Like it or not, every one of us has a “marketability quotient” in the sense of what our skills, strengths, and experience are worth in the current job market. In a booming economy, even people with minimal skills and experience (remember the dot-com days?) can usually end up snagging decent jobs, at a decent pay rate, whereas in a tight labor market like the one we’re in now, you’ll find highly qualified people out there searching for months — or having to settle for positions offering less pay and responsibility than they’ve historically enjoyed. This phenomenon is neither fair or unfair — it simply is what it is — and it’s created by the same laws of supply and demand that lead to $4.00 per gallon gasoline and the many other price fluctuations we’ve all witnessed in the consumer marketplace.
Recognizing these dynamics, however, doesn’t mean that you can’t do something about them! For those not content to just ride out the storm, or who suspect their marketability may have dwindled a bit, there are typically three ways one can boost their employability within a relatively short (3-12 month) time frame. All three of these methods require either formal training or aggressive self-study, but if pursued, will give you fresh and valuable new credentials to offer to potential employers.
• Acquire a Certification: While most mid-career adults don’t have the time, patience, or financial resources to go back and obtain another (or a first) full formal degree, there are tons of short-term certification courses available that can provide a quick marketability boost. To determine which certifications might be most appropriate and valuable given your specific situation, you should browse through the course catalogs of local colleges, search job boards for clues, and talk to employers directly to see what specific skills and experience they desperately need at the moment — and will likely need in the foreseeable future. Additionally, there’s a great website called CertificationGuide that indexes over 2,500 national certifications and provides links on how to uncover more information about them.
Interestingly, one of my clients recently informed me that many community colleges now joke that an A.A. Degree is the world’s new “Masters” degree — since so many professionals are now returning to two-year community college programs to get trained in specialized vocational areas, recognizing that these types of hands-on training credentials are often a faster path to employment success!
• Master a New Tool: Unlike days past, when companies relied on the same equipment to get things done for years or decades at a time, the pace of change is making almost EVERY work tool now obsolete within a few months — or a few years, at most. Office equipment gets more sophisticated. Software evolves to new versions or jumps to a new platform. Medical equipment leaps forward. And even machine tools and assembly-line equipment don’t stand still for very long. So learning how to use the latest, greatest new tool in your field — whether it’s Epic medical clinic management software, the Neptune ARB automatic utility reading meter, Photoshop CS3, or version 9.2 of the Leica Photogrammetry (geospatial imaging) Suite — might be just the ticket to getting picked up by a new employer!
• Conquer a New Methodology: In many industries, the transformational change taking place doesn’t involve a new tool or piece of physical equipment, per se, as much as a shift in the “way” in which things are now getting done. As these new methodologies become adopted by companies, a demand is created for anybody who has experience in using them, even if this experience comes through intensive self-study versus a formal educational credential. So if you discover that employers in your field are desperately looking for folks with Lean Manufacturing background, Agile programming experience, or knowledge of IDIQ procurement procedures, a crash reading course about these concepts may be all it takes to win newfound credibility on your resume — and in interviews!
In short, the ticket to a great new job or career path might not be as elusive as you think. By conducting some focused research and committing yourself to some concentrated classwork or self-study, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can acquire a certification, tool, or methodology that gets employers all abuzz and boosts your interviewing rate dramatically!