Learnability: the only way to stay relevant in the future workplace
How to Stay Relevant in the Workforce
The workforce is always changing, and you’ll need to change along with it if you want to get a new job or keep your current one. Begin by updating your skills, in particular your familiarity with technology. At work, you need to make yourself indispensable by taking on important assignments and developing relationships with your colleagues. Because you may lose your job, you also need to learn how to perform a proper job search if you are an older worker.
Embracing Your Need to Adapt
Identify useful skills.You might fear being made obsolete in your industry but not know what skills you should pick up to remain relevant. Research where your industry is headed by reading industry publications and visiting blogs. Also talk to people in your field who are moving up the ranks. Figure out what skills they have that are in demand.
- A safe bet is to increase your technological skills. Older workers are seen (fairly or not) as not up-to-date with newer technology. You should do whatever you can to gain technological skills.
- It’s also generally helpful to learn a new language. If your company is expanding, then they may bring in clients from other countries. Being able to communicate with them will be a huge benefit.
Set goals.Learning is hard. You might become frustrated as you try to master material that is foreign to you. To help you push through, set some goals.
- For example, you might need to learn how to use Excel. However, you should identify exactly what you want to learn to do with Excel. Be as specific as possible.
- If you want to learn French, set a goal of increasing your vocabulary by 100 words each month.
Break down skills into component parts.Every skill is made up of sub-skills.By tackling each sub-skill individually, you’ll build momentum and find the learning process easier.
- For example, learning web design includes learning how to hyperlink, include pictures, and write Search Engine Optimization (SEO) content. Become competent in each sub-skill and feel your confidence grow.
Identify your barriers to learning.So many things can interfere with learning, e.g., young children, a demanding job, other commitments. To succeed, you’ll need to identify these barriers and come up with creative ways to work around them.
- For example, you might be taking a class on writing. You know that your young children at home will impede your ability to do homework at night. Accordingly, you can do your homework during your lunch break.
- You might also be able to change your work schedule so that you have one afternoon free. Spend this time doing homework or attending class.
Focus.You’ll make the biggest gains by applying concentrated effort to something.The first few hours of learning a skill are the hardest, but also the most important. Clear away all distractions and give 100% from the very beginning.
Network outside of work.The best way to survive a layoff is to have a well-developed network you can lean on when it comes time to find a new job. Accordingly, you need to network even while employed.
- Popular networking spots include conferences, seminars, and Chamber of Commerce events. However, you should consider any place a potential networking event. You can meet people at a soccer game, wedding, or the gym.
- Identify ahead of time what you hope to get from the networking event. For example, you might simply want to establish an initial contact by exchanging business cards and shaking hands. Or, if you know the people already, you might want to pitch working on a project together.
Learning New Skills
Attend professional development events.Your industry might have seminars or panels you can attend.You need to keep up with innovations in your field, so attend as many as you can. Check with Human Resources to see if they will reimburse you for registration fees.
Find online classes.There are online universities that offer certificate and degree programs. You can also just take a class that interests you without receiving credit. For example, MIT, Stanford, and Yale have “open courses” online that anyone can take.
Look for courses at your community college.Community colleges offer a variety of certificates and two-year associate’s degrees. By obtaining one, you can stay on the cutting edge of your current job or prepare for a new one. Often, community colleges work with local industries to fill job shortages.
- Look in your phone book or online to find the nearest community college. You can find information about applying from the college’s Admissions Office.
- You might also want to take only a class or two as a non-degree student. If you like the classes, you can pursue a degree.
Find money to pay for courses.If money is tight, you should look at the following places to see if you can subsidize your coursework:
- Your employer. They might offer tuition reimbursement for one or two classes. Check with Human Resources.
- Federal loans. In the U.S., you’ll need to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, called “FAFSA.” Student loans typically have a lower interest rate than personal loans.
- Grants. Some schools over grants to students. You’ll need to complete a FAFSA to be eligible.
Becoming Indispensable at Work
Choose important assignments.Avoid doing work that’s easy so that you can slack off. Instead, volunteer for the most difficult (and important) assignments. If you want to be indispensable, you can’t fly under the radar.
Develop a specialty.You want to be the go-to person for certain skills. For example, your department might use a lot of PowerPoint presentations. Become the person most knowledgeable at troubleshooting PowerPoint.
- Begin by analyzing your colleagues. What skill do they monopolize? If one of them leaves, you can take over their task.
- Also look for new opportunities at work. For example, your business might bring on a new client in a new industry. Volunteer to work on the account. You’ll be one of the few people in your organization with knowledge of the client and industry.
Team up with younger workers.Instead of becoming territorial, you should welcome the arrival of younger colleagues. Try to get to know them and to work together, if possible.Show them that you are willing to go the extra mile so that they will see that you are irreplaceable.
- You can learn as much from your younger colleague as they learn from you. For example, they might have the technology skills that are in demand.Try to get your younger colleague to teach you how to use this technology.
Be open to change.Any employee who resists change will be swept out of the workforce faster than someone who is willing to try something new. Resist the urge to cling to old ways of doing things.Instead, be open and flexible.
- Often, people resist change out of fear. However, you’re probably already afraid of becoming less relevant at your job, so you have little to lose.
- You might also be afraid of making mistakes. Nevertheless, everyone who tries something new makes errors along the way. Use this as an opportunity to show your boss that you are still open to receiving criticism.
Focus on quality over quantity.Don’t confuse doing a task quickly with doing it properly. Always prioritize quality. By working in a thoughtful manner, you can often uncover faster ways of completing tasks, which will help you in the future.
Get fit.You might not think your appearance has anything to do with your job performance, but people will judge you based on how you look. Drop extra weight and buy clothes that fit. You’ll send the message that you’re energetic and not slowing down.
- You may need to diet to take off pounds. Commit to losing 12 pounds this year—one pound for each month.
Searching for a New Job After 50
Create a LinkedIn profile.Almost three quarters of employers use social media in the recruitment process. You’ll fall behind if you don’t create a LinkedIn profile.If you need help, then ask someone to help you.
- Make sure you have a professional photo on the website. Don’t pick an old photo that makes you look younger, since any interviewer will be surprised when they meet you.
- Look at how other professionals in your industry have set up their profile. Use what looks helpful.
- After you create the profile, connect with professionals at businesses where you hope to work.
Write a top-notch resume.If you haven’t searched for a job in a long time, you might not even have a resume. Alternately, you might have thrown something together without really understanding what you were doing. Use the following tips for pulling together an A+ resume:
- Keep it short. Your resume shouldn’t be longer than two pages, since employers scan it for roughly 30 seconds.Too much text will confuse them.
- Sell yourself. Don’t neutrally explain what you did at each job. Instead, highlight what made you exceptional. For example, you might have driven growth by 200% or improved customer satisfaction by 50%.
- Proofread your resume. Have another person look at it so that you catch all typos.
Tap your network.People generally hire people they know. Ideally, you will know someone at a company before you apply. Go through your email list and try to reestablish contact with former colleagues or former classmates.Tell them you’re looking for a job. Ask for advice.
Volunteer in an industry.You need to get your foot in the door, especially if you’ve never worked in an industry. Volunteering is a great way to begin.You will begin to build relationships through your volunteer work, which can help you if a job becomes available in the industry.
- Volunteering is critical if you’ve been laid off. You want to show employers that you’ve used your time off productively.
Avoid sitting at home.No one is going to reach out to you. Instead, you need to put yourself out there and find job opportunities. Research employers thoroughly so you don’t apply to jobs you don’t really want and won’t be hired for.
- Take job descriptions with a grain of salt. You might think a job is below your current experience level. Nevertheless, the job description might be a general guide, and there could be room for the job to grow.
- However, don’t throw resumes far and wide, which isn’t a productive strategy. Identify why you want to work for a business and why you’d be a good fit.
Approach interviews seriously.You might think the employer would be lucky to have you with all of your experience. However, you need to prepare for the interview as if you were fresh out of college. Research the employer on Google and read recent press stories. Find their competitors and read up on the industry generally.
- Prepare for the interview by doing a mock interview with a friend. If you graduated from college, then your career center might work with alumni. Stop in and do a dry run of your interview. Take all feedback seriously so that you improve your performance.
- Don’t over-prepare, however. For example, you shouldn’t prepare canned answers to questions. The key is to be yourself.
Video: Career Tips: Staying Relevant in the Workplace (Including top 5 jobs in the MENA)
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