by Andie Radford
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the unemployment rate has risen to 6.9 percent as of January 2009. For African Americans, this rate is even higher, at 12.6 percent. While these statistics are alarming, it remains true that a company’s most competitive advantage is the talent of its workforce. Now more than ever, it is important for employees to remain current in their skills and abilities if they want to keep their jobs.
How do you keep current skills in today’s economy? The following tips provide the guidance you need to remain relevant in today’s workforce.
Do not wait for your company to offer training. In a tight economy, training courses are often reduced or cut altogether. This means that you need to take charge of your own development. Take advantage of local adult education courses. These courses are usually offered by local community colleges for a nominal fee. If your money is tight, develop your own self-study program. Bookstores and libraries are full of “how to” books. While this approach requires discipline, the payoff for mastering a new skill will be worth the time.
Read, Read, Read! Many employees believe that once they graduate from high school or college, they can stop learning and studying. Nothing could further from the truth! To deliver effective ideas or solutions at work, you must be aware of the latest industry and economic trends. Subscribe to industry trade journals and publications. Develop the discipline to read business journals. Remember, many journals and publications are available for free at your local library.
Pay attention to information. Don’t drift off during company or department meetings. Many times these meetings provide critical insight into the future direction of the company. Digest this information then ask yourself what this means to you. Do you have the right skills for the future direction of your company? What should you be working on right now to address the goals of your organization? In addition, listen to what the industry analysts are saying. Industry analysts are considered experts who have a strong handle on the issues and concerns that are relevant to the industry. What are the analysts saying about your industry? About your company?
Focus on delivering results. In today’s competitive work environment, having the right skills is not always enough. Many employees make the mistake of thinking that reporting to work on time and doing what they are told is sufficient. However, the strongest performers – who are often the most highly valued employees – realize that they must use their skills to go beyond what is expected on a consistent basis. These employees strive for perfection no matter how small the assignment or task.
By maintaining current skills, not only will you be prepared to add value to your organization, but you will be better positioned to find a new job should you find yourself in that situation.
Already Lost Your Job?
Tips to get your work groove back!
Manage your stress. Losing a job is stressful, but becoming stressed out and desperate will not land you a new job. Make the time to manage your stress by exercising, meditating and eating a healthy diet. Desperate, stressed-out candidates never interview well.
Take the time for introspection. Don’t dwell on the fact that you lost your job. Take this time to think about your skills and talents as an individual. What did you like about your job? What energized you? What are your natural talents? Answering these questions will help you focus on the kind of job you should seek. Avoid targeting jobs where you have no relevant job experience.
Create a well-thought-out plan. Does your resume need updating? What job boards should you target? Who are your networking contacts? Are you willing to relocate? Are you willing to accept a demotion or a job with less responsibility? What is your pay range? Answer these questions to formulate your plan and stick to it with discipline. Finding a new job requires effort.
Don’t be discouraged by rejection. Sometimes the reason you didn’t get the job is because you were not the right fit. This is not personal. This is business. Instead, take rejection as an opportunity to grow. Perhaps you were not well prepared for the interview. Maybe you targeted the wrong company. Whatever the case, look for the lesson and move on!
Andie Radford is a Human Resources Manager with more than 17 years HR experience with various Fortune 500 companies. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Wayne State University, as well as an MBA from Atlanta University. She is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources.
Illustration by Jack Currier