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This article was written by Alex Sixt, a member of Entrepreneur NEXT supported by the Assemble Content team. Entrepreneur NEXT powered by Assemble is a freelance matching platform leading the future of work. If you're struggling to find, review, and hire the right freelancers for your business, Entrepreneur NEXT can help you hire the freelancers you need, exactly when you need them. From business to marketing, sales, design, finance to technology, we have the top 3 percent of freelance professionals ready to work for you.
What defines your career? For most people it was an easy decision when a (barely) young adult went to college for the first time. For the past few decades, it has been the norm that by making this decision you have embarked on a straight career path in an area up to final retirement. If this sounds a little scary, you're not the only one feeling the same. The modern workforce is rapidly developing into a landscape in which professional changes are not only encouraged, but also expected. The age of committed to a single domain for your entire career is over, and continuing education – learning new professional skills – is here to save the day.
The idea of stop learning at the end of your educational journey is no longer a viable option for professionals aiming for exciting careers. In the past, learning stopped at the beginning of the educational path. For those looking to have an exciting, ever-evolving career, continuing education (teaching yourself new skills in their field) is the best option. A recent study found that the average half-life of a skill is five years, which means that in five years, current skills will be half as valuable within the workforce. While this seems like an overwhelming statistic, qualifying is a simpler process than most would think.
As much as everyone appreciates the memory of sitting in a crowded classroom (or not), continuing education doesn't require retraining and can be achieved quickly using technology and digital tools. It is normal to feel weird learning a new skill after spending a good part of your life learning another, but skills can be easily acquired over the course of your career without much interruption.
If you're still feeling insecure, here are some ways that continuing education can benefit your career path.
It closes the qualification gap with an in-demand skill.
As technology advances and automation replaces one-time manual jobs, there is a need for new skills that might not have existed a decade ago (e.g. an AI engineer). As digital transformation continues to grasp the business landscape, executives are now scrambling to fill positions that require specific skills that are in high demand but are less common because of the pace of change. This skill gap gives workers the opportunity to refresh their resume or switch careers entirely.
By 2022, 54 percent of the workforce is expected to require significant qualifications. The best way to be one step ahead of the movement? Do your research now to avoid needing further education along with most of the professionals. Even within a domain, there are many skills that you can acquire for further education. If you are unsure which skills to acquire, do a research on the most in-demand skills to help you decide and understand what businesses are currently needed.
Do you remember the statistics on the half-life of a skill? Make a habit of continuing education every five years to keep your resume and general skills updated in case you unexpectedly need a new job. The "old ways" of developing the same skills for an entire career are over. To maintain a successful career, qualification is critical for professionals who wish to adapt and develop their expertise over time.
Related: 10 Skills Most Needed in 2020 and 30 Free Courses to Learn Them
The biggest problem entrepreneurs have in common today is finding, reviewing, hiring, and maintaining expertise.
It keeps your resume fresh and makes you marketable.
Most professionals will likely agree that no matter how many buzzwords you can fit on a piece of paper, résumés are not the most exciting part of their careers. However, there is no denying that they are an essential element of your career path as they are a place where it is acceptable to boast about your accomplishments (#humblebrag). The continuing education will give you valuable experience on your résumé demonstrating the ability to quickly adapt to industry trends.
The purpose of continuing education is to learn a skill that will make you more marketable and attractive to companies in need of trending skills. Unfortunately, while lengthy, resumes are still the most popular way recruiters and executives to evaluate a candidate (sigh). We've all heard it before: add keywords to your resume to help it stand out from the competition. The truth is, qualification can give you a tremendous advantage by demonstrating your commitment to catching up with change.
Career transitions have started to become the new normal and are even typically expected. However, upskilling is an opportunity to discuss practical work that you have accomplished with the skills that are believed to be the future of your domain. Even if you are interviewing for a promotion or a new job in another department at your own company, the training shows a commitment to self-improvement and guarantees at least several years of sought-after skills from which a company can benefit.
Related: 10 Tips for Writing a Impressive Resume
Your work can pay for it.
Who doesn't love free? After paying for school for most of your life, free education is a welcome idea and not unthinkable for professionals looking to continue their education. As the digital transformation has hit many industries hard, companies have made an effort to bring their workforce up to date. 42 percent of companies improved their skills training efforts after the Covid-19 outbreak. That number is expected to increase as skill gaps continue to force executives to compete for skills in demand. For employees, this means that free training resources could find their way.
Even if your current employer doesn't mention any training opportunities, it never hurts to ask about them. Chances are they may be affiliated with a third party organization to provide continuing education, or you may be the one bringing up the topic and inspiring HR managers to offer these resources. Of course, there is always the possibility that your employer will refuse to offer qualifications and you will have to find them yourself. Fortunately, there are many resources available to professionals looking to acquire new skills. Most are online and require little to no travel on your part.
Related topics: Gaining time for professional development in owning a business
At the end of the day, everyone wants the ability to have a job they really enjoy and know it will give them stability. You deserve to be in control of your career and enjoy the work you do every day. Upskilling offers the opportunity to continue down the successful path you have chosen instead of feeling stuck in the same role for years.
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