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The emergence of mid-career reskilling

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The security of a job-for-life as a loyal employee went out of the door some years ago. Now, a life-long career in an area you’ve become an expert in as a result of your hard-earned university degree and your experience, is also no longer guaranteed. In this world of accelerating change, skills now have half-lives of less than five years. The need to continually refresh your skills inventory to remain relevant in today’s job market is non-negotiable.

It has become clear that the underlying principles and unwritten rules that helped us enter, retain and progress our careers in the past, are now becoming irrelevant. Even the previously held notion of going to university and getting a degree to help set yourself up for a job in your chosen profession has started to unravel.

We are starting to see graduates come in to the workforce having learnt material that has become largely obsolete by the time they graduate. We’re also seeing Software Engineer and Computer Science graduates now being hired as a result of their personal projects, in which they’ve used contemporary programming languages, rather than the outdated legacy constructs accredited through a protracted bureaucratic processes. In other words, their degrees!

And what of the individual who is mid-career and facing an unpredictable future, where their job may evolve significantly at best or even totally disappear at worst? This reality is closer than it seems. We’re already starting to see a rise in the number of mid-career professionals who’ve been made redundant as a direct result of digital transformation programmes. These are people who have predominantly delivered face-to-face services, or maintained on-premises computing capabilities, or even folk who worked in a traditional waterfall environment as employers move to implement an agile way of working.

It is evident that while governments grapple with ways to ensure people remain employable, and firms struggle to launch effective, enterprise-wide reskilling programmes to ensure their employees have the right skills for the future, it is ultimately the responsibility of the individual to take ownership of their own future employability.

I’ve highlighted some areas to help mid-career professionals take back some control and ensure their future employability:

Develop a Continuous Learning Mindset

You must acknowledge that the job you’re doing today and the requisite skills required to perform its tasks, will evolve. This may happen much sooner than you expect. In this climate of uncertainty, you must become adaptable and embrace change. You need to learn how to unlearn and relearn, and continuously challenge yourself to be market fresh from an employability perspective.

Keep Intimately Aware of the Changes in Your Field of Expertise

Once you’ve established a continuous learning mindset, you need to become cognisant of the changes and future challenges affecting your profession. As well as researching online, you must proactively develop a network of thought leaders and practitioners in your profession to help you shape and understand how your profession will need to adapt in the future. You can develop your network by attending local and international networking events or better still, start your own meetup or community of like-minded people to discuss your profession’s future prospects and challenges.

Develop and Execute a Re-Skilling Plan

Now that you have developed a learning mindset, you’re keeping abreast of the future challenges affecting your profession, you are in a great position to start developing a targeted reskilling plan. This is a plan that ensures you access the learning and development that you require in order to future proof your skills. Aggressively pursue and execute your plan.

Remember, you are not time poor, but time precious. Don’t forget that regardless of the specific technical skills you might need, there are a series of soft skills such as creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship that are portable and desirable to any employer. You must invest time augmenting these generic competencies as part of your reskilling plan.

Finally, remember that being forewarned is being forearmed. Become accountable for your own career journey and maximise the chances of your continued employability. I hope you’ll share your views, ideas or thoughts with me, especially if you are a mid-career professional and this is happening you right now.