When I had my first daughter, I spent a lot of energy justifying why I wanted to keep learning and growing in my job. I became more aware of women slowly giving up their career because of motherhood, or having problems coming back to work after a break.
I also noticed how some of my older colleagues—male or female—struggled to find opportunities after a certain age, for a variety of reasons. For example, those who did not have technical experience saw their jobs becoming less strategic.
After two years, and my second daughter, I decided to refocus the energy I was spending justifying my choices on guiding people to pursue careers in the digital workplace—no matter their gender, age, background or career experience.
As Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, explained in the 2018 Future of Jobs report, it’s critical that individuals take a proactive approach to their own lifelong learning. In addition, businesses and governments need to actively support workforces in learning and developing skills. Automation and AI will generate prosperity and millions of new jobs, but as many as 375 million people worldwide will need to shift occupational categories and upgrade skills during the transition.
We need talent—including the talent of those who took a career break, or senior workers who finished their studies a long time ago but can add unique perspective, and especially people who have different backgrounds. We are lucky the digital world gives us new opportunities to reinvent ourselves, to keep learning and be competitive. To take advantage of these opportunities and join the digital workplace, all we need is a lifelong learning plan.
What skills will be most in demand in the future?
The McKinsey Global Institute workforce surveyed 3,031 business leaders in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States to understand the skills that would be most in-demand by 2030. They found demand for higher cognitive, technological and social and emotional skills will grow, while physical and manual and basic cognitive skills will decline:
Vodafone's Global Trends Barometer 2019 surveyed 1,700 businesses and industry analysts, concluding digital technology skills are the most critical skills required in the workplace for the next 3-5 years, much more important than sales or artistic skills. They also warned skills are quickly becoming outdated:
It’s clear digital and technological skills are priorities in the future workplace.
Upgrade your skills: why you, why now
The good news? Anyone can acquire digital skills—not only people already working in tech. If you have a background in field marketing, for example, you can learn and excel in digital marketing. The same applies to those with backgrounds in sales, HR or finance. Additionally, you don’t need to learn or see the world in one particular way. There’s a need for cognitive diversity in AI-driven organizations, or clear advantages of neurodiversity talent.
There are many benefits of preparing yourself for the opportunities of the digital workplace. You can grow in your current job, or find a new, better one. According to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report, high-skill workers are most likely to be hired and retrained—and to see their wages rise. And with new jobs and opportunities emerging, we have a unique chance to find our purpose and find the role we want to play in the future.
And remember: keeping skills fresh brings new opportunities. If you find a new field about which you’re passionate, you can have more opportunities because it’s unlikely there will be many people with extensive experience in it—or their experience from 10 years ago is not so relevant anymore.
Get ready today
Ready for a new opportunity? Here are the steps to take to prepare.
1. You have a unique background and strengths. Examine and reflect on them. Search for the newest trends and where you would need to go.
2. Find training opportunities. Apart from traditional learning options, there are many online resources, including Microsoft Learn, Udemy, Udacity Nanodegrees, Coursera, FutureLearn, LinkedIn Learning, and Google Digital Garage. For some professions, hands-on learning is critical, and there are companies such as LabsLand, which brings real equipment labs to anywhere in the world, or Labster, which enables simulations. New technologies will bring us new forms of education.
3. Stay informed of industry trends. Follow influencers, blogs and build a network online and offline with people who have the same interests as you. Understand what is happening in your field.
Organizations should encourage self-development of their own workforce. Governments should enable the environment to make it possible. But each of us can play a big role in the digital revolution and take responsibility for upgrading our skills.
During the last two years, I have seen people returning from a career break, or thinking about their next steps because their current job is at risk because of automation or because their field is no longer competitive. They joined the digital revolution, and not only did their working conditions improve but they are also much more motivated and fulfilled.
The future is for lifelong learners.