In a 2018 LinkedIn survey of 2,000 professionals, a behavior called “career sleepwalking” was coined. The symptom: Eschewing further education and skill development while a person is currently employed.
While “career sleepwalking” sounds like a bad professional place to be, it may equally seem just as easy to coast on the skills you’ve already acquired — particularly if you’ve been doing the same gig for a long time, and you’re good at what you do. But as you plan your financial goals and look ahead to retirement, it’s important to remember what the Great Recession taught us: Most jobs aren’t 100% secure, and golden parachutes aren’t offered to the masses.
So as you approach a full or working retirement, how do you keep yourself as job secure as you can? One school of thought is to maintain relevance in your chosen field, or even add to your existing set of skills to create a path for new opportunities. By taking the time for life-long learning, you are allowing yourself the potential to shift with the job market as it shifts around you.
So where should you start? Let’s take a look at five ways to keep your professional outlook strong and proactive.
1. Get certified. Professional certifications offer a shorter time investment in comparison to a full-blown degree. In some cases, a certification may be required for consideration in attaining a raise or landing an entirely new gig. And in other instances, a certification may add more value to the existing job you’re in. If you’re considering this option, the first step is to determine what provides you with the most return on investment. While some certifications are free, others can be a bit pricey. Either way, do your research to make sure you’re investing your time and money wisely.
Here are some steps to consider when determining if a certification program is right for you:
- Study the job listings you’re interested in. Make note of any certifications that are listed as required or even as “nice to have.”
- Use social media networking sites. Use networking sites, like LinkedIn, to browse profiles of professionals within an industry group. For example, if you’re considering a new career in real estate, search for a local or national realtor group on LinkedIn and see what kind of certifications the more successful members of that group have. Social media also provides an added bonus of seeking real-world feedback. If the group hosts discussions that are open to the public, consider reaching out and asking what types of certifications are the most valuable to have.
- Search online for professional groups or societies. Many of these will offer information on nationally recognized certification programs — some may even offer certification through their group.
- Ask your manager. If you’re happy in your current role but would like to advance your skill set or beef up your job security, consider asking your current employer about any continuing education programs they offer and what types of certifications they find most valuable. They may even offer a reimbursement program for certifications that are relevant to your job.
2. Use online tutorials. If you’re short on time, patience, or money, or you just need to get stronger at a certain skill, consider seeking out online tutorials. Some tutorials are less than 30 minutes long while others are offered in a series of one-hour classes. And just as they vary in length of time, tutorials also vary in amount of investment. For example, if you’d like to brush up on your knowledge in digital marketing, sales, or design, companies like Hubspot offer free online courses for individuals. YouTube offers a variety of free tutorials as well, but the quality may not always be what you were looking for.
Here’s a short list of sites that specialize in professional tutorials:
- Skillshare - Some courses are free, and others are part of their monthly subscription service. Tutorials range from short and sweet, like learning how to create a PowerPoint presentation, to building upon a basic-to-intermediate set of skills. Skillshare offers courses on creative, business, technology, and lifestyle topics.
- Lynda.com - Browse through tutorials that offer workshops in web development, business, photography, marketing, and more. Much like Skillshare, Lynda.com offers courses and tutorials that cover everything from beginner-to-advanced knowledge levels.
- Coursera - This site offers tuition-based online courses, certificate programs, and even full-fledged degree programs.
- Udemy - With 80,000 courses over a huge variety of topics, you can find a new skill to learn every month. Free courses are not available, but pricing starts from under $10 and up.
3. Go for an advanced degree. If graduate school is the next logical step for your career, but you’re turned off by the idea of accumulating student debt, consider looking into whether or not your current employer offers tuition reimbursement. It’s never too late to gain more knowledge, and if you can receive reimbursement, even better! If you’re on the fence about adding a second or advanced degree to your resume, consider networking with professionals who accomplished a higher degree in your field and ask if they felt that the investment was worth it.
4. Join a club. Speaking of networking, meeting with a like-minded network of people may help with broadening your scope of opportunities. If your core job skills are solid but you clam up at opportunities to present or lead workshops, consider joining a public speaking club, like Toastmasters International. Or, if you’re not sure if a group exists for your particular interest, you may want to check out MeetUp. This site provides information on local gatherings, clubs, lectures, workshops, and more for just about every professional and personal category you can think of.
5. Read, research, and experiment. A study from the book, Change Your Habits, Change Your Life, discovered that the majority of successful people interviewed used at least 30 minutes or more of their day to education or self-improvement through reading. If you prefer to quietly work on your own, consider carving out time each day or week to read more about what you feel shaky on, or want to learn more about. To get started, consider subscribing to a trade publication, email list or website that discusses your current or preferred field of work. Use your free time at home to play with the new ideas and skills you’ve been introduced to without any pressure to succeed or fail.
No matter which route you choose, strengthening existing professional skills or developing new ones provides more security toward the end of your career and offers a more flexible transition into retirement. Whether you want to continue your current career in a reduced capacity or launch an encore career, having an up-to-date skillset will pave the way.
Things to Consider:
- Create a plan of action to avoid sleepwalking through your career.
- Find the time to keep your career skills relevant. It may pay off in the long run.
- You can invest as little as 30 minutes a day or seek an advanced degree, but first consider all of your available resources.
Websites mentioned are neither owned or controlled by Transamerica or any affiliated company. Web addresses are provided as a courtesy and are neither endorsed or reviewed by any of the Transamerica Companies. You should consider all sources of reliable information available before making any financial decision.