Why You Need To Be ‘Upskilling’ To Stay Competitive in the Job Market

Young man working at home office.
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The way we work is constantly changing and evolving, necessitating that workers’ skills evolve too. According to Forbes, “Professionals will need to adapt and change with the growing and shifting needs of businesses that are being faced with continual pressure to increase profits. This needs to happen while also shifting to automation, more data-driven approaches and competitive pressure to innovate. […] One of the best ways to ensure this agility is to embrace upskilling, or steadily learning new skills that can be applied in their work, and to fulfill newly created roles and jobs.”

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Several major companies, including Nationwide, Amazon, PwC and IBM, have dedicated millions of dollars to programs that help their employees improve their digital skills, LinkedIn reported. But even if your company won’t fund your “upskilling” — or you’re currently seeking employment — here’s why you need to take it upon yourself to continually learn new work skills.

Jobs Are Less Secure Than Ever

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The pandemic has shown us that you can really lose your job at any moment, and automation is continuing to make jobs obsolete. So even if you’re currently employed, you should be actively working to make yourself the most attractive job candidate possible in the event of an unexpected layoff.

“The very concept of job security is dead,” said Peter Laughter, a career coach and founder of True Bearing. “It is a casualty of the exponential rate of change in the world. The only way to be successful is to grow.”

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Remote Work Skills Are Now Essential

Even if you have experience working remotely, it’s worth investing the time to learn ways to do this in the most effective manner.

“As the way we work and the changing job market all reflect the pandemic’s effect on the working world, upskilling is an important factor, whether you are secure in your current position or seeking a new one,” said Stacie Haller, career counselor and expert at ResumeBuilder.com. “Skills such as video chat proficiency, being able to manage or work with remote teams as well as working well remotely are all skills needed regardless of your current job status. The world of work is changing, and all employers need their employees to have these new skills to remain current in the new work environment. Video skills can be learned online with many available tutorials, as well as other soft skills such as effective ways of working remotely.”

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Skills Become Dated or Obsolete Extremely Quickly

“Every five years, a skill set you have built becomes obsolete, so by the time you graduate from school, what you learned in your first year is already losing some of its value,” said Ashley Stahl, career expert at SoFi.

This means that you may need to upskill regularly to keep up with the demands of your current job or roles you want.

“According to a report on workplace reskilling, 25% of adults reported a discrepancy between the skills they have and the skills needed to execute their current job,” Stahl said.

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This is especially true for anyone who works in technology-based positions.

“Technology advances create an ever-changing work environment, and it’s important to keep up to stay relevant and competitive,” said Katherine Kirkinis, a career coach at Wanderlust Careers. “I had a client who was an expert in working with a particular software that was then replaced with new technology. When the new technology was implemented, she was laid off. She then had to scramble to update her skill set to be competitive in an ever-changing industry.”

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Upskilling Offers Better Promotional Opportunities

“Whether you want to make a vertical or lateral move, obtaining new skills allows you to put up a strong case for a promotion,” said Ben Lamarche, general manager at executive recruiting firm Lock Search Group. “After all, you have the knowledge and expertise to do better quality work. People with advanced skills are more likely to earn a promotion than those whose skill set remains the same.”

If you’re currently looking for work, upskilling can make you eligible for a higher salary than at your previous job.

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Learning New Skills Makes You a Better Problem Solver

Whether you’re looking to move up in your current company or land a new job, employers want to see results and how adept you are at solving problems.

“Every day in every industry, there are new emerging issues that need new solutions,” Lamarche said. “Innovation and creativity are the new currency, and those who can solve the ongoing problems of our times will be in high demand — this means more work opportunities and, of course, a higher salary. Acquiring new skills makes you a valuable problem-solver in a world that is desperate for innovation.”

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Adaptability Has Both Professional and Personal Benefits

“Our ability to continually scan the horizon for change and then develop relevant skills in a timely way to meet these changing requirements is crucial for maintaining not only our competitive edge, but also our future happiness,” said Sarah Scannella, career change and executive coach at Interstellar Coaching. “Quite simply, none of us can predict the future. So, the more we teach ourselves to adapt, build a growth mindset and focus on always learning and upskilling ourselves, the more we are likely to survive and evolve when change happens in our respective professions.”

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Your Skills Help You Stand Out From Other Job Applicants

The hard and soft skills you bring to the table may mean more than your employment history in the current job market.

“Switching industries and/or re-entering the workforce is commonplace now,” said Mason McSpadden, vice president of WELD Recruiting. “The pandemic has caused 61% of job seekers to look into working in a new industry, so employers will start to be more open to ‘outside of the box’ candidates. This means you can bring a diverse set of self-taught skills to a job, and still be considered next to someone who might have an official degree or education.”

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How To Effectively Upskill

If you’re currently employed, Carolyn Kleiman, career expert at ResumeBuilder.com, said to pay attention to company-wide communications to get a sense of what changes your company will be making and what skills you will need to remain valuable.

“Read the emails, read the communications, press releases, etc. that you think have nothing to do with [you],” she said. “Be informed and be proactive.”

Once you’ve identified the skills that will be an asset to your company, be proactive about acquiring them. If you’re seeking new career opportunities, look around at job postings to determine what new skills you need to have under your belt.

“LinkedIn Learning has a ton of courses, from only a few minutes to several hours, [on topics ranging] from having difficult conversations to Pivot tables,” Kleiman said. “Another way to reskill or upskill is to join committees or advisory boards within your organization, but you can also find these opportunities outside. With the pivot to online learning, many reputable universities have expanded their course offerings as well.”

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Last updated: May 24, 2021

About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 

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