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How to diversify your skills to compete in a skills shortage

Kate Allen, Executive Chair and Marketing Director, Allen Associates

Whether you’re fresh from full-time education or eyeing up the next rung on the career ladder, it will take more than a degree for you to land your dream job.

In an increasingly competitive climate, Candidates who boast a broad skill-set will be snapped up faster than an under-qualified job-seeker who should consider what they should do differently.

While a jack-of-all-trades is by no means a silver bullet for plugging the skills gap in an organisation, Employers today seek people who are prepared to embrace change; they need staff who can switch from task to task with ease, and step in to help the firm evolve in line with society. So, where to begin?

Work on your soft skills

Today, gaining a competitive edge in the jobs market requires Candidates to look beyond the technical, to the interpersonal. In fact, recent research suggests that 4 in 10 hiring managers are currently facing a shortage in general professional and soft business skills,  including efficiency, time-management, problem solving and communication skills.

Perhaps attributed to our increasing dependence on digital technology, a decline in these “soft skills” is a growing concern for business leaders eager to see their growth strategies materialise. As automation and artificial intelligence begin to encroach on a number of professions, Candidates with a knack for critical thinking and impressive communication skills have become hot commodities for businesses looking to combine the best of both worlds.

Make time for training

If your sights are set on career progression, there’s only so much time for chilling  out in front of Netflix when the day is done. Those eager to get ahead, will use at least some of their down-time to learn new skills, conquer new challenges, and generally focus on self-improvement.

As an example, you might choose to enroll in continuing education courses in career-related areas at your local college, or through an online provider. Perhaps there are skills you can teach yourself through free digital resources such as YouTube tutorials, or even educational blogs you can subscribe to.

Committing at least a few hours a week every week to expanding your skill-set will not only broaden your offering as a Candidate, but enhance your confidence, and inspire determination.

Try your hand at managing

In a fast-paced business environment, circumstances can change at the drop of a hat. When the going gets tough, Employers want to know that they can rely on their staff to remain calm and step up to the mark.

Often, undertaking leadership training or gaining experience in management can help even those with no intention to lead a team, by teaching them how to cope with pressure, and handle increased responsibility. Further to this, successful managers require excellent communication skills in order to delegate work effectively and achieve results, so don’t be too hasty to turn down the opportunity to manage a team, an intern or even a project by yourself: there’s a lot to be learned.

Master digital technology

It’s 2018: naturally, luddites are not looked on favourably by Employers seeking to future-proof their organisation. In fact, a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), published in April this year, questioned more than 1,400 businesses across the UK and found that 84% of firms think digital and IT skills are more important to their business than two years ago, with half (51%) saying these skills are significantly more important.

That isn’t to say every Employee must know how to bring consciousness to an AI chatbot or even be a self-professed “IT nerd”.

Today, there are certain technical skills that Candidates are simply expected to have, no matter the nature of the role or the industry. According to Cornell University, these can be summarised as the ‘ability to find, evaluate, utilise, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet’.

Faced with a shrinking talent pool, Employers are on the lookout for Candidates with a diverse set of skills to drive their business forward. Luckily, it’s never too late to learn.

Over the last 20 years, we have grown as a business to become one of the leading independent recruitment agencies in Oxfordshire, and in 2018 have opened our first London office, to service Clients in the capital.

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