Plus One: What you’ve got won’t be enough.

Here’s one of the most absolute and unequivocal statements I’ll ever make as your career coach.

Whatever your field or occupation, your current skill sets and eductionl attainment levels will not carry you through to the end of your career. OK, if you’ve filed your retirement papers already, never mind. Everybody else: pay attention.

Plainly, if you’re going to play the cards in your hand right now, you’re most likely in for a fall. And if you’re not convinced by the naked truth of this statement, then consider this. Twenty-five percent – maybe more – of all jobs in America in 2025 do not exist today. That’s to say nothing about countless more that, while already here, will require vastly updated skills and/or knowledge.

The sum and substance of this observation points to one simple course of action, namely,  continuously growing your credentials: degrees (advanced degrees), certificates, internships, independent study, independent skills development, on-the-job training, professional workshops. And do not stop.

Over two decades as an independent career coach, one of my most emphatic declarations has been that the primary activity in which adults must engage in the 21st century is learning. That statement has gone from prescience to hindsight, figuratively in the blink of an eye, but the numbers of people who have acted on this – woefully few – is why I keep bringing it up. So let’s look at it – on both the macro and micro levels.

From 30,000 feet, we see a situation, hardly an issue at the beginning of the millennium, that’s become the 800-pound gorilla: open jobs. This is not new, but let’s make sure we know exactly what we’re talking about. An open job, defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is one that an employer would fill immediately – if the candidate with all the right skills showed up. Easy enough, but the problem is that employers are being overly demanding – foolishly stubborn, if you ask me – in expecting candidates with all – repeat, ALL – the qualifications the job requires. Not some or most of the qualifications: all of them.

Why is that foolish? Two answers. One, American companies remain unwilling to train; we have the lowest apprenticeship rate among advanced industrialized economies. Two, with 6.6 million unemployed people and 5.9 million open jobs, isn’t there something wrong with that picture? That ratio used to be 5:1; now it’s almost dead even. On one side of the street you have employers with gaping holes; on the other side, candidates ready to fill them. Well?

Is this the immovable object versus the irresistible force? It could be, but since employers are still calling the shots, there’s only one thing to do: acquire those skills as quickly as you can. It’s the only way you’re going to move that immovable object.

Happily, it’s not as daunting a task as you think. In many cases, a course or two at your community college or continuing education division of your local university will do it. Far-fetched? Out of reach? Think again.

A report in Inquiries Journal (for the social sciences, arts, and humanities) projected that “college entry  by adult learners (25 and older) [with an extended gap since completing high school] is expected to increase by up to 28 percent by 2019.” In other words, it’s already happening.

On a micro level, here are some examples. Look at nursing and other front-line care-giving occupations. Been in a hospital lately? When’s the last time you saw a nurse or technologist show up at a bedside without some pretty powerful point-of-care technology on wheels? That’s a whole skill set in and of itself, all subsumed into traditional roles.

Now look at data scientist jobs, a much newer occupation category, growing in huge spurts; next year there will likely be four million jobs in or related to data science, but the whole category is so new that the BLS still doesn’t track specific hiring needs. Related to that, there’s not enough supply to meet the demand for information security analysts, yet employers – who still don’t fully know what they’re looking for – are being picky. But take a course or two, and you start to look really good.

Same for digital marketing, E-commerce, operations, logistics, artificial intelligence, and almost everything else, for that matter.

So if you see this as too much or more than you want to do, keep in mind what Winston Churchill said: “The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Your choice.

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