You’ll Need an Employability Portfolio for Continuous Learning and Earning

December 16, 2019 Chris Norton

You’ll Need an Employability Portfolio for Continuous Learning and Earning

As careers demand continuous learning, professionals will manage their employability by planning, executing and seeking feedback on their skill needs.

Never has the adage ‘past performance is no guarantee of future results’ been more applicable to our working lives than today. This disclaimer advises against assumption and complacency. Its applicability comes from the reality that what is learned on campus no longer supports someone across a career. Employability now demands open-ended upskilling and continuous learning not to get ahead, but just to keep pace. 

Today’s rewarding career entails managing an employability portfolio of your skills, aggressively showcasing the right skills, or investing in learning new ones, as job and career markets demand. 

Remaining employable in the current marketplace means workers, in addition to being professionals, must continue as learners throughout their careers. While it’s been true for some time that people won’t work at a single organization across a career, the truth is they likely won’t work a single career either. The need to upskill on a routine basis thanks to a job, career or workplace change occurring every few years is the new reality. 

For the student, this means lifelong learning and for higher ed institutions, the name embraced for this new dynamic is the 60-year curriculum. It is an approach that addresses the evolving labor market by committing to learning and teaching, respectively, for the entire length of a career.

Managing one’s employability portfolio means workers will have to keep an eye on market conditions and discern where the marketplace is heading. From there, they will have to consider how their skills and interests may align with those conditions. This information is critical in determining where they find themselves skills sufficient or where they find themselves skills deficient and in need of investing in upskilling or reskilling. 

Increasingly, the move requires one to invest in learning. Research by McKinsey Global Institute suggests that nearly one-tenth of jobs by 2030 will be ones that barely or do not exist today. How can workers prepare for such upheaval? One key approach to managing employability will be to think long-term and stack skills that ensure opportunities will always be present to grow a career.

The competitive workforce is no place to be caught flat-footed. Diversifying the skills you carry with you is critical, focusing on essential soft skills like creative thinking, problem-solving, and communication as base investments (your S&P 500) while taking on promising new offers, like data analysis. At the same time, society can collectively divest from skills such as bookkeeping as it, like returns on Sears stock, continues to diminish.

Research by McKinsey Global Institute suggests that nearly one-tenth of jobs by 2030 will be ones that barely or do not exist today. How can workers prepare for such upheaval? One key approach will be to think long-term and stack skills that ensure opportunities will always be present.

Adding job duties to fulfill emerging workforce needs requires a new focus on skills for those already in the workforce and new majors for those still in or starting college. Investing in data analysis, for example, appears to be a wise long-term investment. The digital revolution and looming artificial intelligence takeover, which could affect work in essentially every occupational group (according to Brookings Institution), means organizations are drowning in data and need employees with the ability to read, interpret and make predictions based on that data. Demand for this skill will outpace supply until graduates or upskillers catch up, which will be a lucrative dividend for those who possess it. 

Part of the 60-year curriculum will also demand new signals regarding learning and skill proficiency. Credential Engine, a credential transparency nonprofit, undertook a study and counted more than 738,000 different credentials awarded by colleges and other organizations addressing the proficiency question. Workers in the restructuring marketplace need a fresh perspective to navigate their current and long-term employability and how credentials will apply. 

The market, as always, will decide where the opportunities are and what learning will be winners and what learning will be losers. Those who see the most success will be proactive in cultivating their skill set accordingly, deciding what to do and when to do it based on market indicators, with a watchful eye on the newest developments on the horizon.

As careers demand continuous learning, professionals will manage their employability by planning, executing and seeking feedback on their skill needs. When to act, to be aggressive or conservative, what expectations come in return for their investment (a raise, new job, new career) are all factors that will dictate where workers devote their greatest resources: themselves and their time. 

Don’t limit who you could be in the future. Future-proofing a career carries the ultimate goal of preserving and generating employability. Whether entry-level or seasoned professional, the time to take ownership of your employability is now. Start managing your employability portfolio and remember, though all investments involve risk, the inherent risk in not acting on your career could prove catastrophic as you’re left behind in a bull market.

Happy investing!

About the Author

Chris Norton

Chris Norton is president at The Washington Center. Following a 25-year career on Wall Street, Norton rededicated himself to enhancing secondary and higher education access and performance. He has served on boards of various charitable organizations, academic institutions and private companies over the past decade, regularly serving in leadership roles, while contributing to fundraising efforts.

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