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The last three months have been quite the journey, I think it's fair to say. We have seen things happen that most of us have never seen before - offices and cities deserted, daily news bulletins providing harrowing statistics, people serving us in shops from behind perspex screens or face masks and a national ban on spending time with everyone including your own family. These are just a few of the major shifts in our everyday patterns that we have had to collectively deal with and adapt to.

Now though, attention has started to move increasingly to what comes next. In the short term, that means emerging from lock-down, getting used to interacting in person again rather than via Zoom, and also more than likely some significant economic pain. Within that economic pain, we are already seeing reported some serious effects on the jobs market, as redundancies look set to drive us to unemployment levels greater than during the banking crash and vacancy numbers decrease significantly.

Yet in the midst of all of this now really is a great time to not only consider your future career but to invest in equipping yourself for it. Here are the reasons why:

1. Things will not go back to the way they were when this is over

There are two things that we can be absolutely sure of. Firstly, that the pain won't last forever. In fact it hopefully won't last as long as we think if the rate of lock-down exit is anything to go by. Secondly, that what emerges on the other side will not be the same as what we left behind us in March.

We are in a privileged position of speaking with business and finance leaders every single day. But even if your view of the future is restricted to reading between the lines of what's reported in the media, there is enough evidence out there to tell us that things are moving on. What we are seeing is a fast-forwarding of changes that were always on the way; digitisation, automation of processes, changing of working patterns and practices to name but a few. Businesses are looking more closely than ever at how they do things and where they can be more efficient, and we as consumers are changing how we view things and where we are prepared to spend our money. That means at the end of this journey there will be roles that existed at the beginning of this year that are no longer required, but new roles will emerge in other places that will require a different set of skills. As a result, we all need to reflect on our own skillset as it stands today and consider how we can shape that to exploit the opportunities of tomorrow.

2. There has never been a more accessible time than now to invest in learning

It really is an incredible time to be thinking about developing your professional skills. I've posted previously on the endless sources of free online learning that has been made available from a range of providers but that's not all. Regional Colleges are making professionally recognised courses available through funded programmes, a huge number of courses previously taught in person have moved online, Universities have adapted through making formal higher education more accessible than ever (even at postgraduate level) and of course, for many of us, there is simply more time now than ever before. That may be because of being placed on furlough, but even for retained employees in many cases, the cutting of a commute is returning 2 hours+ of the working day back to us.

There are a large number of options available to us in terms of how to use that time, and some of us are working harder and longer now than ever so the idea of having more time is a myth. But for many, given the ongoing social restrictions you have to ask; if you can't find the time to up-skill yourself now, when are you going to do it?

3. We are about to enter a very competitive jobs market

In the first couple of months of this year, even with the looming spectre of Brexit, our jobs market could be largely described as candidate-driven. Unemployment in NI was at record low levels and in most professional-grade roles, candidates had a wealth of choice when it came to available job opportunities.

The market we are moving into will not look like this for the vast majority. Already, unemployment figures at highs not seen since the 90s have been predicted and job vacancy numbers have dropped significantly. Add to this a fresh intake of graduates landing in the market, plus those from last year who have been travelling, and we can expect the choice to transition from candidate to employer in the months ahead. Making sure that you are the one on the shortlist with evidence of professional development on your CV, and the newly acquired skills to go with it, could go a long way.

4. Even the "new normal" is unlikely to last very long

We have already said that when this is over, the world of work will have changed. What we can also assume though is that the pace of change is likely to continue. We have reached a moment of genuine transition in how we work, where we work and what work we do and this transition period could see us go through multiple phases before it really settles.

That means agility is key. Being able to show you can pick up new skills, adapt to changing requirements and fluctuating conditions and still deliver impact in an organisation will count for more than ever before and so investing now in rounding out your skills, adding new strings to your bow and giving yourself the confidence to know you can take on new things is as important as ever.


If you have found this thought-provoking and would like to speak to someone about how you can develop your own skillset to boost your career prospects in the months and years ahead, get in touch directly here or email to arrange a time to speak further.