Sara’s story is not unique. Her manager has suggested she takes up an online course to upgrade her skills. But Sara declined. Going back to school is the last thing on Sara’s mind. Like many Aussie working parents today, Sara feels she has enough on her plate. Working from her has given her more time but she does not feel the need to upskill because she still has a job – for now.
Going back to school is not easy – even in normal times. It requires sacrifices which many of us may not be prepared to make. But what if I tell you that upskilling may be important to help you keep your job?
Here are some reasons why you should upskill in a pandemic:
1. Jobs are not secured in a recession
COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely destructive. An invisible virus that kills, it has caused major cities in the world to go into lockdown. Many businesses have shut their doors – some permanently.
Australia’s government recently announced our economy has shrunk by 0.3%. Economists define a recession as two consecutive periods of negative GDP growth. Josh Frydenberg, the Treasurer, in his announcement of the March Quarter performance, warned that Australia is heading towards an ‘Economic Armageddon’.
In a recession, jobs are casualties. So far, more than 800,000 Aussies have lost their jobs to the virus. More will follow as a result of the second wave that has struck Melbourne. The government is now saying that the unemployment rate may rise as high as 10% and this situation is likely to stay grim for a long time.
A recent ANU study found that 28% (1 in 4) Australians today think they have a 50% chance of losing their jobs in the next twelve months. Aussies are already experiencing fewer hours of work because of the pandemic. Between February to April, weekly working hours have declined from 35.1 to 31.1 hours. The decline is most evident amongst women workers because many of them work part-time or as casual workers.
The decline in work hours is costing families. The average household is facing a 9.1 per cent drop in the average household after-tax income. Per person income has also increased because households have inevitably become larger due to the quarantine. Australian households now have less money to spend on the family. Now is not the time to gamble with your job.
2. Generation Z needs a competitive advantage
Young Australians between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most affected. According to news.com.au, 44% of the people who have lost their jobs in Australia are under the age of 25. Teenagers and young workers are the generations that will be forced to pay for the largesse of the COVID-19 handouts through higher taxes that may continue for years.
If you are a Millennial or a Generation Z worker, this is the time to equip yourself with skills that can help you find a better paying job post-COVID-19.
3. Employees and employers need skills to deal with the unusual
The COVID-19 health emergency was unprecedented. The last time the world was hit by a deadly virus, it was more than a century ago. Our generation does not have any prior experience dealing with a global pandemic.
Australian businesses were forced into total digital transformation when strict social distancing regulations were enforced back in March. While many of us have learned to cope, some of us are still firefighting because the virus is so unpredictable.
Increasingly, businesses are looking for people who have new skills. Traditional management skills like leadership, coaching and mentoring, problem-solving, communication and creativity are still important. But many of the known ways of working have to be adapted to the new WFH environment. New skills are also in demand. These skills include gamification, online engagement, effective communication, video presence and remote trust-building.
7 great ways to upskill in a pandemic
Upskilling is a smart way to future-proof your career. Fortunately, technology has made it possible for us to study remotely. Most of what you want can be found online. If you know where to look, you can find some amazingly high-quality courses on the internet – including courses by Ivy League institutions and global brands.
Before you begin your online studies, identify the skills you need, check your finances to see what you can afford, and plan your studies so you can dedicate time to completing the course.
Ready to start upskilling? Check out my top 7 tips below:
7 ways to upskill:
Podcasts offer endless variety and options for the listener. Podcasts are free and many of them are conducted by industry leaders. You can tune in to your favourite platform while walking the dog, preparing dinner or gardening.
If you would like some idea of where to find career talks, check out Feedspot Top 20 Career Podcasts here.
To access podcasts, use any of the following:
If you read as a hobby, lockdown is the perfect time to indulge in good reads. Most management and self-help books are available on Amazon, but you don’t have to limit your reading to just these genres. There are plenty of non-fiction books that have life lessons you can adapt to the workplace.
Three books I have read recently:
‘Outliers: The Story of Success’: Malcolm Gladwell’s third book explores the secret of successful leaders.
‘Intimations’ by Zadie Smith is a wonderful collection of essays that deals with life in lockdown.
‘What It Takes’: Blockchain’s wizard – Stephen Schwarzman’s keen eye for detail read like career tips we can all use in these challenging times.
3. Self-directed learning
Now is the time to upskill. If technology is not your strong point, there are plenty of things you can do to change that. Microsoft Outlook is not hard to master if you dedicate a little time to it each day. Likewise, Zoom is user-friendly and quite self-explanatory. All you need is some time to explore its features. Items like a ‘waiting room’, ‘screen share’ and ‘annotations’ can make your Zoom meetings more engaging.
Looking for high-quality web content? Try my favourites here:
- Harvard Business Review is a general management publication by one of the world’s leading management school – Harvard Business School.
- Wharton Knowledge is famous for leadership and one of the best sites to read on the latest trends.
- McKinsey Global Insights offer the latest global research and trends in economics, health, and public policy.
- Your Career Magazine offers you career coaching and career counselling tips.
4. Online courses
The internet has a plethora of online skill development courses you can take to improve your employability. Online courses are offered by top universities as well as industry leaders. There is a comprehensive range of topics and you can reskill in just about any area these days. I’m writing an extensive blog of what online courses are available so please keep an eye out for that soon!
I participate in webinars because they are extremely informative and experiential. Choose carefully so you can learn from the best.
Here are some webinars I recommend to my clients:
6. Skills coaching
My co-founder Iris Du and I have a new collaboration called ‘Your Future Career 2.0’ which is a personalised career coaching programme that helps individuals make positive changes about their careers. Your Future Career 2.0 combines a range of tools (including resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles) with behavioural changes to meet career goals. The core virtue of the programme is empowering individuals with the ability to access their professional situations with honesty and confidence.
The programme is suitable for professionals of all levels and abilities because it is tailored to the individual. Each client is assigned a private career coach who will guide them towards success. If you would like more information on the programme, please contact our expert coaches here.
The future remains uncertain. Experts are saying the recession could last at least a year or two. In the past, being in the top 5 per cent of talent was a privilege. Now, it is survival. If you want to keep your job in a recession, aim to be the top 1 per cent talent. There is no time like the present to start.
Disclaimer: The events and characters depicted in this article are fictitious. Any similarities to actual persons, dead or alive, is purely coincidental.
As a leadership and career strategist, Thai Ngo has worked with some of the biggest businesses in Australia to help people fulfil their professional potential. Thai firmly believes that the biggest barrier to success is often ourselves, but with the right guidance and the right perspective, that barrier can be overcome. Now he works with businesses, leaders and individuals to tap into their existing talent to create the professional and personal life they desire.