Upskilling: The Employee Side

As we all know, modern work is dynamic. Neither the where, the when, nor the how are immune to the shifts. For anyone looking for work, changing industries or just hoping to advance, regardless of education, background, industry experience or skillset—the *how—*must be refreshed regularly. If you’re in the process of reigniting your career or making a change, you may be wondering how some of the skills and experiences you’ve built up over time can serve you in your next phase and how to enhance them. Amava is here to help. We’ve done the research and dug deeper by talking with an expert who regularly works with people making career transitions.

Meet Lauren Francis, the President and founder of Mulberry Talent Partners, in Portland, Oregon.

Q: What are the biggest challenges for people who are looking to make a change or restart a career?

A: It’s very individual, of course, but I have seen trends. One is that people think they know what they want to do next, but they don’t always consider what skills will be required or what the new position will actually entail. For example, people want to leave a large company where they’ve been for years and join a small company, but they aren’t quite aware of what they don’t know about how the new situation will play out because their careers have been so defined that they haven’t thought about how things will function at a different entity. Likely, they’ll need to upskill.

Q: How do you counsel people to avoid this kind of scenario?

A: What I do with candidates who want change is to help them think through what they want to do and what skills they enjoy practicing and perfecting. I try to give them the words, the confidence and the ways that may be available for them to transition. What I mean is that the process is not a straight line. You don’t go right to trying for jobs that are listed somewhere. It’s a process of networking, having conversations, finding the right resume counselor and not only thinking about the skills you have, but those you can develop and that you might enjoy and excel at using. The thing about change is there’s a lot behind the transaction.

Q: So, you don’t advise that people simply try to match their existing skills to what they see on job boards?

A: Not immediately. I think upskilling needs to start with conversations. With colleagues, friends, and recruiters. In our automated world everyone is trying to avoid meeting people and people don’t always know how to present themselves. They have a really hard time if they haven’t looked for jobs often. They may not know how to reflect their backgrounds in a resume that resonates with the reader. People aren’t used to the process of getting out there and selling themselves, and ironically, these are some of the most transferable skills there are: the ability to communicate, relate and move a conversation along. They are valuable and lasting and can be showcased before anything formal happens.

Q: Can you comment on the “helpful hints” that are often written about when it comes to skills translation or upskilling? Do courses help?

A: Retraining courses or modules? Do employers place value on these when hiring? Yes, I think they do, but of course a candidate has to be careful to tie the course closely to the desired position.

Q: What about the old “target your resume” adage?

A: From the inside, I can tell you that recruiters care where you’ve worked, for how long and in what role. If they can’t see it easily and figure out why you make sense in the position, they pass. They don’t always pick up the phone and talk to people and meet them where they are. So, when you spruce up your resume, there is work to do making people understand what you are capable of and why your skills and experience match what they are looking for.

Q: What do you think about part-time jobs, contract jobs and volunteering as avenues for upskilling?

A: Anything that gets someone out instead of sitting at home and sending out resumes is valuable. Get out there. Work part-time if you can find something you enjoy. Volunteer. Even if you have to do the job for free, it’s probably still worth your time so you can learn some new skills and sharpen your goals. Contract work is my favorite. A lot of people want flexibility and contract work is the greatest way to take skills and apply them differently. It helps you stay nimble in terms of technology and adding value.

Mulberry Talent Partners was established in 2017 by Lauren Francis. Lauren possesses over 25 years of experience in the placement and recruitment industry. She is the founder/former CEO of Town & Country Resources, which she grew into the most successful domestic staffing firm in the US prior to selling the company in 2004.

Explore Related