A rewarding, satisfying career is something to be coveted. It’s one thing to want to improve your prospects and make progress in your profession, and quite another to actually achieve this.
If you feel like you are treading water at the moment, it’s a great time to take stock and strategise for the year ahead. So what can you do to tweak the trajectory of your career and remain relevant throughout 2022 and beyond?
The role of continuous learning
The short answer is to be proactive in acquiring new skills because unless you are always learning and expanding your abilities, you won’t get access to the opportunities that are out there.
There are a number of ways to approach continuous learning, and the route that’s right for you will depend on your aims and ambitions. Let’s look at the main options and what they mean for employees today:
One of the most popular business buzzwords of the last few years, upskilling is essentially a means by which employees are trained to acquire new abilities which make them more valuable to their employer.
The upshot of upskilling is that team members can progress their careers in a meaningful way, earning promotions legitimately rather than being handed them arbitrarily.
Employers will typically choose to partly or wholly fund the upskilling process, whether that might be an online program in health and human services, an in-person course in database administration, or anything else that is industry-relevant and ideal for enabling employees to level up without leaving the business.
There are of course caveats when it comes to upskilling. There may be the implicit expectation, or indeed the explicit requirement, that team members use the skills they learn to benefit their current employer.
In this sense, it’s more of an investment in the future of the organisation than in the individual, although it can be both if handled well.
For employees – Asking your line manager about upskilling opportunities is the first step to improved career relevance as an employee, especially if you feel like you are stagnating at the moment. If they are not onboard with this, the next section may be more useful to you.
For employers – Encouraging staff to embrace training opportunities will be advantageous to your business and to the job satisfaction of individuals. There are costs to bear, but since you can outsource training to third party providers it should not be complex to organise. Furthermore you could plug any skills gaps that exist in your workforce with this approach, avoiding the need for outside recruitment.
Upskilling is all well and good if you are happy with your current employer and simply want to progress internally or improve your performance in your existing role. But what about if the time has come to move on to greener pastures, or change career entirely?
Reskilling could let you choose a new career as a licensed real estate agent in Arizona, as a qualified medical lab technician in Anglesey, as a social worker in South Africa, or as whatever type of professional that best fits your revised priorities.
If you are thinking of switching to an entirely different industry than the one you currently occupy, your reskilling efforts may need to be funded out of your own pocket, and take place in your spare time.
However, some employers will enable employees to reskill internally, because this is good for loyalty and retention, as well as potentially being more affordable than recruiting from outside the company.
Reskilling is even an option for people who have taken a career break, or who have found themselves without employment, and are looking for a fresh opportunity.
This is definitely a more daunting and potentially challenging way to remain career-relevant in 2022. However, it could be all the more rewarding because of this.
Certainly, if you feel like you’re stuck in a rut and you don’t want to acquire yet more skills for a job that doesn’t give you joy, reskilling is desirable over plodding down the same career path.
For employees – Like upskilling, if reskilling is available internally, you need to be proactive in embracing it. Talk to your line manager about any dissatisfaction you have with your current role, and they should help you make the changes you need to deal with this. If you fear that such a discussion might leave you in a precarious position, this is a sign that you probably should look for work elsewhere anyway.
If you need to take matters into your own hands, there are heaps of online resources for reskilling. Whatever career change you desire, the tools to achieve it are out there.
For employers – Smaller businesses may find it trickier to accommodate internal reskilling, but you can treat it like upskilling if a team member asks about retraining for an entirely different role. Look at the areas in which you don’t have in-house skills to solve operational issues, and focus reskilling efforts around them.
Compared to upskilling and reskilling, outskilling is a relatively new concept, and yet it is one that has been necessitated by global events of the past couple of years, as well as the changing expectations of employees more generally.
In essence, it shares the same principles; people are given opportunities to learn new skills, whether to aid them in their current roles, provide them with a path to a more senior position in the same profession, or afford them the option of changing careers entirely.
The difference here is that, as the name suggests, there is no expectation that they will stick with their existing employer.
It might sound counterintuitive, but companies like Amazon have got this trend rolling with major investments in employee training that are being implemented because of the benefits they will bring to the economy as a whole.
That is not to say that outskilling is being pursued without any self-interest on the behalf of big employers. It’s a little like rebranding, upskilling, and reframing it as altruistic, when in fact it is still likely to endear organisations to employees and increase loyalty levels.
However, in the face of the so-called ‘Great Resignation’, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic and other societal pressures, employers have recognised that the resources they pump into training will not be wasted even if employees choose to head elsewhere in the immediate aftermath of acquiring new skills.
There are a few other factors at play here. Businesses that adopt outskilling policies can feel less conflicted about implementing redundancies or reducing staff numbers in order to cut costs since the team members that leave will go away with ample skills to make them eminently employable elsewhere.
Equally, if more and more companies are outskilling in an unselfish way, there is every chance that everyone will be the beneficiary of the training investments made.
Better trained employees lead to better outcomes for businesses, and a stronger economy, which stimulates consumer spending, and on and on to a brighter future.
For employees – Outskilling is upskilling without the catch of being committed to the company that covers the costs, so it’s important to know the difference when offered training opportunities at work. Any ambiguity here could leave you in a bind, so make sure the messaging coming from your superiors is clear.
For employers – So long as you scrutinise the training programs you offer, and ensure they are relevant to your wider industry and not just to your internal needs, you can help employees with upskilling, outskilling and reskilling equally well.
As mentioned at the start, skill acquisition is undeniably the most impactful way to remain relevant in your current career or move to a new industry without being hamstrung by inexperience.
What you really need to do is be prepared to say yes to the opportunities that are presented to you. Don’t just wait to be told about training that your employer offers, but ask your manager outright if you could be eligible for whatever programs are on the table.
If you can’t get a leg up from your employer, don’t dawdle, but rather take the initiative and invest in your future. Life’s too short to settle for a career that doesn’t satisfy you.