According to McKinsey & Company, 87% of companies worldwide acknowledge either a current or future skills gap. As people seek a new position or advancement in the wake of the Great Resignation, Great Reset or Great Realization – however you choose to term it – it’s incumbent on them to investigate where they are lacking and acquire those competencies employers are seeking, says Jennifer T. Long (jennifertlong.com), a Certified Master Coach and ForbesBooks author of Own Up!: How To Hold People Accountable Without All The Drama.
“We’ve all got room for improvement, and we know it,” Long says. “Staying relevant in today’s workforce and moving toward your potential starts with self-awareness.
“That means everything from knowing what your strengths are to the weaknesses that are obstructing your career path and addressing those shortfalls. Overcoming a skills gap enables people to bolster their qualifications, solidify their standing at work and improve their chances for promotion.”
A skills gap refers to the difference between the skills required for a job and those employees actually possess. Long says it’s important for employees and job candidates to consider a wide range of competencies when determining gaps they have – from “hard” or technical skills (job-specific such as administrative, digital, financial, project management, and social media marketing) to “soft” skills (such as interpersonal communication, collaboration, organization, critical thinking, and problem-solving).
Long says workers can overcome a skills gap by taking the following steps:
- Take self-inventory. “Put your ego aside and be honest,” Long says. “You have to identify the skills you need or those you need to improve. Approach it as a brainstorming activity; note every attribute and weakness you can think about without editing or qualifying the list.” Another avenue to take is a professional assessment. Long says a good assessment will provide you with targeted areas to consider relative to a role. “It’s the fastest way to learn if you’re a good fit for a certain position,” she says.
- Speak to your manager or a trusted former colleague or boss. Once you’ve rated your skills, it’s time for external feedback, Long says. If unemployed and looking for work, you can consult someone you worked with or under. If employed, she suggests speaking with a supervisor or manager. Recent performance evaluations also might provide insight. ”Be open to criticism and don’t be defensive,” she says. “Once you set aside your emotional reactions, you can see the value of constructive feedback.”
- Revisit current or recent job requirements. One way to refocus and reassess a potential skills gap is to take a close look at your actual job description. “You may discover some discrepancies that reveal a skills gap,” she says. “If there are some responsibilities you’re uncomfortable with, those skills needed to complete those tasks should go on your list.”
- Find training and education opportunities. Long says self-inventory and consulting others should lead to a refined actionable map of skills you want to improve. “Then find the best resources to fill those skill gaps, whether it’s in-house or off-site training, a college or online course, or a mentor. Someone in your company whose work you respect has invaluable experience to share,” she says.
- Join professional groups. Networking with like-minded professionals is a great way to establish relationships and continue your education relative to your industry, Long says. “Meet with people like yourself who prioritize career development and discuss skills and training,” she says.
- Visit O*NET OnLine. This is a free online database to search for specific job titles. “You can find a comprehensive list of skills, both technical and work-related skills that are associated with the role,” Long says. “If there’s anything on the list you’ve never heard of, take a deeper dive on that. It’s probably a gap and something to put on your list.”
“Closing your skills gap will take some time,” Long says. “Having an organized plan that includes specific steps, timelines and goals will keep you focused and moving forward. You can never stop learning or growing if you want to stay relevant and be successful in today’s job market.
“In fact, your ability to learn, which includes sourcing and taking action on getting and applying your own learning, is itself a top skill desired in the job market.”
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