How to future-proof your career

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Future-proof yourself.
Future-proof yourself.
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Let’s forget about the coronavirus for one moment and focus on another important development that’s affecting the workplace as we know it today.

Transformation is happening at an unprecedented daily pace, all thanks to technology.

It’s transforming organisations and in turn the skills that are needed. At the same time, businesses are struggling to find the talent they need, despite high unemployment statistics in many countries.

This is because the world is in the middle of a skills revolution, as automation and digitalisation take hold of industries and sectors at different speeds and in different ways, explains managing director of ManpowerGroup South Africa, Lyndy van den Barselaar.

What will this mean for workers in the modern world?

“Essentially, individuals with in-demand skills who can continually learn and adapt call the shots,” she says. “With the right skills mix, people will augment rather than compete with technology.”

The key to coping with the skills revolution will be to identify in-demand skills that will lead to employment and for business leaders to help people upskill and future-proof themselves. The challenge is that even the employers can’t always be sure what skills they will need in 12 months’ time.

Van den Barselaar gives the following advice to remain employable.

Focus on soft skills

This is an area Drum Careers will be looking at in more detail over the coming weeks because the value of soft skills, or human strengths, is more important than ever.

Things like communication, collaboration and creativity are the types of skills that will complement technology and reduce the threat of replacement by automation.

“In the skills revolution, for organisations and individuals alike, the best blend of high-tech and high-touch will be the combination of human strengths with technical and digital know-how,” Van den Barselaar says.

Research by ManpowerGroup found that more than half of participating companies said communication skills, written and verbal, are their most valued soft skill, followed by collaboration and problem-solving.

“Besides traditional soft skills, uniquely human traits like empathy, relationship-building, cognitive ability, curiosity and the desire to learn will be the deciding factor in employment decisions for the future,” she adds.

Continuous learning

Above all, employers will be looking for people with learnability – the desire and ability to develop in-demand skills.

The future of employability is less about what you already know and more about your capacity to learn and be flexible. This is because the world of work will evolve continuously.

“Job seekers need to focus on continuous learning, and employers must identify skills that create clear career paths from education to employment, from this job to that job,” Van den Barselaar says. “The focus should be on accelerated reskilling programmes with faster, shorter bursts of on-the-job, experiential training. This will assist with shifting more people from declining industries to growth sectors, such as textile workers to composite materials technicians or coal miners to coders.”

Look for future-proof functions

Digitalisation will affect different industries differently, so we need to look at what job functions are likely to still be around in a year or so.

ManpowerGroup’s research puts IT on top as organisations invest in digital skills, and customer-facing roles came close behind. On the other hand, administrative and office functions can expect the greatest hit when it comes to numbers of people employed. Manufacturing and production jobs are likely to suffer a similar fate. Most companies expect headcounts in HR and finance functions to remain stable, although employees will be expected to learn new IT-based skills.

“IT is no longer a stand-alone department,” Van den Barselaar says. “Today it is a cross-functional, core element of business transformation.”

So, in front-line functions, for example, the most valuable employees will be those who can communicate, problem-solve and understand new technology and systems, as they will be able to provide better client service and add value where customers want it most.

Know your strengths

As well as looking for the right job functions and improving learnability, job seekers need to develop a clear focus on the unique value they offer potential employers.

These can be things like your personal attributes, hard and soft skills, passions, and interests.

“Identify your target career, industries and organisations and dedicate time to learning about their greatest needs, and then connect this to your unique value proposition,” Van den Barselaar says. “You have a far greater chance of future employability if you help companies see how you will fit into their organisation.”

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