Why is reskilling so important right now?

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The new world of talent: what the pandemic's re-skilled candidates have to offer.

Across 2020, businesses and individuals alike have pivoted to adapt to the disrupted landscape they’re facing. Many candidates, newly and unexpectedly on the job market, have looked to redirect their skills to new roles, as whole sectors and companies have fallen victim to the impact of COVID-19.

It’s a stressful and uncertain time for many, and there have been some notable misses in attempts made to put a positive spin on this situation. Perhaps most memorably, the spread of a government campaign suggesting that Fatima, a ballet dancer, might have a future “in cyber…she just doesn’t know it yet,” which received some criticism.

But while this is a difficult moment for many, with change comes an opportunity for both job seekers and hiring managers. For the former to re-examine career paths they may have wanted to pursue for a long time, and for the latter to access a new cohort of talent they otherwise would not have encountered for open positions.

These candidates often bring dynamic transferrable skills and, importantly, a burst of new creativity, energy and diverse thinking that can revitalise a team and shape your projects, injecting new perspectives and ideas.

Those looking to make a start in a new career are also likely to be more cost-effective hires, offering you smart, enthusiastic employees with strong applicable skills at a lower rate than someone more seasoned in the industry. 

However, you should be sure to factor in a longer onboarding time and greater need for training when hiring from outside the sector pool – whether that be external courses or time from in-house staff to familiarise them with the job at hand and the wider industry.   

This new talent tends to sit in two defined categories: those looking to embark on a lasting new career in earnest, spurred on by the pandemic to rethink their life choices; and those looking to try something new in the short term – a stop-gap project to tide them over until COVID-hit industries are able to fully recover. 

Many in the creative and hospitality industries may fall into this second bracket – and within this group are individuals who would excel within customer-facing or project management roles, with excellent interpersonal and presentation skills.

Those in the first bracket come from a surprising cross-section of industries and roles, and the potential crossover is vast. 

Among our network we have spoken to a number of candidates who are looking to make changes in their careers. Here we feature two who are looking to make a permanent transition and rebuild their careers in new ways post-COVID.

1. the puppeteer-turned-communications professional 

As an independent puppeteer, puppet designer and workshop director with her own theatre company, Alicia is no stranger to self-motivation, delivering projects to scope and brief, communicating ideas to clients and collaborators and bringing fresh ideas to the table.

And when COVID hit and the creative industries were some of the first to feel the effects, Alicia decided to seize the opportunity to find a more consistent way of living. She found herself drawn to the trappings of an office job – from the 9 – 5 hours to having colleagues – as well as excited by the possibility of building on her existing capabilities in a brand-new working environment. 

Alicia made the most of her months in lockdown to upskill her technical skills in design software and coding via remote learning courses and spent time reviewing different career paths to see which best aligned with her experience. She found her ideal roles situated in the realm of communications and design divisions, which would allow her to marry up the creative and project management skills developed over her years of managing her own business:

“With design proficiency and years of experience of marketing and running my own business, I’m a safer pair of hands than you might think. I’d like to think I’m something of a hidden gem”.

2. the academic-turned-community business champion  

Even pre-pandemic Gina was considering a career outside of academia after her PhD. For her, the relatively low pay, part-time hours and short-term contracts so common in academia provided little in the way of long-term security. 

The pandemic served to speed up her decision; surrounded by so much transition in the world, Gina felt encouraged to find her own new direction. 

With her free time this year, she volunteered at a local farmer’s market and at a refill shop, getting to know the community of local business owners and their challenges. Little did she know then that this experience would help direct her toward a new role – working at a charity supporting community-owned businesses. 

Gina reflects on the value of bringing in outside talent from other industries when she considers her strengths in her current role: “There is a learning curve, but I bring a lot of transferrable skills from my academic career:  for example, strong research skills. I can synthesise complicated reports and respond quickly, as well as bringing strong writing and presentation skills to the work I’m doing now.”

  • For hiring managers, the key element to keep in mind when recruiting for new roles is to be open to considering new profiles and skillsets. As well as allowing your business to play a crucial role in helping the country through the employment impacts of the pandemic, in looking outside of your existing talent pool, you’re encouraging a culture of diversity of thought and experience. As Henry Ford said “If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got” – and in doing something novel by pursuing hires with different backgrounds, you could be embarking on an exciting direction for your business. 

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