The Whys and Hows of Upskilling

In current times, the most critical aspect determining your employability, success and growth is Upskilling. Let us see why…

As per a World Economic Forum report, one in four adults reported a mismatch between their current skills and the qualifications required for their jobs. And looking forward, 35% of the skills demanded for jobs across industries will change by 2020! Closer home, as per a NASSCOM report, 40% of India’s workforce needs to upskill within the next five years to stay relevant, owing to automation and changing industry demands.

Whether you get alarmed with these statistics or view this as an opportunity, the core message is clear. If you want to stay employable and relevant, you need to upskill yourself. And upskilling is not a one-time effort but needs to be a continual process.

According to John Seely Denning and Prof. Peter Brown (Authors of the Book “A new culture of Learning”), “The half-life a learned skill is 5-years. This means that much of what you learned 10 years ago is obsolete and half of what you learned 5 years ago is irrelevant”.

All of us have heard about the importance of upskilling. Yet, not everyone has embarked on their upskilling journey. Most people assume that their skills are safe from disruption and could never become redundant. This is a risky assumption, considering that entire industries have collapsed owing to disruption and technological evolution. So here are a few more reasons you should consider upskilling:

*The Digital era has ushered in an environment of rapid and continual change. Every industry or profession is affected by such change, hence it is imperative that you equip yourself to operate in the new scheme of things.

*Several large industries and organizations have been disrupted into oblivion. If your industry were to get disrupted, would your skills help you get other job offers?

*Most organizations have begun to realize the value of reskilling and multi-skilling. Hence, upskilling would become a key criterion in determining your growth prospects.

Now that we’ve established the necessity of upskilling, lets discuss how to create and execute your personalized upskilling strategy. There are three steps to the process:

Analyze:

The first step is to assess your current skillset against industry trends. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the outlook for your skills with respect to the trends in your industry?
  • Are your skills still in demand?
  • Or are the skills on a decline?

2. If your skills are still in demand, ask yourself:

  • Are you skilled enough or is there more to learn?
  • Are there any additional advances in your field that you need to get skilled on?

3. If your skills are on a decline, figure out the following:

  • What are the related skills that you could acquire easily?
  • Can your skills be applied to another industry?

Plan:

Depending on the responses to the questions above, define the future skill set you’d like to build. Categorize your future skills in terms of core skills and ancillary skills and devise a plan to acquire your future skill set.

1. Core skills — Go for greater depth in your core areas by gaining additional credits and certifications

2. Ancillary skills —

  • Go for greater breadth by identifying surrounding or related skill sets that can help you solidify your core.
  • Pick another area that may be unrelated, but interests you. This could be a new technology or a diverse field in creative arts. Think Blockchain, Robotics, Design Thinking or Ethnography.

The reason I suggest this is two-fold. Firstly, organizations value candidates with diversity of skills and you could create a niche for yourself. Secondly, it is exciting to learn something different and new. It jolts you out of your comfort zone, opens you up to new possibilities and gives you greater exposure.

Execute:

Once you’ve identified the focus areas for upskilling, you could start executing your plan in the following ways:

· Sign up for courses (online and offline) and get certified

· Read books on the subject

· Stay tuned to news and trends in the area

· Talk to people who work in that particular field — you could gather valuable perspectives from their experience and seek clarifications on the subject

· Take up a project in the area by offering to assist someone, because nothing beats personal experience and exposure

Once you have gathered enough knowledge, experience and exposure, begin to share your point of view through blogs and whitepapers. When you write blogs or papers, it entails research and deep thinking on the subject, thus enhancing your expertise even further. You could also join online forums to discuss the subject with others.

Getting started on your upskilling journey may seem arduous, but a structured approach makes it easier. I speak from experience when I say this. I started my career in Operations and soon moved into the area of Operations transformation. I got certified in Six Sigma and Lean, gained considerable experience and built credibility. Over the past few years though, I realized that Digital was gaining prominence and permeating across industries. While my core skillset would still hold value, I realized I had to upskill myself in order to stay relevant. So, I identified key areas around Digital transformation and upskilled myself through reading, attending courses, talking to experts and working on projects. Eventually, I found a niche at the intersection of my core skill and the new skills. I published whitepapers and blogs and built expertise over time. And I continue to keep tabs on where the industry is headed, since upskilling needs to be an ongoing process.

As you focus on upskilling, here’s a quote to reaffirm the power of learning:

A mind once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions” — Oliver Wendell Holmes

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A management consultant turned entrepreneur; Voracious reader, avid traveler and a strong advocate for diversity and women in leadership.

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Uma Kasoji

Uma Kasoji

A management consultant turned entrepreneur; Voracious reader, avid traveler and a strong advocate for diversity and women in leadership.

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