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How to Develop Career Skills in a Tough Economic Environment

There is little doubt that we live in challenging economic times. The World Bank GDP growth projection for 2016 was only 0.8%, levels not seen since 2009. In addition, for the first quarter of 2017, only 19% of hiring mangers surveyed reported plans to hire, while 73% expected to keep personnel levels the same, and 6% planned to reduce workforces.

Building competitive career skills becomes more important in tougher economic times. In a strong economy, new businesses open and stay open, creating new positions. Jobs tend to be plentiful, and advancing in a career is easier with a wide array of jobs. Even if you cannot advance in one company, you can always move to another because there are enough positions. In fact, if the economy is strong enough, there may be more jobs than workers, meaning employers are vying for workers and are willing to pay more.

In a tougher economic environment, however, companies may be more conservative about hiring and creating new positions. There tends to be more companies closing due to economic pressure. Unemployment rates increase, and there are more workers competing for jobs. Employers can afford to be choosier and do not need to pay as much to attract top candidates. In addition, they may not have adequate budgets for training and promotion.For the first quarter of 2017: 19% of hiring managers reported plans to hire, 73% expected to keep personnel levels the same, 6% planned to reduce workforces

Career building in a tough economic environment is possible, but it does require you to think strategically. Luckily, it is possible to advance your career and to prime yourself to take advantage of work opportunities, even when economic times are challenging. It all starts with ensuring you have the right skills.

What to Do First After an Economic Downturn

When the economy is less stable, it can actually be a great opportunity to gain new skills and to broaden your prospects. It can even be a chance to explore a whole new career. Investing in career-forward education and training can make you more attractive to employers and can start you on the path toward new career options.

Before you sign up for training or education, you may want to take a closer look at your current job and industry. How is your industry affected by the economic instability? What technologies are emerging that might affect your job? What does the future likely hold for your sector?

It pays to stay aware of changes in your industry. Attend industry events and join professional associations for both the research and marketing opportunities. This allows you to get a sense of the changes happening in your sector. If you notice signs your sector is under economic pressure and is likely to remain sluggish in growth for some time, you may want to start developing skills for a career transition.

Building 21st Century Career Skills for a Tough Economy

How can you maximize your learning so you have the best chance of making the most of career opportunities? Here are 14 things you can do:

1) Take a Look at Your Past Jobs and Current Strengths.

If you are transitioning into a new career because your industry is suffering in the current economy, avoid branching out in a completely new direction. Instead, look for opportunities that let you build on current skills. For example, if you currently work in IT, you might want to investigate a new career that still lets you work with IT, but in a new sector.

Make a list of current strengths, job duties, and skills you have. Where else would these attributes be useful? What other careers would work with these skills? This information may be a clue as to your future opportunities.

2) Learn and Train for Your Career’s Future.

Once you know what kinds of jobs you might train for in the future, make sure you are looking forward with your training. Whether you are thinking about transitioning in your career to an entirely different industry or will be staying in your current one, consider how technology and the economy might impact jobs in the future. What is the new software you will be expected to know? What skills will you need to master in the future? Start working on these skills and abilities now to make you an attractive investment for employers.

Start working on the skills and abilities you will need to master in the future to make you an attractive investment for employers.

When choosing your training, you may also want to learn strategically. When the economy is strong, you may feel free pursuing passion projects and learning opportunities not closely linked to a job.

However, while learning for education’s sake is a wonderful thing, when the economy is facing a downturn, you may wish to train based on future career prospects. That is, don’t just choose programs and courses that interest you. Instead, look for courses and programs that lead to career opportunities and skills in demand by employers hiring now and by employers likely to be hiring in the future.

3) Look at Networking Opportunities as Well as Training.

When you are looking at training options, consider networking. Look for educational opportunities allowing you to learn from people in your field or your intended field. You’ll be learning from people who have hands-on experience and who know people in the industry, which is a potential asset if you need to ask for recommendations or want to network.

Additionally, for training and education, look for smaller groups where possible. It can be especially effective since you can interact more with your instructor and get to know them.

4) Find Mentors and Other Helpers.

Mentors and other helpers can assist you in your career path by helping show you how you can succeed. Mentors can also answer your questions and help you understand your career options. In addition to mentors, career counselors and other professionals can help you in your job search.

Mentors and other helpers can assist you in your career path by helping show you how you can succeed.

Students and graduates of Vista College, for example, have access to lifetime career services assistance and lifetime job/employment assistance, so they have support as they start to look for work. Whether they have questions about the job market or need help with a resume, they have someone to help.

5) Start Early.

Sometimes, you may not know your job is in jeopardy until you are suddenly unemployed. However, if you have any indication your job stability may be threatened, start taking action. Don’t assume a downturn in the economy won’t hurt you. Stay proactive. As soon as you think you may need to have more career options, start working on updating your resume, getting the training you need, and networking.

6) Take Your Training Beyond the Classroom and Be Aggressive.

When you get training to improve your skills or to transition to a new career, be aggressive about getting the most out of your education. Learn beyond the classroom, ask questions, and seek out recommendations for books and resources that can help you.

Read books about job hunting and about your career. Also take part in any free, relevant workshops and seminars you can. The more you polish your skills, the more you have to offer and the more attractive you are as a candidate.

7) Use Your Training in Innovative Ways. 

If you complete a program or get a certificate, you may want to start looking for a job. However, don’t just review job ads in your field. Consider other ways you can translate your education into a career. Maybe you can start your own business or get a job in a related field. Explore all opportunities to expand your options.

8) Pay Attention to Transferable Skills.

Skills such as communication, writing, languages, and computer literacy are in demand in just about every industry. Analytics, personnel management, and outsourcing were also in-demand skills for 2016, and their need is expected to continue.

Focusing on these skills in addition to job-specific training and education can help you stand out from the competition.

9) Look to Where Employers Are Looking.

Employers are your target audience, so get to know them. Get to know the companies that are hiring right now or are expected to hire soon. Who are they? What are they looking for in candidates?

Take a look at job ads printed now. What skills are in demand, and what are employers looking for? Which skills can you acquire to make yourself marketable?

10) Prove Your Skills.

If there are tests or examinations available to take for your industry or for specific skills, take them. For example, being able to speak Spanish is impressive, but it is even more impressive if you have a high score on a Diploma of Spanish as a Foreign Language (DELE) or other standardized test.

If there is no standardized test for a specific skill, getting good grades in a classroom or course can help you prove your skill. While you can learn on your own, showing you are competitive in your skills acquisition can make you more impressive as a job seeker.

11) Become a Life-Long Learner.

Show prospective employers you are committed to becoming better in your career by continuing your training and education. Continue to take classes and to participate in programs to acquire certificates. It will show you are eligible for promotions, no matter what the economy is doing.

12) Use Your Training to Tap Into the Hidden Job Market.

The wrong hire is an expensive mistake for any company, and in a challenging economy, the wrong hire can be a disaster. For this reason, many companies use non-traditional methods to hire in harder economic times. They may rely on networking or recruiting over job ads, for example. Some of the positions filled may never be publicly advertised for this reason. In fact, about 70% of new jobs are found through non-traditional means, such as networking, instead of job ads.

70% of new jobs are found through non-traditional means, such as networking, instead of job ads.

Another estimate suggests 80-85% of jobs are not posted on job boards, meaning the vast majority of jobs available can be found on the hidden job market.

How can you tap into these unadvertised jobs? Get to know people in your field. Join professional associations and attend industry events. Train or take classes with people who are working or have worked in the field and know people who are still working in the sector. Get to know these instructors so you can network efficiently. Join your instructors and college or school on social media, such as LinkedIn, so you can see and be seen by their network, too.

Find out who works in your sector in your area and reach out to them. You can also start a blog or write articles in your field so you can be seen as someone who understands the sector. Make yourself visible to others in your industry and get to know people in your field so you can find out about jobs.

Keep in mind, too, that many employers recruit through schools. Attending a college or educational program can make you more attractive and can mean employers are reaching out to you. It can also mean you get job search assistance through your school to help you find employment opportunities.

13) Get to Know a Wide Range of People.

One of the advantages of learning in a classroom or learning with a group of people is that you get to know individuals from a wide range of cultures, and you learn to work as a team. Completing group projects with students who have different backgrounds and personalities gives you some in-demand work skills in a global economy.

14) Work on Intangibles.

If you are in a competitive field, especially, work on the little things that could be affecting your job search. Projecting a professional image, having a great resume, having strong social skills, and knowing how to be persuasive and personable in person can all help you become a more attractive job candidate. Find a good friend or job counselor who can help you evaluate and work on these skills.

What Should You Focus on in Tough Economic Times?

If the economy is suffering and you would like the best chances for a good work opportunity, there are a few fields you may want to focus on. For example, in the first quarter of 2017, industries where gains in employment are expected to be largest include:

  • Leisure and Hospitality
  • Wholesale and Retail Trade
  • Transportation and Utilities
  • Professional services and Business Services
  • Financial
  • Government

In addition, you may want to develop these transferrable skills to help you stand out from the competition:

  • Languages and communication skills, including the ability to write with clarity
  • Technical skills, including computer literacy
  • Management skills, including the ability to manage teams
  • The ability to thrive and lead diverse work environments
  • The ability to work with other cultures in a sensitive and professional way
  • Learning ability
  • Conflict resolution skills
  • The ability to outsource and manage tasks and projects

If you would like to develop skills for a new job or would like to take a program to get you ready for a job search, take a look at the education opportunities at Vista College. We offer accelerated learning, ensuring graduates can start looking for new jobs quickly.

With enrollment every five weeks, there’s no need to wait to start learning, and with lifetime career services assistance and lifetime job/employment assistance for graduates, our students get the support they need as they start looking for career opportunities. Sign up for a program today to start expanding your skills and to train for a new profession or to expand your abilities in your current industry.

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