Are your skills, knowledge and experience still relevant? A skills gap analysis can get you back on track.

by Cecilia Anthony Das

The UNESCO Education Digest in 2009 reported that, since 2005, East Asia and the Pacific recorded the largest share of global education students, now exceeding 30% of global enrolment and up from 14% in 1970.

According to the United Kingdom Higher Education Statistics Agency, in 2010, Malaysian students ranked eighth amongst the top 20 countries studying in the United Kingdom.

Qualified graduates are among the 46 million new workers joining the world’s labour force yearly as reported by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1998. The ILO also reported that, in 2010, unemployment globally stood at 205 million.

All these statistics lead to one important contention – that there is intense competition in the labour market. Hence, it is imperative to take positive measures towards re-inventing one’s skills, knowledge and expertise to remain relevant in the ever-changing labour market climate.

However, how often does one, in the working world actually ponder whether they will one day be irrelevant due to their skills becoming obsolete? Is it even thinkable?

The truth be told, how many could have foreseen social networking on the Internet being possible a mere five years ago! “Never” would be the probable answer.

If such thoughts have not crossed your mind in the past, then perhaps after reading this article, you might be prompted to think about it.

In your career life cycle, it is crucial from time to time to take an inventory of your skills, knowledge and experience and compare it against the requirements for the future. What may seem strange in today’s market may become a norm, or worse still, not required.

Hence, the sooner you embark on a skills gap analysis, the faster you can move ahead of the competition in the labour market.

The rapidly changing world is a plethora of opportunities and should be viewed positively because, without change, there will certainly not be room for innovation. The fastest and fittest are the ones able to compete and gain the most from what the job market has to offer.

So how does one create a skills gap analysis? First and foremost, you have to determine the critical skills that may be required by your current or desired position. View your position descriptions and think in hindsight how this would differ in the next 5 years or so.

The future demand for the position may be looming and may have been reported in materials related to the profession, which you should source and read to get an understanding of the changes that are likely to happen. You should also be aware of the changes that are taking place in the current industry and the world as a whole.

Having established the outlook of the position in five years to come, you should embark in developing a list of competencies required for the position. This should not be done based on what you believe should be the competencies but rather a benchmarking exercise for a similar position in other organisations and according to world standards.

This assessment of competitors in other organisations will assist in better equipping yourself for the competition lying ahead. It is a fallacy to think that one has no competitors!

Having established a list of skills, competencies and knowledge required, you will have a definite road map for training and improvement. It could range from going back to formal education or enrolling in ad-hoc training to further enhance your existing skills.

Acquisition of new qualifications in a formal manner not only adds to the list of credentials already in your possession, but most importantly, it opens avenues to network with people from varying backgrounds.

The old adage ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has withstood the test of time and holds true even to this day. Hence, networking opportunities will mean gaining new information, making oneself visible to others, getting invaluable feedback, career advice, and most importantly, refinement of one’s professional identities.

A formal education environment, especially one which involves coursework, gives one the avenue to work collaboratively with others where skills such as conflict resolution, teamwork and communication skills become of primary importance. One is able to assess oneself more objectively, and spend time improving on the skills one lacks.

Then you need to set your priorities. As Les Brown once said “Your goals are the road maps that guide you and show you what is possible for your life.

Do not delay any longer. Get your road map charted and executed for a successful career ahead!

Cecilia Anthony Das is the Postgraduate Coordinator for Curtin Sarawak’s School of Business and a lecturer in its Department of Accounting. She can be contacted at +60 85 443860 or by e-mail to cecilia.das@curtin.edu.my.

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