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5 Ways to Close Your Job Skills Gap

Job skills not up to par? You’re not alone. There’s a widening talent gap in many areas and industries. Perhaps your job skills haven’t kept up with the automation and digitization of the workplace. Maybe you’ve found yourself in a career far outside the focus of your degree. Or, perhaps, your trade or specialization hasn’t followed the trends over the years, and you’re now stuck in a dying profession. Whatever the reason, you can bridge your job skills gap to get you back on track. And it may be easier to do than you think.

ASK YOUR EMPLOYER TO STEP UP

If you’re currently employed, don’t be afraid to ask your manager or employer to support your professional development. Smart employers know that retaining good workers is the key to surviving the tight job market. It’s easier and much more cost effective to upskill or retrain current employees than it is to recruit new talent. In fact, rehiring a typical mid-level position can cost an organization 125% of that job’s annual salary

You were likely promised some form of professional development support when you were hired. Too often, employers don’t follow through on those promises either because they aren’t proactive (if you don’t ask about it, you don’t get it) or there’s a culture of bait-and-switch (we offer it, but no one dares to take us up on it). To ask for the time and budget to train up, follow these tips. And if it’s emerging technical job skills that you’re lacking, don’t worry. Employers are beginning to understand the need and the benefits of reskilling there, too.

“IT leaders [are] scrambling to reskill employees, who must familiarize themselves not only with new tools but the business processes required to support and drive business strategy,” explains CIO Senior Writer Clint Boulton. “Add in the talent shortage in critical domains such as cloud, machine learning, data science, software engineering, and cybersecurity, and you can see why CIOs are increasingly cross-training employees in new and emerging disciplines.”

CONSIDER RESKILLING FOR A LATERAL MOVE

For the same reasons above, employers are learning that reskilling good employees and moving them into entirely different jobs within the organization can trump hiring new workers as well. Look for clues that your position is becoming stale, redundant, or otherwise undervalued. Don’t assume it’s your fault: It’s happening at a faster pace than ever before. Among U.S. executives at large companies, 64% believe they will need to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce between now and 2023 due to advancing automation and digitization alone.

These executives overwhelmingly want to retrain and reskill current employees to meet these changing workforce needs. The bad news? Only 16% feel fully prepared to take on the challenge, with a capable HR infrastructure and proactive measures in place to do it. That means you—as the employee—need to be proactive. Keep an eye on job openings and needs on other teams and in other departments and consider throwing your hat in the ring for those positions. There are many reasons a lateral move can be beneficial, and sometimes it just takes a reconfiguring of your job skills to make it work.

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

Your job skills may not be as outdated as you assume. Perhaps you just need to think more creatively about which industries and roles might be seeking your strengths now. It may not be an area you’ve ever considered—or that ever existed—before. These “hybrid jobs” are popping up in healthcare, education, finance, HR, and elsewhere.

“Consider the use of AI to augment disease diagnosis,” suggest Antonia M. Cusumano and Mitra Best, authors of a recent PwC study on workforce reskilling. “In addition to knowing how to interact with the technology, workers would need domain knowledge—what to look for in health records, knowledge of patient privacy concerns and strong communication skills to engage doctors and insurance companies.

And with the human resources function increasingly relying on data and predictive analytics for recruiting and performance management, HR professionals need technical competencies plus business acumen and communication skills.”

Like so many other career experts right now, Cusumano and Best point to soft skills as critical strengths for all jobs across all industries. These soft skills include effective communication, critical thinking, adaptability, problem-solving, leadership, creativity, and innovation. Show that you have these skills and are eager to learn necessary hard skills and you may find an employer willing to invest in training to catch you up, especially if it’s a niche or emerging industry in which few candidates have those hard skills in the first place. 

TEACH THYSELF

“Gone are the days when ‘education’ and ‘work’ were two separate phases in people’s lives. To succeed in the future, individuals need to adopt a continuous learning mindset and proactively engage in reskilling themselves,” state Cusumano and Best.

So what training, certifications, classes and other ways to learn are worth it, and which ones aren’t? Look at job descriptions that are relevant to your job search. What hard skills and certifications are most often required?

Global Knowledge, a leading IT training company, suggests understanding the value of cross-certification. Microsoft, CompTIA, and ITIL credentials pair well with Cisco certifications, as an example. Also, find training opportunities that fit your budget and learning style. Some people respond best to online courses, while others prefer a more traditional classroom environment. If you’re working with a staffing partner like The HT Group, you’ll find that these temp staffing companies often have free software tutorial programs that you’re welcome to access.

As far as switching careers altogether, many in-demand areas don’t require a four-year degree to be a candidate. The Dallas Morning News points out that North Texas employers are desperate for workers such trades.

“Many openings are for jobs that require training beyond high school — a two-year associate’s degree, certification, occupational licensing, or apprenticeships — but not a four-year college degree. JP Morgan Chase & Co. estimates that about 960,000 of these jobs are available in North Texas as employers look for electricians, dental hygienists, paralegals, and information technology workers,” the editorial team writes. For inspiration on dream jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree, see   highlighting a few that pay more than $80,000 a year.

WORK WITH A STAFFING FIRM

Staffing firms and recruiters feel the pinch of low unemployment and the job skills gap as much as (if not more than) our employer clients. Dealing with tight talent pools is the top challenge our industry faces, but few staffing and recruiting agencies have learned that reskilling can help bridge the divide.  

You can’t walk into a staffing firm and expect them to jump at the chance of reskilling you for your dream job. But working with a reputable staffing firm can help you forge your path into being reskilled. Consider temporary employment or contract work (common for tech workers) through a staffing firm, which could introduce you to new jobs, industries, and employers. You’ll be building up a reputation with that firm’s recruiters as a reliable worker with solid soft skills, making you more marketable as someone they’d be willing to refer to a job that might require some hard skills training. At the same time, you’ll be staying employed and earning the cash you might need to reskill on your own.

To get an idea of what types of jobs are available right now, search our jobs online, contact us or visit one of our upcoming employment open houses.