The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many skilled professionals being stood down or having their hours reduced. Although this is no doubt a tough situation to be in, many people have realised it presents a unique opportunity for learning and growth – that is, creating time and space for your own personal development while equally preparing yourself for what work will look like when we start to see some recovery.

A study found many Australians were spending time on upskilling during the lockdown period. With the pandemic changing the way we work, now is the time to explore avenues for upskilling and reskilling, particularly if everyone else (that is, your potential future competition for a job) have already made it a priority. As companies shift their focus, demand will certainly be high for candidates with new skills needed to succeed in a post-pandemic, business recovery world. 

The framework below provides useful considerations for upskilling and learning during times of disruption.

Identify the skills you need to learn

The pandemic has fundamentally changed ways of working in many industries – and some of those changes are here to stay. With this in mind, consider how roles in your sector may change in the short to medium term, and which critical skillsets will differentiate the best candidates from the rest.

Depending on your field of work, these skills may include:

Creativity and innovation

Companies that have been able to quickly pivot through outside-the-box thinking have fared better during the crisis than their steadfast counterparts. Moving forward, companies and hiring managers will recognise the value of creativity and innovation in driving success in a rapidly evolving world.

Digital savviness

While the move to digital was already in motion, COVID-19 has fast accelerated this shift. Remote working, teleconferencing and digital collaboration have become the new norm in many workplaces across Australia. In light of this, candidates who can demonstrate expertise in areas such as digital transformation and digital project management will be in demand in many industries going forward.

Data literacy

In today’s world, data is a valuable asset for any organisation. By collecting and analysing data, companies can make more informed decisions about operations, staffing, customer experience and so forth. But data is only useful in the hands of people equipped with the skills to understand it. Candidates with a high degree of data literacy will be more appealing to employers than ever before.

Strong leadership

At a time when people feel uncertain about their job security and careers, great leaders who can demonstrate emotional intelligence, real empathy and the ability to inspire and engage will be sought after across the board.

Start small with online courses

It’s easy to become overwhelmed thinking about big plans for the future, especially if you’re not sure which learning path is right for you. Rather than committing to a major study path right away, start by focusing on small, manageable learning opportunities you can do from home. Distance learning has been widely available in Australia for several years now so online courses and learning have vastly improved.

Which books should you read to grow your knowledgebase? What short online courses or distance learning opportunities are available? There are great free resources on YouTube by experts and educators, and even free video learning courses through LinkedIn. From here, you can get a better idea of where your interests lie, and potentially look at taking longer courses or more in-depth education further down the track.

At the start of COVID-19 lockdowns, TAFE NSW announced it was offering 13 free online courses to anyone wanting to upskill. There are also great online resources available covering a wide range of skills through:

Make learning a habit

Whether you want to upskill in your field or reskill to make a career change, making learning habitual is key to success, and in this current time of disruption, it’s crucial to prioritise this for yourself. 

Set yourself concrete, measurable goals, such as “Spend at least four hours a week reading X book or X online resource” or “Finish X short course by the end of the month”. Being specific and setting your sights on the end outcome will help you figure out where to focus your energy, keep you accountable for your actions, and arm you with new skills and knowledge.

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