In the wake of coronavirus, the landscape of our economy is changing. While some industries are declining, others are springing up to meet the needs of a shifting global environment. As a working professional, you may be delaying your professional or postgraduate education due to the unprecedented disruption. However, now is as good a time as ever to continue your professional education, and with a range of both financial and time commitment options, there is no need to wait.
In fact, postponing your education plans may actually reap a considerable cost. Once the economy returns to stability, those who continued with their plans to reskill or complete an advanced degree will have a competitive edge in the job market.
Still, it can be difficult for a working professional to decide what kind of credential best aligns with their career goals in an environment of such change. With a heightened sense of observation, an increased effort to discover, and a fresh perspective on life and learning, you can take your professional future into your own hands. Here are a few points of guidance as you develop your plan.
As you consider your career pathways, take a moment to reflect on and better understand the ever-evolving work environment. Follow the trends of the market, find out how policies are shaping the economic landscape, and begin to anticipate which industries are on the rise. Whether you are following news sources, using an app, or communicating with acquaintances, take note of what is changing, how fast, and in which direction. Then, use this information to guide your professional development decisions.
This will allow you to reconcile your interests and skills with market trends and discover your unique career niche.
Even with the outside input you've gathered, it can be difficult to make predictions on your own, so make an effort to seek additional resources to help guide your professional development. Career service teams can help support your transition into the industry, while professional or accrediting organizations can help build connections with others in your field. Another way to stay agile in your profession is to follow the advice from Nelson Baker, dean of Georgia Tech Professional Education (GTPE), and build a personal board of directors, or a personal network of mentors "who can help navigate your career and education, offering a mix of experience, talent, and diversity that a single individual mentor can’t match."
You should also make a point to try to gain experience in areas that are outside of your current professional scope. Georgia Tech, like many others, offers a variety of in-person and virtual short courses, ranging from cybersecurity to occupational safety and health and supply chain management, as well as a portfolio of free, self-paced options, such as MOOCs or LinkedIn Learning. You can take any of these without committing to a longer program, which is conducive to a busy working schedule. Branching out may shed light on a talent you weren't aware of, and broadening your range of interests and skills gives you a significant advantage in the workforce. Expanding your reach will allow you to pivot between professions and/or build your professional depth outside of your specific specialty.
While skills, experience, and knowledge are essential for a successful career, the most important way to navigate a precarious economy is to adjust your mindset. When there is uncertainty, a mind that is open to and prepared for change is your best asset.
“In order to thrive in our careers, we need to be agile,” reminds Baker. “We need to constantly be thinking ahead as technologies and new ideas come forward from across the globe."
Don’t just accept change, expect it. Expect education to remain virtual in one form or another. Expect the workplace to alter the traditional office layout and experience. Expect new industries to rise and fall. The world will not stop moving once you’ve found your next job or your life goal. Be ready to move with it.
One of the best ways to keep your mind open and prepared for change is to develop a habit of lifetime learning. In order to prevent knowledge and skills from becoming obsolete, education does not and should not stop once you leave the classroom. Taking advantage of ongoing professional learning opportunities, such as short courses, professional and graduate certificate programs, and online master's degrees, will allow you to continue to grow on your career path while meeting the current and future needs of the workforce.
Even without a professional program, however, you can still learn a great deal right from your office chair, simply by keeping your eyes and ears open. Network with colleagues, have conversations with superiors, ask questions, and continually look for opportunities to learn something new. Each effort to learn will build upon the last, equipping you to face whatever the future may bring, not only through the knowledge you have accumulated but also through the adaptable mindset of learning that you have developed.