Here’s why you need to engage in cross functional upskilling. For a longer and more sustainable career path in the post-pandemic world.
A friend of mine recently got laid off from her job. She was a senior industry professional. A graduate from one of the country’s premier MBA institutions, with a solid fifteen years of work experience behind her. Unfortunately, she worked in the travel industry. Her area of expertise was Mergers and Acquisitions. Which in pre-COVID days was a skill that was both in demand and well paid. But now however, has become a superfluous area for companies that were focusing on staying afloat instead of expanding.
Of course, my friend is only one of thousands who have already lost their jobs. And only one of the 135 Million that could potentially find themselves unemployed. As found out by a study released recently by a consulting management firm.
As the future of the economy grows increasingly uncertain by the day, the way we work is also shifting. Companies are having to pivot quickly in order to keep up with the drastically changed conditions. From a wine tasting company that has started offering wine tastings to people in the comfort of their homes. To fitness companies offering workouts over videos, the word on the street, (apart from ‘go home’) is ‘Pivot or Perish’.
With companies having to shift tracks, adapt to the new changes and make significantly different decisions, what are the implications for individuals?
Take my case, for example. I work for a digital content creation and tech platform, and started out as a freelance writer. Over time, I had to understand keyword research and SEO. In addition to learn how to not only create content, but also market it on social media platforms. Since we started working remotely, I have been pushed to add more and more new skills to my already existing repertoire.
Like Graphic Design. When we were in office, I was a shoulder tap away from the Designer, and working in collaboration was much easier and quicker. Not anymore. In order to save the back and forth, I have taken to designing some of our social media posts myself. So say hello to cross-functional upskilling!
It is highly likely that the super specialised skills that served you pretty well up until now, will not be enough going forward. Given that social distancing, digital, working from home and this new low in the economy, are going to shape our future for at least this year if not beyond, it is imperative that we pick up skills that allow us to do more, adapt, be agile, and do it all by ourselves if need be.
But what is cross-functional upskilling?
In a nutshell, the ability to do and engage with more than just your area of expertise. The idea of cross-functional upskilling can best be understood with the visual idea of the letter “T”. The top bar of the letter is the palette which highlights your basic working knowledge. The kind of wide working knowledge that you can possess on various concepts and areas of business, all at once.
The second element, or the vertical line in the letter is symbolic of that one particular area of business of which you have a deep in-depth knowledge.
Cross-functionality, therefore, means having the basic working knowledge of all areas of business -the roles, goals and demands of different verticals while having an in depth expertise in one of those areas.
For example, if you wish to become a Youtuber, being able to shoot videos is definitely a starting point, but not everything that’s there to it. Having a working knowledge of graphics, video editing, networking, pitching to brands etc are all equally integral constituents in the mix too.
So why should I upskill?
With the nature of work undergoing such a paradigm shift, there are several things that we need to begin accounting for in our career plans.
For instance, the job market is so fickle right now. A global economic recession is right around the corner. And with “layoffs” being the word of the season, there’s a chance that several people may not return to the workforce at all. Even for those who might head back to work, roles, responsibilities and work in general will look incredibly different than what we’re used to now.
For those having lost out on the opportunity to return to work at all, it is important to know that the concept of independently working professionals (remotely of course) is bound to be on the rise. On the other hand, returning back to work might mean that employees will be subjected to a higher demand of being able to perform multiple roles and pick up on the leftover slack too. Therefore, survival in both of these scenarios will be heavily dependent on the ability to learn and upskill.
The digital boom also made us aware that the shelf life of skills have shortened. So one way to remain employable in this capricious work environment is by upskilling.
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To remain employable
If the MD of Udemy India, Irwin Anand is to be believed, “learning is the new currency that can help us succeed as a workforce.” In a moment where even expert analysts are at a loss of what the future of work beholds, the most important job skill for employers on potential resumes would be the ability to learn.
With major industries engaging in severe downsizing processes currently, post pandemic employers are more likely to favour those who can boast of a variety of skills beyond one’s expertise.
Pro tip: Prioritise a career-driven approach for the coming months.
Train yourself on in-demand industry skills via the various remote learning methods available to you right now. This approach will most certainly set you up for a sustainable career in the long run. You can then deem yourself ready and prepared to work remotely in areas where businesses need widely skilled professionals.
This is an important career move, more so because given the influx of businesses, every vertical has moved much of their previous face to face work to online platforms. So count digital competency as a definite fundamental skill right now. But more on that later.
To be able to work for yourself
Let’s look at another plausible option here. Since there is a chance that you may not be returning to work at all, it may just be the right time to venture into that freelancing lifestyle you’ve been dreaming about all along.
Diving into solopreneurship however, calls to pick up for a lot more work that you usually would either delegate or have another team member do for you. So this is the time to figure out where your expertise lies. And what other skills you can develop a basic working knowledge of.
Pro tip: In an economy that can soon grow to be as unstable as everyone’s anticipating it to be, individually upskilling is a good way to find alternative sources of income.
Because let’s face it. Having just one source of income can prove to be incredibly unreliable. As we’ve seen in this global crisis. So venturing into solopreneurship, via upskilling and reskilling is the way to future-proof your career.
To learn all about how to upskill this quarantine, click here.
To increase your remote productivity and future-proof your career
Needless to say, remote working is here to stay. This essentially means a major paradigm shift in the style of working at the individual level too. The physical barriers of clocking in and clocking out have become hazier than ever. Which is why productivity is a challenge that many traditional office goers are in for.
The way to accommodate conventional office-going employees or newly ordained freelancers into the digital world is via upskilling for digital competency.
A recent study suggests that 55% of employers feel that this disconnect in digital efficiency is causing an inability to perform and innovate effectively. The sooner we begin to bridge this gap, the better can be the efficiency for the new generation of remote working.
Pro tip: Doing this will also ensure that your skills and your professional success is independent of any future crisis the economic world might witness.
When I spoke to my friend who lost her job with a travel company, she said “since the pandemic has been so hard on so many small businesses, it is possible that we might see ore consolidation of companies in the near future. If so, my skills might be in demand again. If not, I will have to wait and watch for the tide to turn. And start focusing on developing another area of expertise. Falling back on my finance background and updating it for the future.”, she said in a conversation we had last week. “Everything is uncertain, but I can still focus on my growth.”
There may be a lot of uncertainty right now. But if there’s one thing that’s certain is that the face of work and business will change. And all we can do about it, is to learn to adapt and grow with it.
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