3 mins read

What Do We Mean By Career Upskilling and Why Does it Matter?

12 July 2021   |   by Explore Careers

Upskilling probably sounds like careers and recruiter jargon, or something future you will need to worry about it – and it kinda is! But it’s also something worth thinking about as you begin to take your first steps into the world of work.

We’re not saying you have to have it all figured out, but having some expectations and ownership over your career journey will set you up for long-term success.

With the Foundation for Young Australians reporting that young people will have on average 17 different jobs across 5 different careers in their working lifetime, upskilling is something that will become increasingly crucial!

Understanding Career Upskilling

Career upskilling is the process of:

  • Keeping your existing skills up to date and relevant.
  • Identifying your core transferable skills.
  • Identifying any skills gaps you need to address.
  • Being aware of potential roles you could move into and the skills you might need to do that.

Research published in December 2019 found the number of people upskilling for future roles rose from 52% to 57%. Those upskilling to help in their current role dropped from 69% to 59%.

With the impact COVID-19 has had on the workforce, these figures will likely shift even more in the future. With so many young people thinking about what their future career self looks like, upskilling is being taken to a whole new level.

Why is this Important?

Automation and digital transformation across many workplaces mean employees have to keep up with a rapid pace of change.

This isn’t new. We talk about automation and digital transformation as though they’re concepts that are only just beginning to change the ways we work and booting people out of historical work roles, but they’ve been around for decades.

Every iteration of work, industry and career has faced automation at some point or other; we’re just facing it at a scale never seen before. As our digital prowess grows, so will the impact across specific industries — for better or worse.

A report from Deloitte, titled Future of Work: How can we adapt to survive and thrive? found that 60% of people surveyed expect to change roles or industries in the next 10 years. And 67% expect their current job will no longer exist or require a new skill set within 15 years.

Upskilling has always been important, but it’s now becoming more widespread as people are faced with the fact that there’s no such thing as a career for life. Instead of seeing this as a problem, we need to embrace it as an opportunity!

Upskilling for Your Future Career

If you’re looking to upskill to prepare for the future, you need to understand how your industry is changing and what skills are in demand.

But to get started, you need to understand where you’re currently at in terms of your own skills. Don’t panic if you’re unsure or don’t feel like you have tonnes of skills just yet! This is more about building awareness and a starting point that you can naturally build on as you gain more experience and a better understanding of what you want your career to look like.

Use these questions to create a ‘roadmap’ of your current skills:

  • What ones do you have that you consider your ‘best’ – the ones you think you’re better at than most people around you?
  • What ones need to be improved or updated – how can you work on these?
  • What ones you don’t have and need to start working on – how can you do that?

Developing these skills will require a mix of activities, including:

  • Joining professional associations, if you’re not already a member.
  • Advancing education with a degree or certifications or online courses.
  • Seeking out internal professional development opportunities with your current employer.
  • Participating in feedback sessions with your current manager.
  • Finding a mentor.
  • Attending (virtual) conferences or networking events.
  • Volunteering is a way to put new skills into practice and develop in new areas.

Upskilling isn’t necessarily about gaining accreditation through formal learning and certificates — although these can be valuable — it’s also about how you work as a professional in chosen fields to keep being a professional.

The target industry, or industries, that you’re interested in working can also provide you with lots of resources to start tailoring your upskilling decisions. This is where networking and finding a mentor helps.

Ready for Next Steps?

We know how confusing this can all feel, especially when there are way more important things going on like hanging out with your mates or forgetting to finish that homework assignment. This is why Explore Careers brings all the resources together for you, so when you’re ready – it’s all here waiting for you.

If you want to see what career areas you might be most suited to, so you can make a start on the skills you need to boost, improve and gain, you can find out using our popular career quiz:

What Career is Right For Me?


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