If the career ladder was only near extinction before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, it’s certainly a thing of the past now. At least that’s what the recent Career Guide report of GetSmarter, a 2U, Inc brand, reveals.
Titled The Great Career Reset, the report details how both the pandemic-induced economic crisis and accelerated automation have broken the proverbial career ladder, eventually giving way to the modern career trajectory where the way to success is no longer just up, but also across.
GetSmarter 2021 Career Guide: What You Need to Know
The onset of the pandemic in 2020 painted a grim landscape of unemployment and insecurity for millions of people worldwide. This uncertainty has given rise to different expectations and perceptions on career planning.
To gauge the full extent of its ramifications, GetSmarter surveyed 648 business leaders and working professionals from around the world. The goal of the research was simple: to provide a snapshot of how the pandemic has impacted current and long-term career prospects and professional development.
Here’s what the research reveals.
The Modern Career Trajectory Is Nonlinear
The path to success is a squiggly, not a straight, line.
With the pandemic upending the lives of many, others have taken it as an opportunity to go beyond the traditional notion of career movement. In place of straight and vertical movements, workers have begun following lateral or even zigzag paths. Put simply, climbing career ladders are out; job-hopping across roles and fields is in.
How the Workforce Has Changed
The rise of nonlinear careers isn’t surprising. Newton’s first law of motion states that an object will remain at rest and an object in motion will stay in motion at constant velocity unless acted upon by an external force.
In the context of today’s workforce, the pandemic has served as the outside force, disrupting workers who were once idle or locked in rigid paths and propelling them to experiment and take control of their careers.
Digital disruptions have acted as another outside force. With the simultaneous destruction and creation of jobs, switching to more relevant careers has become imperative to stay in the workforce.
As a result, nearly three-quarters of GetSmarter’s respondents are no longer mapping out lifelong career paths—a drastic shift from the “30-years-and-a-gold-watch” mentality. Instead, they’re opting for more agile and nimble career paths.
To be precise, 64 percent of the respondents said their career plans are less predictable or only mapped out for no longer than three years. Nine percent don’t even have any career plans at all. What’s even more noteworthy is that 57 percent of the respondents are very likely to change jobs in the next 12 months.
To successfully do so, they will have to rely on careful skills planning. This is where the second trend comes in.
Skills Auditing Leads to Skillful Transitions
Above anything, skills are key to career progression and successful career pivots. Taking inventory of your current skill set is, therefore, a good step for two reasons.
First, it allows you to understand which of your existing skills are transferable to your next career. Transferable skills are the new currency in the world of work, and were even recently described as “the life raft in terms of transition.”
Second, a skills audit gives you a visual map of the new capabilities you’ll need to move your career forward. To accelerate both points, GetSmarter created the Skills Hierarchy. Similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the model consists of five levels. With each level you unlock, you get one step closer to fulfilling your full career potential.
Below are the three key takeaways from the GetSmarter Skills Hierarchy.
Digital Capabilities Are an Assumed Skill
Most jobs require digital literacy. These include roles that are generally not considered tech jobs. Admittedly, the digitization of jobs has been in the works for years.
Graphic design, while traditionally focused on print, has expanded to include more digital assets. Project management, previously characterized by central offices and scheduled status meetings, now involve remote teams and virtual real-time communication.
With the sudden and massive shift to remote work, the “digital refashioning” of jobs sped up and the need for digital skills became more pressing.
“While previously this may have just meant being able to use Microsoft Office, the increased need for collaborative online work means that you could be expected to use tools like Google’s G Suite, Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams,” 2020 GetSmarter research reveals.
What can you do? Explore these university short courses delivered in collaboration with GetSmarter to develop your digital capabilities:
- MIT: Artificial Intelligence (Implications for Business Strategy)
- MIT: Blockchain Technologies (Business Innovation and Application)
- MIT: Social Media Strategy (Creating Engagement, Insight, and Action)
- Northwestern University: MarTech Strategy (Leveraging Data and Technology in Marketing)
Analytical Skills Will Soon Evolve Into a Core Competency
Even before the pandemic, analytical talent has been in short supply in the workforce. In 2020, a majority of employers ranked analytical reasoning and critical thinking skills as the top job skills of tomorrow, both of which are essential in businesses that collect and capitalize on data.
Put another way, plenty of opportunities await professionals who can analyze data and harness it to devise informed business solutions.
What can you do? Explore these university short courses delivered in collaboration with GetSmarter to hone your analytical and critical thinking skills:
Leadership and Interpersonal Skills Matter
Technical upskilling is only one part of the story. The latest GetSmarter Skills Hierarchy reveals that leadership and soft skills continue to hold greater importance than digital capabilities, proving that humanity is an edge, not a handicap, in the digital era.
The increasing appeal of both skills has been spurred by the need for professionals who can help organizations navigate through the COVID-19 crisis. More and more, businesses need leaders who can inspire resiliency, empathy, and transparency as they play their part in “righting the ship.”
What can you do? Explore these university short courses delivered in collaboration with GetSmarter to build your leadership and interpersonal skills:
- University of Oxford: Oxford Executive Leadership Programme
- MIT: Interpersonal Communication (Strategies for Executives)
- University of Cambridge: Communicating for Influence and Impact
- Yale University: Decision Making
The Future of Work Requires Lifelong Learning
Career transitions require more than identifying which skills you do and don’t have. To effect change, GetSmarter offers a two-step process designed to help reinvent your career.
Step 1: Chart Your Path with GetSmarter’s Career Navigator
Leveraging its research on the future of work paired with insights provided by analytics software company Burning Glass Technologies, GetSmarter created its very own Career Navigator. This newly-released interactive tool is designed to guide professionals in their career reinvention journey.
By answering four simple questions, you’ll gain access to comprehensive intel that details (1) the skills you’ll need to hit your professional goal and (2) the programs you can take to build these skills. This brings us to the second step.
Step 2: Browse GetSmarter’s University Online Short Courses
Since its inception in 2008, GetSmarter has been, first and foremost, an education partner for working adults. With nearly 200 online short courses delivered in collaboration with 18 university partners, GetSmarter offers a way for learners to reskill and upskill with more flexibility.
These courses span a variety of industries and disciplines that include the following:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Finance and Investment
- Digital Marketing
- Leadership and Interpersonal Skills; and
Own Your Career
With the pandemic turning the workforce upside-down, perceptions in career development and progression have likewise changed.
Lifelong career planning has taken the backseat. In its place is a sharper focus on perpetual learning and skills development. Upward mobility has assumed a broader meaning. It’s no longer cordoned off to vertical movements within a single company or industry.
Finally, the job market, although still filled with uncertainty, now comprises a pool of professionals with increased risk appetites. Emboldening them is the realization that agile players have more chances of surviving in an ever-changing economy than workers who stubbornly stick to one career.
Put simply, the jack of all (relevant) trades has overtaken the master of one
So, What’s Your Next Career Move?
Now that you’re up-to-date with the trends shaping the future of work, it’s time to follow GetSmarter’s two-step process to career reinvention.
First, chart your career path using the GetSmarter Career Navigator tool. Then, take a deep dive into GetSmarter’s course portfolio. Get learning and get better with GetSmarter’s university online short courses.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.