How to Upskill Your Way into a New Role

by Claudia Johnson 04/08/2021

Last year’s pandemic resulted in high unemployment rates, leaving many workers on the hunt for a new job. Many people found themselves stacked against heavy competition, as the talent pool spanned a wider range of skill and experience — junior level candidates were vying for the same roles as someone more tenured. Those who lost out were not left with many options as the number of candidates far outweighed the number of roles available.

This year’s job market has already seen significant gains and is on the rebound, creating more promise for job seekers. However, it’s still just as important for workers to re-enter the job market with skillsets that can separate them from the competition. This is especially true for workers who have faced economic and educational disparities and are looking for a way to level-up their skills. Here are the tactics job seekers can take to position themselves as top contenders.

Firm Up Your Soft Skills

Soft skills are not the first thing you think about when looking for ways to dial up your development, but they are critical to your overall ability to work effectively. According to a 2020 McKinsey global survey, communication/collaboration (57%), leadership (54%), proactive thinking (50%), and agility/adaptability/ability to pivot (45%) were cited by employers as the most important soft skills lacking in their employees. With remote work emerging as a longer-term option for many companies, it’s crucial that workers improve these skills, as communication specifically is more difficult when done virtually.

Workers should first identify their weaknesses and find ways to improve on them. For example, if someone isn’t a great collaborator, they should look for opportunities to work with others, such as volunteering in a community event or jumping in on a project if they’re currently employed. They can then speak to these efforts in an interview to show their ability to improve, making them more attractive to companies. When we work with our Addison Group clients, we dig deep to understand team and company dynamics and what kind of candidates they need to be successful. Having these important skills, especially when roles need to be filled quickly, can put a candidate at the front of the line.

Keep Up with the Latest Industry Trends

A separate survey by McKinsey found that responses to COVID-19 speeded the adoption of digital technologies by several years: 58% of businesses around the world reported an acceleration in digital customer interactions and 55% reported an accelerated demand for digital products and services. This means companies will be looking for workers who know the latest technologies to fill new gaps.

Job seekers should think about the roles they are seeking and what they can do to either learn a new skill or learn what’s changed. Someone focused on digital marketing should look into the latest platforms and perhaps take an online course or watch training videos to learn more about them. They don’t have to learn everything by the time an interview comes around, but showing that they’re making an effort to continuously improve their skillsets and adapt to the changing landscape is a huge bonus. Many Addison clients need candidates who are proactive and can jump in on a project in motion, so being able to learn and adapt is important.

Take Advantage of Reskilling Opportunities

According to a December 2020 working paper from researchers at Harvard University, Microsoft, and MDRC, sector-based training programs can significantly improve workers’ earning potential. These programs are a “promising approach to workforce development for disadvantaged workers that try to meet the needs of both job seekers and employers.” Sector-based programs are often found in healthcare, IT, and manufacturing industries with the goal of opening the door for those from non-traditional backgrounds to find high-wage jobs. Those who participate in these on-the-job training programs can learn transferable skills to help fill potential gaps and lead to higher-paying positions. Employers benefit as well by being able to retain talent and be more efficient — 91% of companies and 81% of employees say upskilling and reskilling training has boosted productivity at work.

For those looking to get into high-growth and emerging industries such as IT, finance, business, healthcare, and manufacturing, an apprenticeship is a viable option. Apprenticeship.gov, part of the U.S. Department of Labor, states that 94% of apprentices retain employment after apprenticeship completion and also have high earning potential. Earning certification is also a great option to boost qualifications, as many job descriptions in the above industries list some form of certification as a requirement. CareerOneStop, which is also part of the U.S. Department of Labor, has a compiled list of certification options depending on role and industry to help job seekers get started.

Addison Group clients partner with us to find talent that can adapt to our ever-changing job market. Whether you’re a candidate looking to help take a team to the next level or a company seeking assistance in reaching your business goals, we can help make it happen. Reach out to us today to get started.

About the Author

Claudia Johnson

Claudia Johnson
VP, Internal Recruiting

Claudia is an experienced professional with a demonstrated history of working in the staffing and recruiting industry. She has over 15 years of experience in Executive Search, Sales Hiring, Recruiting, Networking, Leadership, Management, Strategic Sourcing, and New Business Development for internal and external clients.

Prior to joining Addison Group in 2013 as an Internal Recruiter, Claudia managed successful divisions at Robert Half International and Hudson Global Resources in the Accounting, Finance, and Technology sectors. She was hired in a part-time capacity in 2013, to partner with one other full-time employee on the team. Since then, she was promoted to Director and now Vice President of Recruiting, and leads and mentors a successful team of Internal Recruiters that support all business sectors and markets around the country for Addison Group and their partnering brands.