by Jennifer T. Long, CEO of Management Possible and ForbesBooks author of “Own Up!: How To Hold People Accountable Without All The Drama“
The U.S. labor shortage remains problematic for many employers, and a skills gap is exacerbating the situation as companies struggle to find employees who fit their needs.
According to McKinsey & Company, 87% of companies worldwide acknowledge either a current or future skills gap. As people seek a new position or advancement in the wake of the Great Resignation, Great Reset or Great Realization – however you choose to term it – it’s incumbent on them to investigate where they are lacking and acquire those competencies employers are seeking.
We’ve all got room for improvement, and we know it. Staying relevant in today’s workforce and moving toward your potential starts with self-awareness.
That means everything from knowing what your strengths are to the weaknesses that are obstructing your career path and addressing those shortfalls. Overcoming a skills gap enables people to bolster their qualifications, solidify their standing at work and improve their chances for promotion.
A skills gap refers to the difference between the skills required for a job and those employees actually possess. It’s important for employees and job candidates to consider a wide range of competencies when determining gaps they have – from “hard” or technical skills (job-specific such as administrative, digital, financial, project management, and social media marketing) to “soft” skills (such as interpersonal communication, collaboration, organization, critical thinking, and problem-solving).
Workers can overcome a skills gap by taking the following steps:
Put your ego aside and be honest. You have to identify the skills you need or those you need to improve. Approach it as a brainstorming activity; note every attribute and weakness you can think about without editing or qualifying the list. Another avenue to take is a professional assessment. A good assessment will provide you with targeted areas to consider relative to a role. It’s the fastest way to learn if you’re a good fit for a certain position.
Speak to your manager or a trusted former colleague or boss.
Once you’ve rated your skills, it’s time for external feedback. If unemployed and looking for work, you can consult someone you worked with or under. If employed, speak with a supervisor or manager. Recent performance evaluations also might provide insight. Be open to criticism and don’t be defensive. Once you set aside your emotional reactions, you can see the value of constructive feedback.
Revisit current or recent job requirements.
One way to refocus and reassess a potential skills gap is to take a close look at your actual job description. You may discover some discrepancies that reveal a skills gap. If there are some responsibilities you’re uncomfortable with, those skills needed to complete those tasks should go on your list.
Find training and education opportunities.
Self-inventory and consulting others should lead to a refined actionable map of skills you want to improve. Then find the best resources to fill those skill gaps, whether it’s in-house or off-site training, a college or online course, or a mentor. Someone in your company whose work you respect has invaluable experience to share.
Join professional groups.
Networking with like-minded professionals is a great way to establish relationships and continue your education relative to your industry. Meet with people like yourself who prioritize career development and discuss skills and training.
Visit O*NET OnLine.
This is a free online database to search for specific job titles. You can find a comprehensive list of skills, both technical and work-related skills that are associated with the role. If there’s anything on the list you’ve never heard of, take a deeper dive on that. It’s probably a gap and something to put on your list.
Closing your skills gap will take some time. Having an organized plan that includes specific steps, timelines and goals will keep you focused and moving forward. You can never stop learning or growing if you want to stay relevant and be successful in today’s job market.
In fact, your ability to learn, which includes sourcing and taking action on getting and applying your own learning, is itself a top skill desired in the job market.
Jennifer T. Long is a Certified Master Coach and the ForbesBooks author of “Own Up!: How To Hold People Accountable Without All The Drama“. Also a Master Trainer, Long is CEO of Management Possible, a leadership development company providing coaching for leaders and managers across various disciplines. She hosts the Organizational Transformation Kung Fu podcast with Sandi Verrecchia. Long spent 10 years as a theater director.