Here’s a familiar concept: as technology advances at a breakneck pace, the knowledge and skills needed to keep up with it change just as rapidly. That’s not likely to be news to anyone. But it may come as a surprise that it’s not just new technology that demands constant re-skilling of the American workforce. As jobs change and consolidate (there’s a very good chance that your workload would have been shared by two or even three workers a decade ago), new skills can become necessary seemingly overnight. Keeping up is more important than ever, and you shouldn’t wait for your employer to require you to update them before you take action.
These days, when professionals can expect to have up to fifteen jobs during their career, keeping your skill set updated is crucial. You never when a new opportunity may present itself, but when it does, it’s likely to require additional skills. The same goes for promotions; you won’t get to the next level without upping your game, and it’s a definite bonus point in your column if you update them without the boss asking you to.
So how do you decide what to work on first? One of the best ways to make this call is to consider where you want to be two jobs into the future. Most people think only their next step, but thinking even further ahead can pay big dividends when it comes to training and development. Doing this can help you get a clear picture of what skills you need to work on for the long term, as well as what skills you’ll need for the immediate future. A good rule of thumb is to consider what you’ll need in one year, and then in three years. Use that rule to prioritize; invest short-term gains on immediate needs and work slowly toward your long-term goals as time allows.
The web is full of ways to get new skills, many of which are free. But one of the best ways to get additional training is to speak to your HR representative. Many companies have internal training initiatives. Adecco’s own SkillBuilder is a great example of a company’s commitment to improving its employees’ skills. If your company is forward-thinking, chances are that they’ll have a similar program in place.
Think of it like this: treat your skills like you treat your overall personal wealth. You make short-term and long-term investments. Do your research, find out what’s likely to increase in value, and vice versa. De-emphasize those skills that are becoming less necessary and put more effort in learning the skills that are trending. Just like managing a portfolio, your skills need constant attention and maintenance. Expend the necessary effort to manage them well. You’ll be glad you did.