Upskill your career for the 21st century

Upskill your career for the 21st century

Over the past 5 years, I have assisted numerous people in transition from one job, and in many cases career, to another. The relationships have included friends, clients (CMOs, CIOs, CTOs, Marketing and Tech VPs/Directors/Managers, etc.), military personnel, high school and college students, and network connections. The audience on which this article will focus is those at the mid to late stages of their corporate careers.

There are many reasons why people transition during the mid to late stages of their careers, but in 90%+ of the cases I have supported, the transition was involuntary and the result of a corporate restructuring to meet digital demands.

The personnel were almost always respected and engaged team and corporate leaders, positive about their organization and role, highly successful, meeting or overachieving metrics, demonstrating initiative, and surprised that they “didn’t make the cut.”

In many cases, the individuals had met with their direct manager in the past 3-6 months and received a positive quarterly or bi-annual report.


So, what is happening and why is it happening?

Several common indicators of impending change are:

  • Big shifts in the offshore technical direction,
  • Offers of early retirement packages, and
  • Incentives to accept voluntary transition packages.

These indicators are usually followed by a deep personnel cut in the subsequent six month period due to an expressed emphasis on and need for reduction in costs. In many cases, the cost-cutting through reduction in personnel is coupled with an increase in conversations about infusing the company with Millennial DNA to understand the needs of the next key customer audience. There is an emphasis on resizing the demographic representation/complexion of the company.

The cynic in me is not convinced that in more cases than should be the reality, people are the victim of a lack of skills laddering by their organizations, not to mention agism. People were older, “too senior,” and existed at a high-cost tier on the CFO’s spreadsheet. There was also a failure by the organization to re or upskill their workforce.

The shame of this is that the manager, mentor and coach was not able or equipped to help the individual negotiate the change – an all too common business reality of digital transformation.


The Reality of Career and Organizational Change

In many cases I encounter, people were interested in staying in their role and had invested in their company and culture for 10 to 15+ years. The decision to grow, develop and embrace the change occurring around them was also at the forefront of professional priorities.

And, many people had taken the opportunity to consider and engage in ongoing professional development through 3rd party resources to learn new skills and deepen their value to the organization.

The challenge lies in the fact that companies are struggling to understand how to respond to the change they are experiencing in the demands of their customers, the marketplace, and as it relates to digital transformation. In a number of instances, the pace of change has eclipsed leadership capability and institutional knowledge, and companies are reacting in dramatic ways.

Understanding what skills are needed and how to be responsive enough to provide upskill training to their various teams in a timely manner requires focus. In all cases, the organizations themselves were changing and trying to come to terms with the notion that they will likely be in a constant state of transition and evolution.

The organizations also lacked an effective change management plan and opted to bring in new leadership, culling experience for perceived, new core skills.



3 Steps to Prepare For Career Progression or Change

Below are 3 steps individuals should undertake to prepare for potential transition and the demands of today’s marketplace.

  1. Activate and engage socially. Activate and optimize your social profiles starting with LinkedIn, grow and deepen your network, share content, become your own best storyteller and brand steward, and make social business a habit. In order to do this, take a social business training course, set goals for yourself, and begin to improve communication outcomes through social media.
  2. Network on and offline. Focus on moving between on and offline channels to contextualize experiences. Be genuine and transparent in all interactions and work to manage your time. Being helpful to others builds trust and authentic relationships.
  3. Mentally prepare yourself for eventual change. Be ready for what may be an unforeseen shift and develop one or two contingency plans. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of planning is worth a pound of prevention.”


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Insights | Take Aways

At the end of the day, customer demands and perceived skills required to successfully navigate corporate digital transformation is driving corporate decision-making and influencing restructuring decisions.

  • For individuals who understand and have access to the company financials, strategy, and planning, it is important to keep your eyes open and ears tuned to the corporate environment and financial health of the business.
  • Upskill yourself and your team, and find time to experiment. Hard and professional skills like social business communications, data science, emotional awareness, and knowledge of technology and how to evaluate its usefulness will serve you in your current and future roles. Be honest with yourself and prepare your team and yourself.

Change is a constant, and maintaining a focus on modernization and currency of relevant skills for both you and your team needs to be an individual, and corporate, priority.

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