Are you ready for the expertise economy?
Constant upskilling and gaining expertise beyond education is the millennial way to work
At the age of 25, Gautam Soni, who works as a business analyst at LinkedIn in Bengaluru, has already pivoted twice in his career. After graduating, he did not find a job immediately and tried his hand as a digital media consultant. Two years later, he become interested in data science and pursued a post-graduation diploma with UpGrad, an online course and certification site, investing all his savings into it. While completing the course, he joined LinkedIn India in operations. He was encouraged to apply his learning on the operations role and in a few months, moved to business analysis, getting a 75% salary hike. “In jobs today, we face new challenges on a daily basis and it’s very important to stay updated and possess the right skill-set,” says Soni.
Soni’s experience captures work life in the age of digitization and acceleration where the world of work is going through a large-scale transition and critical skills and expertise are imperative for success. “New platforms, technologies and ways of business are sprouting constantly,” says Kelly Palmer, co-author of The Expertise Economy, “Businesses and employees need to make sure they have expertise to make these changes work for them. The career path of a future employee focuses on skill development rather than college pedigree,” she explains.
Forward thinking companies have already restructured their process in such a way that employees have the choice, and freedom to decide what expertise they want to develop. For startups like 75F, a company that makes efficient buildings using internet of things and cloud computing, upskilling is a necessity to remain competitive in a fast changing, dynamic market. “From our CEO to a new intern, every employee in our workforce has to stay at pace with technology,” says Oindri Sengupta, HR head, 75F India. “This is why we prioritize learning and development and invest in our people to upskill.” Every new employee goes through an intensive training program and then continues updating themselves through in-house libraries, online courses, industry-relevant certifications and training programs.
The value of an individual today lies in the knowledge and skills he or she brings to an employer or an organization and millennials recognize this, says Lisa Cannell, MD and leadership professor at Darden School of Business in University of Virginia, US in an email interview. This new wave has changed how employees view their careers. “Millennials now value skill building and development opportunities within a job as much as compensation. If they don’t get required training from companies, they find courses to reskill themselves,” says Cannell.
A company that provides learning opportunities is important, feels Bengaluru-based Kanica Wadhen. “It is necessary to equip myself with market-driven skills especially if I work in a fast-paced technology company,” says Wadhen, who has been with Harman, an audio technology company, since past five years. Wadhen’s education was in advertising, but through training she joined Harman in a delivery management role. Within a year, thanks to the company’s supporting HR policies, she had trained to conduct internal audit and became a certified internal auditor. In the third year of her employment, she tried supplier interface and in her fourth, it was budget controlling. “Currently I’m playing four roles and I am keen on learning new things to keep my career vibrant and challenging,” she says.
Like Wadhen, for 30-year-old Swathy Krishna, a data science analyst with Verizon Data Services in Chennai, reskilling is as important as working hard. “In my field of machine learning and automation, every day new software and algorithms are being introduced,” says Krishna, “If I don’t update my skillsets regularly, my work will stagnate and I might lose the job to a better resource or even to automation.”
The constant millennial need to upskill has helped another type of an industry—the one that gives online certifications. Almost 70% of professionals who have taken a course through Great Learning, have achieved a career transition within six months, something that feels like an achievement to Hari Krishnan Nair, the company’s co-founder. “This proves that companies are looking for people with hands-on knowledge to solve business problems,” he says.
In this new work environment, learning is not a one-time phenomenon, but a continuous event, according to Mayank Kumar, co-founder and CEO, UpGrad. “We used to have one job and one life but now we are moving towards seven-eight jobs in one career as the skills we acquire become redundant faster and individuals have to invest in learning new skills,” he says.
When Prateek Benya joined financial technology company Scripbox , in the role of a manual tester in 2015, he found he was more interested in programming. He told his manager and was encouraged to take up an online course on Java Selenium on Automation, paid by his company. “I did well and another manager who had engineering requirements, seeing my interest, gave me an opportunity within his team,” he says . “You need to up your skills to move to the next level, be it through learning from someone within the company or by taking up a course,” he says. Benya is already planning a Six Sigma Black Belt course in future to help him reach his career goals.
Become a subject-matter expert
Subject matter experts (SMEs) can teach and train fellow employees, help bosses and colleagues and move the company’s objectives forward, says Kelly Palmer. Here’s how to be one.
Build your skill set. Find a relevant skillset that you would like to acquire and a course or mentor within the company.
Become an ambassador. Teach your skills to someone within or outside the company through how-to videos, a podcast or a blog. Include this course in your company’s learning platform.
Inform your colleagues. Let your manager and lateral management team know that you have a relevant skill that might be useful for their teams.
Become an influencer. Vouch, talk about your particular field within the company. Let managers, colleagues and your team know how this skill can help the company move forward. Convince the management to change strategy and win through your skillset.
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