I’m ready for a new career. How do I upskill?

If you are looking to change careers, you may need to upskill by completing new qualifications – that’s a given. But in today’s competitive workforce where it’s not uncommon for employers to receive over one hundred applications for a job all with the same qualifications, how do you stand out from the pack and land the position ahead of the rest? Here we answer that question to help you transition to your new career.

We asked career change expert Owen Joyce from Ascent Learning, how to upskill and find a new career.

How do I stand out from the pack and show employers that I’ve got what it takes?
Workplaces where managers like to crack the whip to get employees to do things are becoming fewer and fewer. Today, leadership is about bringing people along and syncing them up with the company’s mission statement. As a result, Joyce says employers are increasingly looking for employees with a strong grasp on 'soft skills' such as communication and emotional intelligence.

“Communication and emotional intelligence allow workers to be able to function well across a range of departments and get on well with their co-workers. These employees are usually more successful in managing people, in conflict resolution and in working in team environments,” Joyce says.

In some cases, employees with these skills may be considered even more valuable to the company than people with technical skills, he advises.

One example might be in an IT department, Joyce explains: “One worker who is a great communicator and asks all the right questions might not have as honed a technical capability as another worker, but since that person is a better communicator they are given a lot more airtime at meetings and become the sort of person you are more likely to call on when things go wrong.”

To meet these changing workplace demands, Joyce’s company, Ascent Learning, provides diploma and degree courses that equip students with both the technical skills and soft skills to help them impress employers.

“It’s important to ask, what are employers looking for? And the answer is: that you are flexible, you have good ideas, you are creative, you have good soft skills and if we can instill that in people it actually does change their lives and it does give them the boost they need in their new career,” he says.

How are employers evaluating these soft skills in prospective employees?
There are different ways employers are assessing prospective employees for these soft skills. Mostly it is through interview discussions where employers are trying to find out how people have handled certain challenges, but some companies also use psychometric testing that involves a combination of aptitude and personality testing, explains Joyce.

Joyce says Ascent Learning uses an innovative free career quiz and personality assessment tool that can be accessed on the Ascent Learning website as a way to help people gauge what kind of course might best suit their personality. 

The personality assessment provides prospective students with an eight page report that helps them determine which of the 16 character types they have and then makes a recommendation as to what kind of career might suit their personality type.

For example, two of the main personality types are analysers and promotors.

Personality type 1: If you are an analyser you may like collecting data, taking down numbers and asking a lot of questions.

Personality type 2: If you are a promoter you might not be as interested in collecting data, but more interested in talking and telling people things as well as creating and thinking out loud.

These two differing personality types may fare better in different types of careers.

According to Joyce, as well as helping students determine what kind of career path will match their personality type, knowing what their innate personality strengths are gives them the extra confidence to answer employer questions when they are eventually interviewed.

“We had a lady who did our personality test recently and when it came down to the employer asking how she would react under certain circumstances, she had the extra confidence she needed to answer those questions straight away, because she knew herself that little bit better,” says Joyce.

How can it be an advantage being older and upskilling for a career change?
While some older jobseekers looking to change careers can lose confidence because they think employers might not want them, they should know that there are plenty of jobs where having more life experience is actually a big advantage, says Joyce.

Topping the list are leadership and management positions where having experience managing people is highly regarded, as well as positions where counselling or mentoring others are central to the role.

“Take counselling for example. If someone was going through a tough time with substance abuse, or a relationship breakdown, they don’t necessarily want a 20-year-old who doesn’t have a great deal of life experience to help them. They want someone who as well as having the qualification has lived and can draw on their own life experience to help find a path forward,” he says. 

All Ascent Learning courses are designed for the mature adult student who is serious about making a fresh new start or extending their skillset to start a new career. Students can study either full-time or part-time.

Ascent offers diploma or degree courses in a range of different subjects including Business, Accounting, Graphic Design, Leadership and Management, Counselling, Community Services, Hospitality, Human Resources, Early Childhood Education, Retail Management and more.

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Learning new skills can give you the essential leg-up in today's job market

Many of these courses such as the Diploma of Leadership and Management, Diploma of Counselling and Diploma of Community Services courses allow older career changers to tap into their bank of experience and apply this to their new career.

There are also courses such as the Diploma of Beauty Therapy or Diploma of Business that provide career changers with the skills they need to one day set up their own business – something many have long dreamed about.

Joyce’s top 4 tips to upskilling and finding a new job

1. Trust your instincts
If you’re considering enrolling in study or looking to change jobs, first consider how you feel about the move. It’s natural to feel uneasy about change, especially if you’ve been in the same job or unemployed for some time, but there should be an underlying feeling of excitement in your new plan.

“A lot of people tend to over-analyse the move. But if something feels right then you should do it and take the first step,” Joyce advises.

But if the time isn’t quite right for study, Joyce recommends continuing with activities that will one day help you achieve your goal. For example, you can phone up or visit a recruitment agency and get on their register to start the process.

“Every networking event you attend and everything you can do to get the process started will add something to the package that will bring you to your next role,” he says.

2. Stay ahead of job trends
The workforce is constantly evolving as demand for goods and services changes and new technologies hit the market. So it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the changing trends and where the demand lies.

A recent government report predicts the sectors that will see the most projected growth by 2018 as being healthcare, education and training, retail, professional and scientific services, construction, accommodation and food services, public administration and safety and administration.

Joyce says some industries are increasingly seeing more automation, such as the bookkeeping industry, as new software is developed that makes accounting and keeping records easier. On the other hand industries like hospitality still require people at the point of contact with others to meet and greet others.

“Ascent Learning refers to the government Job Outlook data regularly and can talk you through the current trends in the workplace to help you make the right choice for you,” he says.

3. Speak to a career adviser
Going it alone without the information shows courage and initiative but it’s always a good idea to bounce ideas off others and soak up as much information as you can, explains Joyce.

Talking to a career adviser can help you gain valuable perspective on where you’ve come from and where you’re headed to help point you in the right direction.

Career advisers can help you update your resume, help you arrange finance, provide you with information about what you’re likely to be studying when you upskill and even what you may be able to claim as recognition for prior learning. “Your motivation is a key talking point for Ascent’s career advisers,” says Joyce.

“At Ascent Learning our career advisers like to have a lengthy conversation about what people’s motivations are and discuss any obstacles. Then we can offer advice that will help them reach the most successful outcome for them,” Joyce says.

4. Be flexible about what you need to do to achieve your goal
Joyce cautions about being in so much of a hurry that you’re not willing to take the time and effort to obtain the skills you need. “Some people don’t want to do the qualifications, they just want the job. Unfortunately that kind of strategy doesn’t work because if you’re going to be applying for a job that you don’t have the relevant experience in, it’s going to put your application to the bottom of the pile,” he explains.

Instead, Joyce recommends being flexible and open-minded and that means keeping your expectations realistic about the skills you will need to obtain. After all, studying a new course can be the first transformative step to achieving your end goal.

To find out how Ascent Learning can help you upskill and change careers, or to try the free personality test in the Ascent Learning Career Success Academy, log onto www.ascentlearning.com.au. To speak to a career adviser about taking the first step to change your career call 1300 944 246.

Are you considering a career change? Let us know in the comments section below.

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