, both in good times and in bad. It’s called the “unpublished job market.” If you aren’t job seeking, you won’t know about those opportunities, and hiring managers won’t know about your candidacy.
Imagine showing up for an interview with your top company choice only to be told that the spot you were gunning for was filled two weeks ago. Don’t let someone who acted more quickly than you eat your lunch!
A much better strategy is to throw your hat into the ring now and politely tell the hiring manager: “I understand that your hiring circumstances may be uncertain at the moment, but please keep me in mind when things improve.” Your candor and consideration will be appreciated.
3. Don’t forget that a crisis is the best time to show your mettle to hiring managers. Anyone can be a leader when times are good, but a crisis is precisely when companies need strong leaders. If you have something special to offer, let people know. You will be in high demand.
Whether you are employed or not, you are probably spending your days at home like most Americans. Since you have more time on your hands than usual, take a break from watching Tiger King on Netflix to reflect on what your skills are. Do some research to figure out how they may be transferrable to another industry or another type of position. Lastly, cogitate on how you can present these skills to a hiring manager in a language that he’ll understand: dollars and cents.
Don’t be shy to reach out for professional help. This kind of exercise is a specialty for executive coaching firms like The Barrett Group. If they can help you demonstrate that you can change a company’s bottom line, create new income, or save time and money, you will get hired. In that case, the investment in a coach will have been well worth it.
Quarantining is an ideal time to ramp up your networking. Because everyone is home, they are reaching out to people they don’t regularly communicate with. Exploit this opportunity and make video calls do double duty for you – make it social but with the potential for a future professional payoff. (If you’re nervous, keep it casual by positioning your kids or your dog in the background.)
Lastly, don’t forget that there are many companies that ARE hiring now. Companies from industries spanning technology to online retail to home delivery are hiring to meet increased demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic. LinkedIn maintains a regularly updated list of companies hiring right now. And the Wall Street Journal is tracking a long list of companies that are both shedding and adding workers and worker benefits.
Many of the positions in demand now are temporary, but consider being a hero in the short-term. In addition to acquiring a few new skills, some contacts, and making a little more income, you will make a difference. What better way to put your worries to work?
Rapid technological changes are shaping everything from the way we hail a cab to the way we order takeout food. We are forced to adapt to new ways of doing the most basic tasks. It’s no wonder, then, that you may be feeling similar pressure in your work life.
Your calendar is updated by others remotely, your files are stored in the cloud and editable by someone in a different city – or country, and a modern meeting is held by video conferencing technology in a “zoom room” or over a smart phone. Even the staid one-page, paper resume has been replaced by the LinkedIn profile.
In an effort to keep up with the competition, companies must respond to the never-ending need to upgrade systems, digital platforms, and applications. Naturally, companies value most the employees who can keep up with all these changes. It is incumbent upon you, therefore, to continually develop yourself, to learn new skills – especially digital skills – and to be flexible about learning new modes and patterns of work.
So “upskilling” is crucial for anyone who hopes to position him or herself for a better opportunity at a new company or advancement within the current one. But what skills are the most important ones to have? And what is the best way to acquire them?
What Is Upskilling and How Do I Do It?
A scene in “The Intern,” a 2015 film about a retired professional, bored with retirement, who elects to return to the workforce, shows Robert DeNiro’s character, Ben Whittaker, reading the instructions to digitally apply for a job posting to an e-commerce startup company. “I have no idea what you just read,” said Whittaker’s friend in the scene. “It’s like a different language!” Undeterred, Whittaker applies for, and lands, a job at the startup and begins his re-education in the world of modern technology.
These days the experience of those characters may be common to people of all ages who aren’t actively updating their skillset. A 2016 report by the World Economic Forum forecast that within five years over one-third of skills that are considered important in the workforce will have changed. Therefore, acquiring new skills and knowledge that make you marketable in your career – upskilling, in today’s parlance – should be a constant endeavor for everyone.
But what skills you should learn depend entirely on the needs of your employer and, of course, on you.
Would you like to advance in the field you’re already in or pursue a different career altogether? Many company leaders now see a yawning gap between the technical needs of their company and the technical abilities of today’s workforce.
Research firm Gartner reports that “…talent has now been recognized globally as the single biggest issue standing in the way of CIOs achieving their objectives.” Increasingly, companies are recognizing the value of training their workers in new skills and offering them valuable professional development. If you are offered such an opportunity, jump on it!
If not, you should be exploring ways to develop yourself on your own.
Consulting with a professional career coach, like the ones available at The Barrett Group, is a great first step for getting a fresh perspective on what you might do to boost your career. Other good resources include finding a mentor, joining an industry association, or taking a course at a local university where you can interact with an experienced educator. Speaking to other people who know the industry is a great way to find out what skills are in hot demand.
Once you figure out what skills are important for your career goals, there are endless ways to learn them – and they aren’t necessarily costly or time consuming. Read books, subscribe to technical magazines, or take an online course, of which there are many excellent, free ones, like Coursera or MIT’s OpenCourseWare. It may seem obvious, but do an online search for “How to learn [fill in the blank].” You’ll doubtless get a page or more of good links to blogs, webinars or podcasts to dig into.
Don’t underestimate the value of online tutorials or YouTube videos.
Although they aren’t usually professionally edited and may lack clarity and thoroughness, they are easily accessible and free. What’s more, they often incorporate links, user comments and interactive demonstrations that are incredibly informative.
Finally, set yourself a tech goal, like creating a website or starting a blog. There is nothing better than experiential learning for mastering technical skills. Working on a project is more compelling than reading a book and the task focuses your attention on the practical application of the skills you are learning.
You might also consider joining a tech-related club and volunteering for a technical project. It will give you valuable experience and, perhaps, the opportunity to work with people with more technical know-how than you, who can act as useful resources. Doing this will have the added benefit of broadening your network and possibly opening doors in your career.
Seasoned Professionals Have an Edge
A report by the World Economic Forum on the future of jobs identifies the technology drivers of change that have already impacted industries – mobile internet, cloud technology and Big Data – and those that we can expect by 2020 – artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and autonomous transport. Nearly every industry and every organizational role will eventually require the use of sophisticated technology, but there are huge talent gaps.
According to the RAND Corporation, two different types of skills are in short supply: digital skills and digital navigation skills. The former are the technical skills required to use digital technologies. The latter is a wider and less tangible set of skills that is less about knowing technological skills than knowing how to find and prioritize information and assess its quality and reliability. It means taking responsibility for figuring out what you need to know and where to find that knowledge.
The good news is that hard, digital skills are defined and relatively easy to learn in a class or a book. Meanwhile, digital navigation skills require experience, judgement and time to acquire, which gives the seasoned professional an advantage in the employment market. The key here is to be able to apply technology within the context of a specific profession.
This means, for example, a doctor knowing how to use health IT tools to better diagnose a patient’s malady, or an auditor knowing how to use data analytics and visualization software to evaluate copious amounts of information on a spreadsheet at the click of a button. Still, it’s an ongoing process because the knowledge base is constantly changing and one must continue to adapt to new technologies and ways of doing things.
In the face of such radical change in the job environment, staying competitive means adapting. But successful people understand that learning is a lifelong pursuit. If you invest in ongoing skills development, you will do your job more effectively, increase your salary bargaining power, and give yourself confidence to set increasingly challenging goals. You will set yourself apart from the crowd and the results will speak for themselves.
We hope this finds you well, as are we. The Barrett Group has been active in the
career management market for 30 years and has weathered all manner of crises,
Yes, the US and the world are in the grip of a health crisis. Once governments recognize what needs to be done and commit publicly to doing it, people will adjust. Fortunately, with the measures rapidly being adopted in the US and Europe this is finally starting to happen, though it will certainly get worse before it gets better.
Where China has adopted strict lock-downs, the incidence of new cases has already dwindled.
There is hope that “shelter in place” and similar measures being adopted elsewhere can slow the rate of spread and allow health services to expand their capacity and source the equipment and supplies they will need as the crisis peaks.
Medically, most people even if they become infected are not at risk of anything worse than a severe flu, if that, but please take all necessary precautions. Extensive testing for example in Iceland shows that many who are infected never become symptomatic… though they may still be infectious for a period of time.
Industries will be impacted differently.
The cruise ship, airline, amusement park, and concert businesses are already suffering. Consumer goods companies, particularly makers of hand sanitizer, face masks, toilet paper and the like are thriving. The health care industries once they adjust will probably do well, too.
On-line shopping is booming as you can see from Amazon’s stock development. Microsoft and others have leapt into the remote-learning market as schools have closed.
Government stimulus and support is also making its way through the regulatory process and green shoots are showing on the world’s stock markets. Many other industries will not be significantly impacted in the medium term.
At the Barrett Group we are modestly ahead of the curve as far as virtual working is concerned, and it seems that the world is moving our way. This may be the most significant impact of all in the long term as more and more companies recognize that there are in fact significant advantages to telecommuting.
Already, most initial employment interviews are conducted by telephone and videoconference.
By the way, we can help you set up a complimentary videoconference account of your own, if you wish, to help you capitalize on this trend.
Our discussions with major employers indicate that most expect to weather this crisis and continue recruiting major talent, as their organizational strategies are long term and not particularly affected by the whim of the market.
So, in a nutshell, as long as you are willing to do the work required, this health crisis should not significantly impact your career change campaign in our opinion.
Most of our clients land through the unpublished market anyway and we know how to help you make the connections required to be successful there.
Fear can be paralyzing.
But you need not be a victim.
Take advantage of this crisis to take stock of your situation. Perhaps it is time for you to take
action. If so, please consult us. Thirty years of guiding executives toward a
better work / life / compensation balance has made us the experts. We can help.
In the meantime, please do everything you can to stay healthy and
protect the health of those around you.
Are you in a midlife career change? Are you changing careers at 30, 40 or 50 years of age? Do you need a new career? If you are currently experiencing difficulty in your job search, we’re here to help. Please send a message with your information or call.