Upskilling should be a priority for professionals in the workplace, as the demands and expectations of employers shift. Companies are now looking for professionals who have a variety of experience, who value growth and who are able to learn quickly in the changing workplace.

While upskilling can refer to improving your skills across the board, recently, it most often refers to advancing digital skills in reaction to the quick digital transformation that is taking place across all organisations.

While there will always be a difference between professionals of differingskills levels, recent data gathered by LinkedIn has shown that the current COVID-19 situation has only made the need to upskill even more important. When looking at hiring rates of talent with varying levels of digital skills, they found that those with basic digital skills (think: email, Microsoft Office) have been hit harder by unemployment, and experience a slower recovery than those with disruptive digital skills (think: ability to design and develop new technology).

This doesn’t mean that every professional needs to have high digital literacy just to thrive in this COVID-19 period. However, it does show the importance of upskilling to improve your skillset just that little bit extra to stand out from the crowd.

Upskilling as a professional

To start with the basics, upskilling is simply the process of learning new skills that will be helpful to you professionally - whether they are soft skills like communication or public speaking, technology skills based on the software needed within your function, or knowledge, such as certifications and regulations.

Why upskilling is so important

In a recent survey conducted by the APEC Human Resources Development Working Group, 75% of respondents (employers, government agencies and academics) reported a significant skills shortage when it comes to digital skills needed to complete key roles. This shows that upskilling is essential for professionals at all levels of their career in order to fill that skills gap. And it gives a strong advantage to those who possess the digital skills that are needed. Upskilling helps you stay relevant and in-demand as a professional.

There are certain situations where it's easier to make upskilling a priority:

-To keep up with digital transformation.

As shown by the LinkedIn data, keeping up with technology is essential to do your job well. As companies start using technology to automate simple tasks, it is on the humans to learn how to use the technology and add value to their role.

-At a crossroads in your career, especially if you are unexpectedly unemployed.

If you are unemployed, it’s an excellent chance to take the time to learn something new. Layoffs and furloughs have been a very real part of the COVID-19 situation, but this also provides ample time to attend training and development courses as needed.

-If you work in a fast-paced industry that is always changing.

Constant learning is necessary in jobs in which rules and regulations are constantly changing and updating. This includes jobs in corporate governance, accounting and law, but applies across the board to any industry that is in a constant state of change. Ensure your knowledge stays current and essential.

-When you’re seeking a promotion.

If you are aiming for a promotion, identifying what skills could use some improvement and then working on them can be a good first step towards that promotion. Taking the initiative to improve also shows that you are serious about moving up in your role and responsibilities.

Finding upskilling opportunities

Here are three ideas of places to look for upskilling opportunities:

1. Formal training, both internal and external, online or in person

Many companies offer internal learning resources and there are ample external trainings and courses that you can take - both in person and online. These formal learning courses are very focused and impressive. Seek out courses that give some sort of recognition for finishing, such as a certificate of completion, or even a new certification.

2. Informal relationships such as mentorships.

Finding a mentor can be an excellent way to start the process of upskilling. You can learn from your mentor by asking the right questions, and they can help you identify areas that you need to work on.

3. In your current job

Especially if you’ve been in the same role for a long time, take a second look at your responsibilities. Where can you take the initiative to improve and what projects can you take on that will give you more opportunities to learn?

What to upskill

Aside from soft skills such as communication, teamwork and innovative thinking, find the skills that are necessary and specific to your job.

Growth and learning is valuable

Upskilling is not only important to your career, it shows that you prioritise growth and are constantly looking for opportunities to learn - qualities that organisations are consistently seeking out when filling a new role. An employee who is open to learning is a valuable employee. Because as the workplace changes, there are going to be a lot of changes happening with it.

Upskilling taken care of for now? Have a look at open jobs in Hong Kong.

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