Learning & Development, Recruiting

How Upskilling Can Help Recession-Proof Your Résumé

In the world of recruitment, a résumé is powerful. True, it’s not a deal breaker when it comes to the final hiring decision; it carries all the weight in the early stages of the hiring process and takes on greater significance in times of economic uncertainty.

With all of the signs pointing to a global economic downturn, now seems not only a good time but also the right time to improve your résumé. Rising interest rates, record-breaking inflation, a cost-of-living crisis, and ongoing COVID outbreaks all look set to trigger a global recession, which brings challenges for employers, employees, and jobseekers.

During the “Great Recession” of 2008, gross domestic product (GDP) in the United States dropped by 5.1%, causing the loss of 8.7 million jobs in 18 months. With another recession looming, the question remains: How can your résumé boost your chances of being shortlisted for a job that hundreds of other applicants will be vying for?

Why Upskilling is Important in Today’s Workforce

So, what is upskilling, and why does it matter? Upskilling gives employees new skills to optimize their performance at work. It’s not a new concept (according to a TalentLMS and Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey, over a third of businesses already have it in place, and half are planning to provide upskilling training in 2022). But it holds a higher value in today’s economically challenged workforce because it benefits employers and employees.

Businesses know there is a skills gap when their current workforce’s competencies are out of sync with the skills needed to do their jobs. Research indicates that more than one in two companies are currently facing a skills shortage, caused primarily by an aging workforce and rapid developments in technology. This shortage could turn into a “canyon” in the next 5 years, with over half of the world’s workforce needing new skills.

In a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Report, 74% of hiring managers agreed that a skills gap is already affecting recruitment, with candidates failing to meet new competencies required by employers.

To close this gap, many companies are actively upskilling existing employees. Upskilling increases productivity, raises engagement, and reduces staff turnover. It also makes employees more valuable in their own right. In the short term, it lessens the chance of redundancy. In the long term, it allows employees to take charge of their own careers, increasing their chances of promotion, of following a new career path, and of landing a new job.

In-Demand Skills: A Digital-First Mindset and the Power of ‘Soft Skills’

When it comes to acquiring skills that target a gap in the market, a dichotomy exists. Businesses are looking for employees who can meet the challenges—and make the most of the opportunities—posed by new technologies. But they also want employees who are flexible and have “soft” skills required to adapt to change.

With the growth in artificial intelligence (AI) and remote working, and the technological transformation of business operations, digital competencies are high on an employer’s list of desirable skills. But according to research by the National Skills Coalition, a third of all U.S. workers had little or no expertise or training in this area, making this an important area to focus on.

Digital upskilling makes businesses more resilient. But it also adds resilience to a worker’s résumé. Adding technical science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills to a résumé doesn’t raise just levels of employability but also remuneration, bringing in a higher hourly rate and a smoother pathway to promotion and higher-paid jobs.

The pandemic also initiated radical changes to the workplace, putting soft/behavioral skills to the test. These changes have remained in place and continue to demand more from employees in areas such as communication, leadership, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence (EI).

These skills are now very much in demand. In a “State of L&D” report, 83% of organizations revealed they plan to focus training on self-management in 2022. In a Prudential post-pandemic pulse survey, almost half of workers and a third of managers highlighted problem-solving and adaptability as key future skills. Soft skills impact every stage in the employee journey and play a huge role in the success or failure of a new hire, according to 89% of recruiters.

5 Ways Employees Can Upskill Themselves

While most employers recognize the value of upskilling and provide in-house training to support this, some don’t. Either way, employees who initiate some, if not all, of their own upskilling reap the rewards. Why? Because doing so demonstrates self-motivation, drive, determination, and creativity.

According to a TalentLMS and SHRM survey, 54% of employees are doing just that. But how? Here are five ways jobseekers can raise their skill levels without relying on an employer to organize it for them:

  1. Free Online Courses

Available in a digital format, online courses offer self-paced, micro learning opportunities, many of which can be accessed for free. This makes them a practical and affordable option, even for those in demanding roles.

  1. Conferences and Industry Events

In addition to providing targeted insights on topical issues, conferences offer networking opportunities that can lead to new skills, approaches, and knowledge.

  1. Certifications

To change careers or access higher-paid roles, paying for a formal certification or professional qualification is worth the investment.

  1. On-the-Job Experience

There’s a lot to be said for hands-on learning. Work shadowing, or on-the-job training, is an excellent way to acquire and absorb practical skills.

  1. Mentoring Programs

The workplace is full of experts ready to share tips, knowledge, advice, and their support, with the aim of upskilling colleagues.

A Head Start in the Race

Upskilling is an opportunity for people to gain more knowledge and set themselves apart from the competition. Having a skill set that goes beyond a job description tells employers they’re flexible, self-motivated, and ambitious. In the race for a job, a résumé full of upskilling examples gives applicants a stronger chance of crossing the finishing line in the lead. Not only that, but employers and colleagues benefit, too, which means everyone’s a winner.

Christina Gialleli is Director of People Ops at Epignosis.

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