COVID-19 Response: Why Life-Long Learning is the Way Forward

Being an all-remote company since the very beginning, Transformify Freelancer Management System was not negatively impacted by COVID-19 outbreak. Yet, many of our clients were caught by surprise. Business interruption and declining revenues inevitably resulted in massive layoffs across the globe. Highly skilled people were struggling to find jobs during the lockdown, and unfortunately, the situation has not improved much since.

Finding a solution for all those people became a mission for our team as we realized the power of the user data gathered over the years. 

Transferrable skills

Was there anything that could make people who have lost their jobs attractive to the hiring managers of companies operating in completely different industries?

Imagine flight attendants, chefs, waiters, travel agents, thousands of them, who have been laid off or furloughed at about the same time. Why would a hiring manager from Zoom, Amazon, Walmart or any other company out there that was thriving during these challenging times hire them instead of people who had experience within the same industry?

For some time, it seemed that hardly anything could be done when out of a sudden our powerful matching algorithm served the answer in front of our eyes—transferrable skills. All these people had some skills that were relevant to more than one company or industry that would allow them to be considered for completely different jobs to those they had before.

However, to take advantage of their transferrable skills, both the job seekers and hiring managers needed to be aware of these transferrable skills and take them into account during the hiring process. We realized that we were after something that could have a massive social impact in the years to come.

COVID-19 response: Sustainable remote jobs

As Transformify Freelancer Management System joined the Digital Skills & Jobs Coalition of the EU Commission back in 2016, we submitted a new pledge titled COVID-19 Response: Sustainable Remote Jobs tackling unemployment amid coronavirus outbreak. Travel has been restricted for a period of time making it hard for job seekers to relocate in search of a job elsewhere.

On top of that, most jobs have been transformed into remote jobs anyway making it a bit easier to apply for jobs with employers based elsewhere in the world. Leveraging our technology, we made it easy for the job seekers to outline their transferrable skills and for the hiring managers to consider candidates having experience in a completely different industry.

What about considering a travel agent for a customer support job with an e-commerce company? Or considering a hotel events manager as a key account manager with an online conferencing company? Strictly speaking, they have the skills that are required to make them successful with their new roles.

However, it was anything but easy to convince the hiring managers to consider them. After all, there were so many candidates having relevant experience within the same industry, why should they give a chance to anyone else?

It took months of constant communication, press releases and lots of online events to popularize the initiative but it was worth the effort. It’s a positive change that shifted the mindset of people, both hiring managers and job seekers, toward life-long learning.

Life-long learning

As a professor at Zigurat Business School, I have the privilege to teach very bright students who have already achieved a lot in life. Mostly, these are managers in the middle of their careers, looking for their next career step and eager to learn and develop their skills. Prior to the pandemic, people who constantly invested time and effort into learning new skills were in the minority.

Now a lot of job seekers have learned the hard way the importance of having relevant skills. From developing a side hustle, to securing an independent revenue stream, to acting as an independent consultant for a period of time, to taking on freelance gigs to make the ends meet while job hunting—it’s clear that developing new, in-demand skills is an investment that always delivers high returns.

Some time ago I had the pleasure to interview Shelley Osborne, VP of Learning at Udemy, and I could not agree more with her views on life-long learning:

“Learning to me is the future of work. With today’s rate of change, there is no longer a way for us to exist without infusing growth and learning into our daily lives. We have to break down those traditional thoughts of just achieving a diploma or getting through a company training ‘because someone told me that I had to.’ Instead, it’s a mindset that persists and prevails and should instead be thought of as lifelong learning.

When I was thinking about writing, ‘The Upskilling Imperative: 5 Ways to Make Learning Core to the Way We Work‘, I knew I wanted to convey that upskilling is imperative and provide a roadmap on how we can create this culture of learning where continuous learning is the norm. The need to learn something new will always be there. It’s impossible to know what will be critical to learn in five, ten years from now so we must develop ‘learning agility’ – the idea that we are open to learning new skills, whatever those skills might be.

Life-long learning is the way forward but how do leaders predict which skills will be high in-demand in the foreseeable future?

Although there is no single answer, the best way to learn and develop new skills is to ask yourself “What am I good at?” as it is hardly possible to excel as a data scientist if you dislike math and statistics—no matter how much such skills are demanded on the market. A single Google search using keywords like “the most demanded skills”, “jobs of the future”, “the future of work” will deliver lots of relevant results.

Visiting popular job boards and filtering based on the number of posted jobs by category also provides an idea of which skills are in demand. Last but not least, visiting online learning portals and checking which courses have been trending over a period of time is also a good starting point.

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