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The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way we live and work. The economic landscape has also changed dramatically and companies are being forced to accelerate digital transformation in order to survive and thrive.

We are witnessing big investments in AI, automation, and digitization which means companies are actively seeking candidates with the skills needed to support these investments, and implement them in ways that will bring benefits in the new normal. 

Unfortunately, it seems that many people could be lagging behind. According to Gartner's research, 64% of managers don't think their employees can keep pace with future skill needs. Furthermore, 70% of employees say they haven't even mastered the skills they need for their jobs today, highlighting an urgent need for upskilling to become a standard part of career development. 

To future-proof your career - and to adapt to the economic changes taking place right now - it’s important to analyze industry trends and work to develop the specific workplace skills that are in high demand today; skills that will help you carry out your tasks in the most efficient and effective ways. In today’s environment, employees need to be agile and flexible, as well as tech-literate, to ensure they are continuing to bring value to businesses, particularly during the uncertain times that lay ahead. 

The best approach would be to invest both in professional and personal growth, and we have some great tips to get you started: 

Upgrade your digital skills

The world is digital. The pandemic has increased automation and digitalization in most workplaces and transformed remote work into a lifestyle, so it’s become vital to understand the technology and become tech literate. Unfortunately, research from the EU shows that, on the whole, less than 50% of individuals have advanced digital skills

While each sector is different, there are some basic digital skills everyone should have. Some of the most vital are:

  • Knowledge of collaboration tools to navigate the challenges of remote working. As many businesses have introduced work from home policies during the pandemic - and plan to keep them - knowing how to collaborate remotely is vital.
  • Confidence using communication tools. Digital communications tools are emerging as necessities at a time when it’s so important to be able to articulate a widespread vision for the future and get employees onboard with change. 
  • Basic coding skills to improve communications with tech teams. Today, IT teams don’t operate in silos; these teams play a role in every department that’s embracing digitization, so a base understanding of what they do can help. 
  • Understanding of statistics to make smarter, more informed decisions. As more and more customers are buying and communicating online, businesses hold more data about their user than ever, and they want to leverage this information.
  • Understanding of algorithms to facilitate machine learning and AI. It’s believed that artificial intelligence has created more than 133 million new jobs, significantly outpacing the number of roles that have been made obsolete by technology.

Level up your education

Research shows that a college degree can open up doors to high-paying jobs, and boost both working life satisfaction and financial satisfaction, too. But what’s important to remember in the post-pandemic economic landscape is that employers aren’t just looking for formal qualifications, but for additional skills that can help them recover. 

For example, back at the start we briefly discussed growing investments in AI, automation, and digitization: three hugely important aspects that you won’t find in any college prospectus. There’s no single degree that can demonstrate an ability to implement these elements into the workplace. Instead, these skills come from short training opportunities that incorporate these areas into the curriculum and syllabus. 

And so, when thinking about levelling up your education, try not to become too focused on formal degrees or qualifications, but instead consider summer schools or winter courses that offer higher education training in the more informal areas that are becoming more and more in demand as the business landscape continues to evolve. 

For example, To psychologists, a certificate in child psychology or emotional intelligence in remote work environments could provide an introduction to the mental health areas most affected by COVID-19.

Certification in an in-demand skill set can be a great addition to your portfolio and may prove relevant across various domains, enabling you to take a flexible career path. Make sure you choose certificate programs from renowned universities to ensure you’re getting the best education possible. 

Add credentials to your resume

Along with summer and winter school programs, there are many other ways to level up your career so that you can demonstrate you have the skills that employers are looking for in the new normal. One way is to undertake free training courses to bulk out the credentials on your resume. 

These courses allow you to easily extend your expertise with specializations that are in high demand at the moment. Based on your field of activity, you will probably need to specialize in different domains. Here are some examples:

  • Google Ads certification: A series of 6 certificates - covering search, display, video, shopping, apps, and measurement - that demonstrate proficiency using the Google Ads platform. This can help marketers to stand out from the competition, and enable employers to hire digital marketers with confidence.
  • HubSpot certification: HubSpot offers a huge range of free courses in 6 specialist areas - marketing, sales, service, web design, web development, and data privacy. For each completed course, participants are provided with an industry-recognized badge to add to their LinkedIn profiles to demonstrate ability.
  • LinkedIn Learning certifications: LinkedIn itself offers a selection of expert-led courses, focusing on skills that can be taught - and implemented - immediately. If you already have a LinkedIn profile, the platform automatically suggests courses relevant to your role and your industry, helping you to find suitable programs. 
  • Google Analytics Academy: This is another freebie from Google, focusing on the use of Google’s analytics tools. Designed for marketers, analysts, and developers, the 6 data-related courses cover everything from getting started to applying advanced techniques, so you can work through at your own pace. 
  • AWS Certification: A series of courses looking at cloud fundamentals, machine learning, serverless computing, DevOps, security, IoT, best practices, and lots more, delivered by Amazon’s AWS experts. There’s a range of video and e-learning courses that take anywhere from 10 minutes to 6 hours (and more!)

Webinars and Video Conferences

Keeping up with your field of activity, building contacts with companies and peers, and staying engaged… Typically, this was done through conferences or in-person workshops. But one of the silver linings of the pandemic is increased convenience. 

With many events shifting to the online space, it’s opening up doors to attending conferences and training courses that may have been unreachable otherwise, either due to distance or cost. Today, it’s possible to attend a webinar hosted in Australia all the way from France without ever having to leave home. 

So why does this matter? Because webinars and video conferences are fantastic ways to learn new skills and understand how to put these skills into practice. Digital e-learning solutions such as these are cost-effective ways for businesses to deploy rapid training with minimal disruption to productivity, enabling employees to develop their existing skills - and learn new ones - while still performing their day-to-day tasks. 

Some companies offer funding or free time for employee training. Check with your employer to see if a similar scheme or policy is offered by your company.

Stimulate creativity

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable change”. That’s according to Charles Darwin, and never have these words run more true. To make yourself attractive to employers during this period of widespread adaptation, it’s essential that you have the creative skills needed to change your approach as needed, and the confidence you need to evolve in business. 

We’re entering the ‘new normal’, but that’s a poor term for what lies ahead. It’s a false sense of security. There’s nothing normal about the future economic landscape. New challenges need new solutions, and businesses are looking for candidates that have the creative mindset needed to identify new ways of working that won’t just help them recover but thrive in the future.

Technology can replace many of our tasks but it can’t replace our creativity. Our ability to innovate, solve problems, and develop new business models is based on creativity. And creativity is like a muscle: it needs training. Especially now when you’re overwhelmed with worries, stress, and concerns about the future, find your inspiration and learn to be creative.

So how can you ‘train’ your creativity? 

  • Webinars: Don’t just attend them; host them. Engage with people from different places, and with different perspectives, to view situations from another angle.
  • Learn from your mistakes: Don’t do the same thing over and over and expect different results. Actively look into different, innovative ways of doing things.
  • Analyse: Look at what others in your role and industry are doing, and try not to follow the crowd. If 99% are doing it *that* way, perhaps you try it *this* way.

Master soft skills

We invest a lot in our education and technical skills, but not enough in ourselves. And during this critical time of change, that’s not good enough. The future needs empathic people, with good communication skills, a positive attitude, and the ability to learn.

For example, emotional intelligence is largely overlooked or misunderstood. We lack the ability to understand our emotions and others’ and respond rather than react. Most workers need lessons in this department. And it’s not the only one. We could also use some lessons on public speaking, presentation skills, communication, self-management, and even nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.

But why is upskilling in these areas so important during the pandemic? What makes soft skills like these so in-demand in the current environment?

Think back to the start of the pandemic; to that initial shock to the system when businesses were forced - practically overnight - to change how they operated. At this time, what businesses were offering wasn’t all that important; what was important, however, was how organizations treated their customers and their employees. 

Some businesses got it right. Others got it wrong. And now, as we’re starting to emerge from the pandemic, it’s clear to see that those coming out the other side as ‘winners’ are those that supported their customers and their employees through change; those that were caring, kind, understanding; those that exhibited vital soft skills that made them relatable and approachable. 

It’s time to trust your inner resources and be not just better workers but better persons.

Embrace a new way of working & build resilience

Pandemics accelerated the shift to remote working, and if you still haven’t done it - now it is time to embrace the fact that remote work is here to stay. But while many workers prefer remote working, we all need to adjust to this new reality.

There are some big challenges remote workers are facing and it is crucial you are prepared to tackle them, especially if you want to become an attractive and competitive remote candidate for growing businesses. 

Here are some of the biggest remote challenges… and skills that you can develop to help you navigate these challenges and derive the most value from working from home:

  • Organization skills: Sitting in your pyjamas, on your sofa, laptop on knee, isn’t a productive setup. Try to develop organizational skills that can help you build a well-organized home office that motivates you to undertake your best work. 
  • Prioritization skills: If you’ve become accustomed to having your manager looking over your shoulder while you work, you may find it difficult to manage your own time. By working on your prioritization skills, you can better manage your tasks.
  • Resilience skills: Adapting to a change in working conditions isn’t always easy, but resilience skills can help you adjust with ease. Try to focus on the positives of remote working, and leverage the power of remote working to achieve goals.
  • Switch-off skills: Succeeding in the remote landscape means building a good work/life balance; being able to switch off from work and seamlessly transition between the working home and the relaxation home. Always build boundaries. 

Conclusion

To be successful, your specialization and skills need to be relevant to today’s environment, and constant upskilling is a priority if you want to stay competitive in today’s labour market.

When the crisis will be over, we’ll find ourselves in a completely changed work environment. The report published by McKinsey Global Institute at the beginning of 2021 shows that remote work is more likely to continue after the pandemic, which means digital literacy and self-managed productivity is going to be essential. 

We need to prepare ourselves for the post-pandemic work environment and embrace constant change as a fact. So it’s time to start equipping yourself with knowledge and skills today, be ready to work in a digitized and automated world - and make sure your career prospects are never going to fade.

Anita Sambol, content strategist and creator at EU Business School

With years of experience as a content strategist and creator, Anita has a 'super-power' of being a clear human voice for brands when talking to their audience. One of the projects she currently enjoys the most is being a content associate to EU Business School, where she's writing about business education, student life and online learning. 

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