You need to constantly re-invent your skill setIt is true.  Finding a job today is not easy.  As pointed out in yesterday’s Snelling Blog, we no longer live in a task-oriented world.  We live in a rapidly changing technological world, where skills sets have to evolve quickly. Determination and good physical health are not enough anymore to guarantee you full-time employment.

Think about it. If you are highlighting experience in “10-key operation”, “shorthand”, or “MS-DOS” on your resume then you are probably part of the skills gap.

Yes, part of the problem lies with the employers – many of whom have stringent hiring requirements, want to pay sub-par wages, and do not want to invest in any type of training for fear that you will leave and take your knowledge with you.

However, as an employee you also need to manage your expectations and become much more proactive in the development of your professional life –no matter what you chose to do.

Problem-Solving Skills

In a recent Deloitte study, employers reported that the #1 skills deficiency in the candidate pool is problem-solving skills. A lack of communication and analytical skills are also at the top of the list.  New management methodologies are today requiring all workers be prepared to solve problems and perhaps interact with customers.  This applies to all job tiers – from hotel housekeeping staff who might be expected to help a guest access the hotel’s wireless network to automotive factory workers who might have to troubleshoot a quality control issue on the assembly line.

Math and Science

Every single job today – regardless of the pay rate – requires some level of math knowledge and many require basic science skills to succeed.   For example, welding is no longer the “welding” of yesterday’s shop class.  Today, it is necessary to know the “science behind welding”, so that manufacturers can meet the new military and industry standards.  According to Traci Tapani, CEO of Wyoming Machines, it is not enough to simply make beautiful welds, you must  understand metallurgy, modern cleaning and brushing techniques, how different gases, pressures and temperatures need to be combined and be able to read and understand different design drawings.

Welding is not the only occupation that is slowly turning into a STEM – requiring knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math – profession.  Factory workers today routinely operate lasers, robotics and computer numeric-control tools.  They are expected to calibrate measurements to 1/10,000 of an inch, be able to read computer-aided design plans, work in teams, be fully computer-literate, and work with less supervision than in the past.

Middle-class jobs are being redefined.  In order to make a comfortable wage, you are going to need a number of higher level skillsets. Most jobs, even if they are on a factory floor will require either industry certification, an associate’s degree or some type of post-high school training.  In addition, the days of knowing how to do one thing very, very well are over.  Workers are having to develop a large number of skills that have to be upgraded and enhanced several times during a 40+ year career.

Jobs are No Longer Static

Sewing machine operators, postal workers, typists, file clerks, even desktop publishers are occupations that are dying or are no longer with us.  Technologies, trends and customer preferences change quickly and (in order to survive) companies have to adapt to those changes. So for every file clerk or shelf stocker who has lost a job, a social media strategist or web designer has landed one.  Today’s workers (unlike their parents or grandparents) must be willing to not only update their skills but also be willing to change careers.

Managing your expectations and being proactive is key.  It is true that employers are not going to be able to recruit and retain top-tier talent with rock-bottom wages.  However, you as a job seeker, have to understand that lower-level, task-oriented skills are not going to land you lucrative well-paying jobs. Scary as it may sound, you are going to have to embrace change and constantly look for more opportunities to learn and grow.

If you are currently employed, ask yourself if there is a skill that you could learn that would make you more effective in doing your job.  Is there a skill you could learn that would help you cross-train to handle other peoples’ jobs (in case of sickness or vacation)?  If in-house training is not available, visit with your HR department to find out if tuition reimbursement is available.

If you are currently looking for a job, look for any opportunity to learn a new skill.  This does not mean signing up for pricey workshops…look for less expensive (perhaps online) courses that you can take.  If you are looking to enhance your knowledge, look to YouTube.  For example, there are hundreds of tutorials on the various Adobe products – from general overviews to action-specific step-by-step instructions.

In addition, even though it might sound redundant….do not count out volunteering.  This can help with problem-solving, leadership and communication skills.  Volunteers have to “do” more with less, and there is no greater environment to learn how to work through issues and design creative solutions than when you try to figure out how to build a house, beautify a city park or provide assistance during a crisis with limited, donated, mismatched resources.

By Christiane Soto,

NOTE:  A full-color, downloadable PDF is available.