Upskilling vs. Reskilling: How to Strategize for Changing Skillsets

Upskilling and reskilling are essential strategies for both employees and employers to combat the impending skills shortage.

In a rapidly evolving tech landscape, the World Economic Forum projects that by 2025, 50% of employees will require reskilling due to the integration of new technologies. Within the next five years, over two-thirds of today's crucial job skills will be replaced. And one third of the vital skills in 2025 will encompass technology proficiencies that are currently overlooked in job requirements. To tackle this shift, upskilling and reskilling have emerged as essential strategies for both employees and employers to combat the impending skills shortage.

Upskilling: Progress in Your Current Role

Upskilling has emerged as a potent catalyst for career advancement and sustained success. This strategic approach involves strengthening and expanding one's existing skillset, equipping professionals to remain competitive and make more impactful contributions to their organizations. The tech landscape is defined by new technologies and paradigms, making upskilling crucial when the following scenarios come into play:

Career Advancement within the Same Domain:

Upskilling is a strategic maneuver for individuals who are aiming to ascend the career ladder while staying within their current domain, for example: from business analyst to project manager. As technology evolves, roles become multifaceted, demanding a broader skillset to excel. By acquiring new technical proficiencies and embracing emerging trends, tech professionals can position themselves as indispensable assets to their teams and organizations.

Deepening Understanding of New Tools and Techniques:

In the ever-evolving tech terrain, staying relevant means continually adapting to novel tools and techniques. Upskilling equips professionals with the capabilities to comprehend and harness these new technologies effectively. This might look like a software developer taking cloud computing training to enhance their design skills and build better applications, or a graphic designer taking UX/UI design training to expand their expertise and ability to create user-friendly interfaces. By staying ahead of the curve, individuals not only enhance their problem-solving prowess but also contribute to the innovation that propels their field forward.

Aspiring to Take on Higher Responsibilities and Leadership Roles:

As technology-driven functions grow in complexity, leadership roles demand a nuanced blend of technical acumen and managerial finesse. Upskilling empowers tech professionals to assume leadership positions with confidence. By cultivating a broader skill repertoire and demonstrating the capacity to adapt, individuals can position themselves as future leaders capable of steering their teams through the challenges and opportunities of the digital age.

In tech, upskilling isn't merely a matter of staying current—it's a strategic imperative that fuels progress, innovation, and personal growth. By embracing the continuous pursuit of knowledge and mastery, tech professionals can elevate their careers to new heights while propelling their organizations forward.

Reskilling: Navigating New Opportunities

Reskilling, meanwhile, is more useful for professionals seeking to chart new career trajectories. Unlike upskilling, which aims to enhance existing skillsets, reskilling involves a radical departure—a deliberate transition into an entirely new skill domain. This strategic pivot becomes imperative when the following scenarios arise:

Replacing Outdated Skills or Technologies:

The rapid pace of technological advancement often renders once-crucial skills obsolete. Professionals who find their skillsets no longer aligned with the demands of the industry are faced with a choice—fall behind or embark on a reskilling journey. This process empowers individuals to shed their outdated competencies and acquire new ones, ensuring they remain relevant in a tech landscape perpetually in flux.

Navigating Industry Disruptions:

Industries within the tech sphere are no strangers to disruptive shifts brought about by new paradigms, emerging technologies, or shifts in consumer behavior. Cryptocurrency and AI are two recent examples that have already transformed industry. In the midst of these advancements, reskilling offers a lifeline. It empowers professionals to navigate through upheavals and explore new avenues and roles that weren’t already part of the plan.

Exploring Opportunities Beyond Current Skill Domains:

Reskilling is not solely a response to necessity—it is also a conscious choice to seek out new horizons. The allure of the tech industry's multifaceted landscape often inspires professionals from unrelated domains to make a career leap. Reskilling provides a structured pathway to facilitate this transition, enabling individuals to leverage their passions and curiosity to try something new.

Reskilling isn't merely a solution; it's a an opportunity for learning and growth. By acknowledging outdated skills, embracing new competencies, and navigating uncharted waters, tech professionals can redefine themselves, their careers, and their impact on a field characterized by perpetual innovation. Reskilling isn't just about adapting—it's about thriving in an environment where change is the only constant.

Including Soft Skills in the Upskilling/Reskilling Process

It’s clear that hard skills — either leveling up or learning something entirely new — are relevant when considering either upskilling or reskilling to advance your career. That said, soft skills are also important to consider when strategizing how to advance your knowledge.

While upskilling predominantly focuses on hard skills, effective communication, teamwork, time management, and problem-solving complement technical proficiency. Soft skills are particularly essential for reskilling, however, because they play a crucial role in successfully adapting to new roles, industries, and job environments.

  1. Effective Communication: Reskilling often involves entering unfamiliar territory where effective communication is key. Soft skills such as active listening, clear articulation, and the ability to explain complex concepts can help individuals bridge gaps in understanding and collaborate more efficiently with colleagues and supervisors.
  2. Adaptability: Reskilling involves embracing change and learning new ways of doing things. Soft skills like adaptability and flexibility are vital in handling the uncertainties and challenges that come with acquiring new skills and entering new domains.
  3. Collaboration: In a new role or industry, individuals need to work with new teams and stakeholders. Collaborative soft skills, such as teamwork, empathy, and conflict resolution, facilitate positive working relationships and contribute to a harmonious work environment.
  4. Problem-Solving: Reskilling often requires tackling unfamiliar problems and finding innovative solutions. Soft skills like critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving help individuals approach challenges with a fresh perspective and develop effective strategies.

In essence, soft skills complement technical competencies acquired during reskilling. They help individuals not only transition smoothly into new roles but also excel and make meaningful contributions once they are there. Reskilling isn't just about acquiring new knowledge; it's about embodying a holistic skillset that encompasses both technical expertise and the ability to navigate human interactions and challenges effectively.

Check out the Merit Blog where we discuss the soft skills most sought after for tech roles.

In an era marked by the transformative force of technologies like AI, machine learning, and automation, the path to staying relevant and thriving in the professional landscape is paved with continuous upskilling and reskilling. As industries reshape under the influence of these innovations, individuals are presented with unprecedented opportunities to redefine their professional future:

Read about New Skillsets:

To remain ahead of the curve, it's essential to be vigilant about emerging technologies and shifts in industry trends. A proactive approach involves staying informed through newsletters and blogs focused on the industry, or attending industry conferences and webinars when you have the opportunity to do so. (Some of our favorites include Houck’s Newsletter, Everything Marketplaces, Venture Reflections, and Lenny’s Newsletter.) These touchpoints allow you to develop a broader understanding of the trajectory of the field, therefore enabling you to anticipate in-demand skills and strategize your upskilling and reskilling efforts.

Join a Community:

Digital communities are an accessible way to connect with others in the industry about challenges, observations, and opportunities. Platforms like Merit, apps like Fishbowl, or forums like Techist are great places to get conversations going. Whether you're upskilling to enhance your current role or reskilling for a fresh start, these platforms democratize knowledge and empower individuals from all walks of life.

Take a Course:

The foundation of successful upskilling and reskilling lies in adopting a lifelong learning mindset. Embrace curiosity as a driving force and recognize that learning is a continuous journey, not a destination. Exponent, CUNY Tech Prep, Juno College, Rithm School, and Career Foundry are just a few examples of bootcamps and technical training programs which offer mid-career educational opportunities tailored towards finding your groove in tech. Professionals who remain open to ongoing education are better equipped to adapt to change, seize opportunities, and remain versatile in a landscape where what you know today might be outdated tomorrow.

In a world where change is the only constant, mastering the art of upskilling and reskilling becomes an essential cornerstone of personal and professional growth. These strategies not only offer the means to adapt but also hold the key to unlocking new horizons. The journey may present challenges, but the rewards are substantial for those willing to embrace change and commit to continuous learning. As industries evolve, those who champion upskilling and reskilling emerge as the trailblazers, shaping the future of technology and making meaningful contributions along the way.

Connect with a Merit mentor to learn about new skillsets or opportunities within tech:

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