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Intimidated by the Next Normal? Reskill Yourself

Take a Remote By Design Approach and Build a Foundation for Success

Jitin Agarwal

VP, Enterprise Products, EPAM
Blog
  • Remote By Design

The post-pandemic future is uncertain, but one thing’s for sure: In the next normal, our skills will be tested. Literally. In a previous post, we discussed creating sustainable productivity… but what about the sustainability of skills? Of your skills?

It’s time to think about what the future will mean for you and your capabilities. One of the biggest challenges of the Great Recession of 2008 was the end of skilled labor jobs in manufacturing and production, and a pivot to gig work in the services sector. The COVID-19 era has similarly shaken up the economy. This post will help you rethink your skill set, so as the next normal arrives, you’ll be ready to ace this (admittedly intimidating) test.

Tools and Technologies. Which skills will be most necessary in the future? Begin answering this question with the latest set of tools and technologies at your disposal. It’s this very same Remote By Design™ tech that will enable you and organizations to operate in a dedicated (or hybrid) work-from-home mode.

Devote time and energy to understanding the collaboration platforms of the next normal. Think hard about the collaboration tech your organization uses daily: Do you truly know how to take advantage of it, end-to-end? Are you schooled in the intricacies of Zoom’s privacy settings? Do you know how to alter the background on video calls to change things up a little? Have you recorded important Teams conversations to ensure you can share with others? Explored the nuances of Dropbox or Box for file collaboration? Are you still a little intimidated by the digital post-it notes on Miro or Mural, or do you not know these systems? If so, I highly recommend reading articles or taking tutorials to get the most out of all of these remote collaboration tools— Remote By Design organizations live by them and on them.

Consider, too, the tools designed to keep you connected with other professionals and peers outside your organization. When was the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile? Shared a post? Are you there, regularly, engaging in conversation, posting articles, showing your digital business community that you’re alive and thinking? Keeping up with your professional network and reinvigorating those long-lost connections are big parts of successfully swimming into the future. You never know when a tip from an old colleague can lead to big new opportunities.

Methodologies and Mindsets. In a long-term Remote By Design world, what happens online tends to become your corporate reality. Therefore, you must develop the right mindset for creating your virtual “presence”—whether it’s coaching yourself to be more assertive in emails or ensuring that you’re actively engaged in digital conversations. Maybe instead of waiting to be called on, make sure you use the “raise your hand” feature.

Note: You’ll likely have to rethink your approach to your virtual presence on a regular basis (context online doesn’t sit still online). What new skills can make you more successful in your current role? How will your role and position pivot and change as a result of the COVID-19 era market shifts? What market pivots are bringing new approaches and methodologies to your organization? Anticipate these changes so you can plan how you are going to contribute towards them.  

Capabilities and Competencies. As your industry, company and role shift, what new skills should you adopt? Do the research. Find out what analysts and experts in the market are saying about the pending changes in your industry and role. Consider talking to career coaches and other professionals who can lend you the wisdom of their experience and the benefit of an objective, third-party opinion.

You should also look at online educational and training resources, whether it’s free training like Khan Academy or industry-based courses like Lynda.com. Explore further competency training in your profession and functional training from trade organizations or others focused on your industry or function. Paid training and certifications might also be worth your time and resource investment. Look at vendor and technology training for new capabilities to further advance your skills agenda. 

Leaders and Laggards. Examine the leaders in the market, whether it’s the companies in your industry or the luminaries in your profession. Read their books, or better yet, book-length profiles written by professional journalists. Understand what drives their success by paying close attention to the articles documenting their most recent successes. Figure out what precipitated their win in the market, and then methodically adopt those attributes, skills and capabilities of the leaders that fit your model and needs.

Augment your skill set by modeling it after the most successful players in the market. There’s nothing wrong with learning from the success of others and emulating it. On the flip side, investigate what has caused challenges for less successful players. Learning about pitfalls will help you avoid stepping into these very same pits. Often, the best learning experiences are those derived from mistakes made—learn from others, before you make your own.

Mastery and Mentoring. Reskilling yourself is not just about building your capabilities, it’s also about moving forward confidently in the market. There’s no better way to display your mastery and develop your new capabilities than to teach others who may be struggling. Your ability to empathize with them will ensure you “know” what they’re feeling and enable you to help them. The same works for mentoring. Take on the mantle of robed wise one for younger peers, or those looking to expand their experience and skill set into your area of expertise. The ability to share your insights with these colleagues not only gives you exposure to more data in your industry or function—it helps you and your mentee gain insights from the combined and collective experience and wisdom.

Passing the reskilling test will require a multi-faceted approach and a significant investment of your time, effort and energy. But it’s worth it because the benefits are commensurately massive. The more you put in to sharpening your skills for the next normal, the more strongly you’ll be positioned to take advantage of if moving forward. Got it? Now, skill up!

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