February 21, 2020

Future-proofing your skills to design the career you want

Clarify what you’re good at, identify what you want to be good at, and make a workable plan – to stay relevant, future-proofing your skills is the way.

Technology is presenting us with some serious challenges. For one thing, it is threatening to replace many jobs; people who perform certain types of routine and repetitive tasks are at especially high risk of being made redundant. The faster technology advances, the faster we need to up our game in order to keep up.

Fortunately, we can prepare for these challenges by specialising more in our tasks, making sure that our technical skills are kept sharp at all times.

But the reality is that even advanced technical skills can still be replaced by technology, no matter how specialised we become. Genuinely human skills, on the other hand, are something technology cannot replace … yet. If we have a good balance between technical and human skills, we can become unstoppable.

That’s not to say that technical skills are losing their importance. They still carry us far in our careers, but now e face more of a balancing act.

How can we develop both hard skills and soft skills to ensure that we will always be in demand in the workforce?

This will involve knowing how and when we need to upskill and reskill. Let’s say I’m a marketing manager in a company. To upskill is to upgrade my current skills, whether it’s my skills in managing my team or my knowledge of marketing in our new digital era.

Reskilling is something else again. It involves setting aside everything I know about being a marketing manager and developing in other areas that I could be good at. It could be anything from learning about the deep workings of finance or even developing the skills to design artwork with tools such as Photoshop or Illustrator.

In a previous article, I covered the foundation for designing the career you want: mindset. Of course, mindset alone cannot help you achieve your goals. You also need the right skills to achieve those goals, and the only way to ensure you have the “right skills” is to upskill and reskill.

It’s amazing to think about how work has evolved in the relatively short span of a couple of hundred years.

But once you grasp the basics of this evolutionary process, you’ll understand why it is crucial for us to change before we become affected — or made redundant.

There was a time, when the industrial revolution was just getting under way, when work relied on steam power and water (Industry 1.0: steam power and mechanisation). Early in the 20th century, work began to revolve around specialisation in one particular task (Industry 2.0: mass production and assembly lines). The 1960s ushered in the age of information technology (Industry 3.0: computers and advances in telecommunication and automation).

The rapid pace of technological advancement has already brought us Industry 4.0, the era of the Internet of Things, robotics, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence. Machines are getting smarter, taking on some of the tasks humans do.

But this doesn’t mean we will run out of jobs to do. Human and machine capabilities can complement each other, and businesses are looking for skilled humans who can help ensure that technology is being optimised. With change come new opportunities; we can upskill and reskill to grab those opportunities and excel in our job.

Future-proofing your skills is crucial. Here are some ways you can begin with when starting your upskilling and reskilling journey.

First, clarify the skills you already have and are good at. Then, list the skills you want to develop. You will find that the skills that need updating the most are knowledge- and theory-based skills. These types of skills can become useless when the business landscape changes.

Additionally, list some new skills you could learn — this part covers reskilling. Finally, create a plan for how you can go about building these skills. You can begin by looking at offers in the market that best suit your learning needs.

The key is to gradually integrate upskilling and reskilling into your usual schedule. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by it.  To avoid negative feelings, start slowly and build productive habits until they eventually becomes a part of your life.

Your skill sets are an important factor in designing the life and career you want. But it also important to remember to strike a balance between developing both your hard and soft skills. Future-proofing your skills will be the key to staying relevant. When many jobs start to be taken over by technology or other competitive factors, it becomes crucial.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@new.seasiacenter.com. Explore and experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at https://www.yournextu.com