Older workers have a few things on their side, one being solid experience, but they also have elements that work against them. While they may run laps around younger generations in terms of on-the-job experience, up-and-coming professionals have the advantage of newer skills.
So, how can older workers be competitive in the job marketplace? By developing professional skills, of course!
Companies have reported that they are consistently having a hard time finding employees with the right skills. This presents an opportunity for older workers to slide into those skill gaps by developing the professional skills employers are seeking out.
The Advantage Of Developing Professional Skills
“Those skills gaps represent an opportunity for more experienced workers,” says Loretta Barr, senior consultant and career coach with consulting firm Korn Ferry.
“Re-skilling is just basically determining what your skills are right now, where they can fit in, and then [matching them with] the kind of opportunities you can look for. By pinpointing and acquiring the skills companies are seeking, you become a more valuable employee for them,” Barr told AARP.
How To Develop Desired Professional Skills
AARP recommends the following three steps that allow older workers to pinpoint which skills are needed so they can either acquire or get reacquainted with them in order to be considered for a job.
1. Identify Skills You Need
“The skill sets needed for specific jobs change regularly,” says LinkedIn career expert Blair Heitmann. “So re-skilling should be an ongoing process for every worker who wants to stay marketable.
“Skills that might have been required years ago could now be obsolete. With this in mind, it’s so important to keep up with the evolving skills for your industry and role.”
“Clues that can help you understand the skills hiring managers are seeking are all around you,” says career coach Dawid Wiacek.
“Job advertisements and descriptions often give you a laundry list of the skills companies are seeking for specific roles, so closely examine the postings for jobs you want. Staying informed about your industry or type of position is also important,” he adds.
“Read the news. Follow the statistics. Every few weeks there’s another report on job trends and marketplace insights,” Wiacek says. “Often, these articles talk about hot job roles, top-paying job titles, coveted skills, etc.”
Setting up news alerts that will deliver email links to pertinent articles is a great way to stay informed.
Employers commonly value “soft skills” overall, which are the interpersonal skills that help people succeed in their job.
The top three soft skills workplaces are looking for are:
The “hard skills,” being the technical ability and training necessary to do a job, that are most in demand include:
Operations and computer skills
Informational interviews can also be a low-pressure avenue to find out how to get ready for a specific job or career.
“Set up an informational interview with someone who is already successful and thriving in your target job role, company, industry,” Wiacek adds. “Ask the person what skills they actually use every day: both soft and hard — technical — skills.”
“The skills employers seek are varied, based on the role and its demands,” Barr says. “As you do your research, keep a list of the skills that are identified most often in the roles you’re seeking.”
2. Assess The Skills You Possess
“In addition to figuring out which skills you need, you’ll also need to identify the skills you have,” Barr says. “Chances are that you have some sense of where your skills could improve, possibly from your own experience or feedback you’ve received in a performance review or from a recruiter. You may even have taken a skills assessment test as an employment requirement.”
“Think about the most essential skills for the roles you want, especially those skills that may make you uncomfortable now or which you have not yet learned,” Barr suggests.
While it is easier to steer clear of areas where you lack strength, that approach is just going to reduce any opportunities for growth.
“Sometimes, as we get older, we have a tendency to approach things as a ‘know it all,’ and that may be a way of covering up what we don’t know. Approach things from a learner’s perspective — ‘I’m curious and I want to know more about it,’ ” she says.
Depending on your job, the skills you need to acquire could mean learning to use a certain social media platform or software program to something more complex, such as how to oversee employees or create and maintain an efficient cybersecurity program.
LinkedIn can be a great help in this area – the site has automated features, which can tell you when you’re in consideration for a job based on the experience and skills that are displayed on your profile. The site’s free Pathfinder tool can also assist with the most compatible skills for the jobs you are seeking, along with course recommendations to help you strengthen them.
3. Build The Skills You Need
When you’ve figured out the skills you need to acquire, there are a number of low-cost and even free places to develop those skills.
Contact Local Learning Centers
Wiacek recommends checking out opportunities nearby. “If you crave person-to-person skill development, research local universities and community colleges. “I’m always impressed by how many cool and relevant continuing education courses my own local college has to offer for working professionals,” he says. Local colleges and universities may also be home to resources like the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and U.S. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), which can help you if you are thinking about developing the skills you need to start a business.
Check Your Company’s Resources
Employers have a beneficial interest in helping their employees develop their skills in order to solve their own skills gap concerns. Seek out training and tuition reimbursement possibilities offered by your employer, particularly if you are exploring more expensive opportunities like continuing education classes or a certificate.
Search Online Resources
“Numerous online learning sites and programs give you a wide range of options when it comes to building skills. For example, LinkedIn Learning offers more than 18,000 courses on business and lifestyle topics. If you have a LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn Learning will make recommendations based on the content there,” reports AARP.
“AARP has a comprehensive initiative with online learning provider MindEdge to help older adults build their skills. Skills Builder for Work offers courses in categories ranging from communication to management to digital marketing. Many courses are free, and participants also get discounts on other MindEdge courses.”
Udemy, Coursera, Skillshare and YouTube are among the other options available to workers.
“Donating your time and talent to nonprofits, schools or other entities can also give you an opportunity to build new skills and gain experience,” Wiacek says. “Offer your social media marketing skills to help the local understaffed animal shelter drive more awareness. You can then add any and all of those experiences as pro bono [work] or consulting on your résumé.”
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