Skill stacking can come in handy when most students are required to take up Work Integrated Learning (WIL).
Skill stacking can come in handy when most students are required to take up Work Integrated Learning (WIL).

Develop your skills if you want a career change in 2021

By MaryAnne Isaac Time of article published Nov 13, 2020

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With no doubt, the pandemic has caused quite a disruption for many South Africans this year. However, it has also helped us to pause and evaluate our lives and career choices.

“If lockdown shows you are not on the right career path, it is crucial that you investigate your options thoroughly before making a move. Make sure you have a strategy in place and don’t make rash decisions, no matter how certain you are that your current path is not for you,” said Dr Gillian Mooney, the dean of academic development and support at The Independent Institute of Education.

“And remember that you don’t necessarily have to throw the skills and experience you have already acquired to the wayside to pursue an entirely new direction, because you can build upon that which you’ve already achieved, by skill stacking.”

According to Dr Mooney, skill stacking is developing several skills that are often unrelated yet compliment each other when combined. This is increasingly gaining traction in the world of work, where employers need critical thinkers and problem-solvers who can apply themselves broadly.

Instead of focusing one’s efforts on becoming singularly great at one specific skill or task, one strives to become proficient at a few related skills that can be woven together into a wider skill set.

Skill stacking can come in handy when most students are required to take up Work Integrated Learning (WIL) practicals. Students attain and sharpen skills needed in their industries of study and work in a genuine business setting while experiencing its work culture.

“So, instead of quitting and starting the application process for seemingly more interesting positions, work on and build upon your existing skill set to ensure you position yourself strongly and competitively to set yourself up for the job search next year,” she said.

“Take the time to investigate your options, then ensure you acquire new skills so that you are ready to change jobs when things start settling down,” Dr Mooney added.

She said the following few months, when most businesses slowed down over the December holidays, provided the ideal opportunity to discover new and interesting options.

“When pursuing new directions, it is important to understand what networks exist that can support you on the way, and guide you in terms of what employers seek. A great way to get some guidance is to contact a respected higher education institution and speak to a student advisor about your position.

“Such a person will be able to help you determine where you are, and then which short learning programmes will complement your existing skills while expanding your field of competence, in line with what is in demand in the workplace,” she said.

Dr Mooney added in the ever changing and constantly evolving world of work, these advisors might even be aware of interesting new career paths related to a person’s existing path that they had not yet been aware of.

“It is important to speak to student advisors at higher education institutions which have a strong work focus and industry connection, to hear what latest trends are in terms of real employer demands and emerging careers,” she said.

“If this year has shown you that you need to do more to develop yourself and reach your dreams, you must act on your instinct. It really isn’t necessary to stay in a rut for years to come, just to play it safe employment-wise.

“However there certainly are steps you can start taking right away to ensure you are better positioned, and armed with a unique combination of skills which will set you apart from the competition in future when opportunity arises.”

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