The Job Market Has Changed : What It Means To Be “Skilled” Today

Abhinav Arora Blog, Careers

Back in the day, education was considered to be a unified, single branch of the tree of life.  People asked, “What is your education?” One was expected to have a good education. An education was something everyone was expected to have or pursue. Later came the off-shoots of education: the concepts of ‘traditional’ and the ‘alternative’ education took root and the ever-changing notion of ‘vocational’ education was born.

Today, as we enter what is being called the Fourth Revolution (A world where industries are a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres), we are looking at a complex world of learning; a mixture of theories, strategies, and approaches all trying to establish a foothold, each equally apt as the most strategic path for a secure future.

Skills = Currency

As it turns out, today there is no one right answer or one universally accepted definition of “good education.” Instead, every individual now assembles his/her own personal learning curve—the sum of experiences, skills, and accomplishments that when put together, establish a person as a ‘valuable’ member of the workforce. Today, skills are the new currency.

A recent article in The Atlantic offers a succinct description of this new reality:

“The country has entered a “prove it” economy in which codified skills are currency. It’s driving a revolution in how education is constructed, delivered, used—and credentialed. Even as degrees, from associates to doctorates, proliferate, they are joined—maybe trumped—by thousands of resume-worthy credentials from shorter, non-degree programs.”


Young Guns

Across societies, students have picked up odd jobs and specific skills way before their age of adulthood, be it for an extra buck to buy a car, or to fund their education. Today, there is a new startup idea on every corner of the street; and young guns are taking the wheel of progress into their own hands.

Students now have the foresight to recognize the need for an additional layer of learning, which later proves to be critical in separating one from the other, making them skilled individuals, and not just a collection of labor. From Mark Zuckerberg, creator of Facebook to Sean Parker, creator of Napster to even Elon Musk, the man behind Tesla, the success doesn’t usually stem from a singular specialization.


Cultivating Accomplishments

This all may seem sounds like a cliche but it has stayed true time and again: our ability to create and recreate ourselves.

As individuals and as part of a collective society we are largely the creators and the consumers of our own designs. We work hard. We get paid on our merit. We purchase food according to our knowledge and needs. We mingle with friends in coffee shops and pubs. We open up at social gatherings. We chose our politicians. We buy from certain stores. We learn this skill. We attend that institute.

In today’s volatile economies, self-assessment and personal growth create a life and a career path for us, and the acceptance of learning throughout life helps us come up with smart solutions to difficult problems. By cultivating a customized deck of accomplishments that can be displayed, we can build a realistic educational identity that when shown to potential employers, act as proof of our proactiveness to successfully fulfill specialized roles.


The Stack Approach

The best part about this radical customized approach is that it sweeps away the previously existing set of educational accomplishments. No longer do we have traditional vs. alternative, online vs. offline, vocational vs. general. Instead, borrowing a term from technology, we now have a new model dubbed as the “stack” approach.

A technology stack (or software stack, or solution stack) is: “a set of software subsystems or components needed to create a complete platform.” Similarly, we can “stack” educational credentials, certificates, and degrees, to create a holistic, ideal candidate.

A 2016 World Economic Forum report (titled The Future of Jobs) states that, “On average, by 2020, more than a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will be comprised of skills that are not yet considered crucial to the job today, according to our respondents.”

Thus, it’s not just those preparing to enter (or re-enter) the workforce would do well to take the “stack” before they even begin the job-seeking process. Those already employed too should start thinking along these lines.

Thus, it is safe to say that in the coming years, employment and wages will not be based on the merit of a singular skill, but in fact, on the basis of a skill-set that one has created for oneself over the years. It then becomes imperative to keep constantly reinventing and learning with time and stay at the top of the game!