Five strategies for staying in demand
Before there was email, there were the letter carriers of the U.S.P.S. Now, the number of letter carrier jobs are expected to decline by 28 percent over the next eight years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Depending on when exactly delivery drones become mainstream, that number could rise even further. Similarly, a large number of manufacturing jobs are becoming obsolete due to increasing automation. Even the stock market—once known for the crowded trading floor full of stressed out traders juggling phones—is now basically operated by powerful, super fast computers.
The rapid pace of technological developments is changing how we live—and how we work. According to the World Economic Forum 2016 report titled “The Future of Jobs – Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” these developments are cutting the shelf life of employees’ skill sets short. Moreover, for many lower skilled roles, especially in office and administrative jobs, as well as manufacturing and production positions, failure to upskill is likely to result in eventual job loss.
Fortunately, most U.S. workers are well aware of the need to keep their skills up to date. A 2015 survey by Pew Research Center showed that 63 percent of workers had taken steps in the past year to maintain or improve their knowledge and skills. Clearly, if you’re not already taking action to enhance your skills, now’s the time to start thinking about how you can stay in demand in the job market. The following five strategies can help.
- Discuss professional development with your supervisor. Improving your skills doesn’t just benefit you; it also benefits your employer. That’s why your first step should be to talk to your supervisor about options for professional development. Many companies are investing in upskilling their employees because it builds on their existing knowledge of the company and industry—unlike replacing them with new talent. Moreover, having a competent, knowledgeable workforce keeps companies competitive. Find out to what extent your company will support your professional development, and take advantage of what’s offered.
- Use media to enhance your knowledge. Blogs, articles, books, webinars, and news outlets—there’s a wide variety of quality information available about pretty much everything. Take time every day to read up on the latest developments in your field, as well as other issues that could influence your profession.
- Follow thought leaders. Thought leaders often have a knack for seeing new developments coming. Because they have a solid frame of reference and years of experience in their specific industry, they have a good overview of the big picture. Pinpoint the most influential thought leaders in your industry, and follow their blogs, Twitter feed, and other social media accounts. Don’t be afraid to interact with them if you have questions or thoughts you’d like to share.
- Attend conferences and events. Attend national, regional, and local conferences and events that pertain to your profession and industry. It’s a good idea to discuss this with your supervisor first to find out if your company will finance your attendance.
- Continue to learn. It’s one thing to read about new skills you’re going to need in five years; it’s another to actually acquire them. Though your employer will likely finance some professional development, it’s still important to always be looking for the next thing you need to know—and then take action to learn it. There are numerous online courses, plus, local community colleges and extension programs also offer good opportunities to increase your practical skills.
Staying in demand in the job market requires research, planning, and dedication. However, when you realize you’re successfully adjusting to new challenges in your field, all of your hard work will pay off.