Ways To Combat Skill Gaps To Fasten Career Progression While several roles within organizations are becoming redundant due to automation, a large number of vacancies are also being created for professionals with digital skills who can thrive in this new environment

By Hari Krishnan Nair

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Artificial intelligence (AI), alongside other emerging technologies, are becoming enablers for businesses today. According to NASSCOM, India will require around 800,000 AI and BDA professionals by 2021. However, at the current rate, we are expected to have just 570,000 professionals with the knowledge of these skills by 2021 leading to a massive skill gap. The same is true for a host of other new-age skills like analytics, cloud computing, machine learning and robotics. Rapid advances in AI, robotics and other emerging technologies are happening in shorter cycles than usual, bringing about a massive change in the nature of jobs across various sectors. While several roles within organizations are becoming redundant due to automation, a large number of vacancies are also being created for professionals with digital skills who can thrive in this new environment. The need of the hour is for professionals to recognize this change and enhance their existing skill set.

Lifelong learning is the new mantra that professionals should live by to power ahead in their career. Timely learning interventions can help professionals in future-proofing their careers as well as climbing the corporate ladder faster. Here are a few ways that can help professionals identify the shortcomings in their current skill sets and bridge the knowledge gap.

Formulate a career path

The first step in this journey is for a professional to look at their career strategically and identify an ambitious career path that they wish to chart, aligned with their skills and capabilities. With the pace at which things are changing, it is possible that one may not be sure of all the steps needed to reach the goal. However, having a clear sense of direction can make a big difference and the gaps can be filled as one moves along. Professionals should also closely follow thought leaders in the industry, read industry blogs, engage, ask questions and stay abreast with current news in order to set realistic and rewarding career goals. This will keep them updated as well as clued into the big picture.

Engage with your employers

Professionals should engage with their organizations to better understand their talent requirements and how they can fit themselves successfully into the big picture. They should speak to their immediate bosses, seniors and even HRs to understand the evolving talent requirements of the company they are associated with. It is crucial to evaluate the kind of projects undertaken by their organization as well their competitors to get a sense of evolving market trends. Many organizations have internal learning programs designed keeping in mind the evolving talent requirements. Instead of resisting them, one should in fact take the lead when it comes to enrolling for the ones aligned with their career path, as it will only strengthen one's position in the organization.

Identify the skill gaps

After these steps, a professional would have a well-drawn picture of their career path and will then be ready to work towards a list of skills required to be added to their existing skill set in order to achieve their goal. While they would already have some of the skills, there will be a host of skills that they would have to learn to reach their goal. Some of them may be a part of their organizational road map, while some may have to be acquired. One should jot them down and sit with a career counsellor or a senior to understand how they should go about learning each of them. Which areas should be given priority and which skill set can be picked up a few years later? Once one has an understanding of this, they should start their learning journey immediately.

Choose the right upskilling partner

Now that a professional has clarity of the areas they wish to upskill in, it is time to search for the right upskilling partner. Speak to friends, colleagues and seniors to understand their experiences of learning new skills and how did they go about it. The most common way for professionals to learn specific skills these days are online programs by leading ed-tech companies. Professionals should evaluate the programs offered by different platforms and find out which will serve their needs best. Get a sense of the depth that each program goes into. Also, look at the program reviews online and see what the previous learners have to say about their experience. You should also get a sense of the career transitions that different players have been able to drive for their students. Once you have done this due diligence, go ahead and select a learning partner.

Hari Krishnan Nair

Co-founder, Great Learning

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