How to Stay “Skilled:” Taking advantage of the skills gap through self-accountability aka DIY upskilling.
Always be learning. This is how you take advantage of the skills gap as a job seeker or even as an employee. What if an employer isn’t looking to “train up”? Not every industry or company is willing or equipped to train candidates that do not already possess the basic knowledge to be proficient in skilled positions like welding, electronics, machining, mechanics, plant operations, etc. This brought me to thinking about how people decide to go into these more skilled positions or really any entry level position for that matter.
I thought about my career and the path that ultimately led me to where I am today, a National Recruiter at HireLevel. It made me remember being a senior in high school and taking one of those “What Should I Be When I Grow Up?” assessments. You know the one; you surely took it too.
Entry Level Skill Training
I went to college. I switched my major. I went to college some more, eventually graduated, and then began my job search. I had just spent all this time and money on my degree and was so excited to get out there and find a job in my field. I was a Mass Communications graduate and wanted to go into public relations for a casino, airline or hotel (think hospitality). At the time, the companies hiring wanted someone with a master’s degree or 3+ years experience. As such, I began toying with the idea of going back to school. Long story short, I ended up applying for and getting a retail management job where I was promoted to a multi-store manager. This is where I gained experience in interviewing, training, coaching and taking care of HR administrative duties which ultimately led me to my current position as a national recruiter.
What are your soft skills? Start there and keep going.
The interesting part is that I didn’t need to have that degree to get the retail management job. My customer service and people skills (experience gleaned from waiting tables through college) is what got me that job. Subsequently, I landed the job I have now because of the experience I gained in my seven-year management tenure. Plainly, it was my experiences and the skill set I gained from these experiences that set me apart when I applied.
Thinking out-of-the-box to upskill and train yourself.
I have heard quite a few times that when all the baby boomers retire there won’t be anyone left who knows how to do specific skilled jobs or do them right. So how can we bridge that gap? We need to be thinking about all of our options.
Alternatives to traditional 4-year degree
skill/industry certification programs
online/ distance learning
So many of these options require less time in school and are more affordable. Whether you’re seeking out training in a specific skill, changing career paths, or accelerated education these alternatives are here for you.
I know, I know. This still doesn’t account for the ever-valuable hands-on work experience I mentioned before. There are still existing apprentice programs. There are entry level positions in these specialized skilled industries. Not to mention most of these trades or certifications take at most, two years to earn. That means, ideally, by the time your friends are graduating traditional four-year college programs, you will be certified in a skill or trade and have already had TWO years’ experience under your belt. Competition and new technology in markets has really fueled the emphasis on the need to retrieve an education faster with advanced skills. Ultimately, it’s all about knowing your market and education options so that you can make informed decisions about your educational and training options or applying for an entry-level position and getting experience. You have to do what works best for you with the end goal of obtaining the skill set you’d like to have in the industry you’d like to work in.