Lost your job due to COVID? Here’s a guide to upskilling after retrenchment

If you have unfortunately been retrenched from your job, this is not the end of the world. After all, recovery is not a matter of ‘If’, but ‘When’, and now is a better time than ever to review your skill sets, plug the gaps and ready yourself for the rebound. If you are unsure of where to begin, start with the following steps.

1)    Skills gap analysis: After the initial shock, however, it is important to assess the skill sets that you have acquired over the years. Ask yourself these questions: what skills have I picked up so far? Which ones are transferable to the next role? What do I still lack? 

One handy way to do this is to group your skills into three categories: hybrid skills, transferable skills and job-specific skills. Hybrid skills are skills that combine both hard and soft skills, like customer service, for example; transferable skills are skills that apply to any job, no matter the level or industry, such as problem-solving, teamwork or communication; job-specific skills are skills that apply only to certain positions and/or levels. Doing this allows you to have a bird’s eye view over the skills you have and the skills you lack. 

If you are having trouble identifying the skill gaps, one trick is to pay attention to descriptions in job postings. If you are a programmer and there is a coding language that a job description specifies, then you have just found a job-specific skill set you want to brush up on.

2)    What’s trending? Diversification of your skill sets is extremely important. Take some time to observe where your industry is heading and consider the complementary skill sets you need to enhance your effectiveness or add value to the work. For example, in the realm of financial services, technical accounting, project management and proficiency in fintech systems are all skills that are in high demand. There are several ways to keep up with industry trends as well. 

Lean into your existing network, talk to those inside and outside your industry and make connections that were otherwise nonexistent before. This helps because staying within the same role and/or company can sometimes be an isolating experience, and reaching out broadens your knowledge and perspective. Your network could also include mentors from the same field. Since they’ve worked their way up to the positions they are currently in, talking to them saves you the trouble of going through trial and error.  If all else fails, there are numerous podcasts, webinars and live events to consume — some of them are free! — which should give you good indications of where the holes are and how to plug them.

3)    E-Learning: Consider short courses, such as specialised certificates, that are aligned closely to developing trends within your specific sector. If there are hardware- or software-related skills in hot demand, there are even free online tutorials that will teach you how to operate them.

4)    Consider temp/contract work: An economic slowdown is high time for those retrenched to consider contracting as a career option, even if it is a short-term solution. Contract professionals tend to have shorter interview and onboarding processes, because they already have the necessary skills to jump on board and fix problems. Ultimately, the greatest currency you possess is not the previous job or job title you held, but the skills you have picked up along the way.

Other useful resources by Michael Page Middle Africa: For more tips to support your job search, watch the webinar recording Building a resilient approach to your job search. Also, take our CV Fitness Test to check if your CV is in top shape or if it is in need of a serious overhaul.

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