How digital skills can benefit career changers

The pandemic has created a great deal of uncertainty and instability in the job market. Many people have been furloughed or laid off, and many who remain in their jobs feel worried about the future. This career anxiety is one of the main reasons that people across all age ranges are thinking about making a career change.

Research from Microsoft found that more than four in ten over 45s are considering switching careers. Nearly a third of these are being driven to do so by fears around financial stability, and over a quarter are concerned about the rising state pension age, which is now 66 for both men and women.

If you too have been thinking about making a career change, then you might be wondering what your options are, and what new skills you could benefit from learning. Although it’s difficult to assess or determine what jobs could be considered future-safe, what we do know is that, in an increasingly technological world, digital skills remain invaluable across a wide range of professions. In addition, Microsoft has predicted that there will need to be a further three million skilled people in UK technology careers by 2025, to keep up with the pace of technological demand.

Simon Lambert, Chief Learning Officer at Microsoft, said, “There has never been a greater need for individuals to invest time in upskilling and developing their digital skills. There is a dangerous misconception that the tech industry is just an industry for the young.

“The truth is that we need people with a diverse range of experiences, backgrounds and ages. And we need them now to fill the growing skills gap which, left unplugged, will significantly impact the UK’s recovery. I’d encourage anyone who is considering exploring an encore career to look at the opportunities available at Microsoft Digital Skills Hub for advice on how to get started.”

Is a career in technology for me?

Although 44% of over 45s are considering making a career change, the Microsoft research showed that only 23% of these would consider a career in technology. This is despite nearly 6 in 10 of those surveyed saying they felt digitally literate. While many simply won’t be excited about a career in technology, for others it can be down to a lack of awareness of the learning opportunities and career entry points into the sector.

However, there are plenty of tailored, accessible courses that can help to boost the skills of mid-life career changers, and open up new career paths in our post-pandemic world. There are few professions where digital skills won’t help in our increasingly technological world, from sales, marketing, design or even setting up your own business – almost all areas of the economy are becoming technology enabled. Importantly, most people (even if it’s not immediately obvious), will also have transferable skills that they can use to help them progress into technological roles – whether it’s a good problem solving mind or a strong attention to detail.

For example, following a 25-year career working on the ground for an airline, Carol Milligan was made redundant at 48. However, after seeking some professional advice, Carol, now 57, was able to use her transferable skills to land a role troubleshooting technical problems for customers at leading travel technology company Amadeus.

Where can I learn or develop digital skills?

While 73% of over 45s say they are willing to invest time in learning new skills, and would happily commit 3 hours 36 mins a week to reskilling, 60% also say they do not know what resources are available to improve their digital skills (Microsoft). This means that over 45s across the UK could be missing out on potential career opportunities in technology.

With this in mind, we’ve outlined a few places you could start if you’re interested in learning or developing digital skills:

  • Consider getting involved with Microsoft’s five-year Get On 2021 campaign, which aims to help people of all ages gain access to careers and job opportunities in technology by making sure they have the skills needed.

The 2021 initiative will focus specifically on those people who are in education, new to tech, or who have had their job directly impacted by the pandemic. By the end of the five years, Microsoft aims to have helped 1.5 million people build careers in technology, and 300,000 people connect to job opportunities. To find out more about the programmes on offer, you can check out the Microsoft Digital Skills Hub.

  • Explore free and paid for courses available online. These can be completed at your own pace, from the comfort of your own home, and cover subjects from general office skills to coding, through to digital marketing. You might want to check out our article; 8 very different digital skills that you can learn from home, to find out more.

  • Additional online resources like Make It Click and Learn my Way (which have digital inclusion in mind) offer a number of free tools and templates. Subjects are broken down into bite size chunks, and you can learn everything from how to protect your computer from nasty viruses, through to how to manage your money online.

It’s worth keeping in mind that digital skills can be handy to have in various aspects of daily life – even if you don’t plan on having a tech-focused career. For instance, if you’re thinking of setting up a business, then it’s worth learning about digital marketing, and how you could use it to grow your business. You can also use digital skills to help with things like banking and staying connected to friends, family and colleagues.

A final thought…

While the pandemic has presented many of us with challenges that we never thought we’d have to face, it has also encouraged many of us to learn and develop new personal and/or professional skills. Adversity isn’t something that any of us would wish for, but when it arises, it can often present us with opportunities for new growth and development.

If you’re thinking about a career change during this challenging time, then it’s important to be kind to yourself, to celebrate your accomplishments and to focus on your strengths. You might also find it helpful to check out the jobs and learning sections of our website, where you’ll find more ideas, advice and inspiration.

Are you looking to learn any digital skills? Or perhaps you’re learning some already? Would you consider a career in tech? Join the conversation over on the community forum, or leave a comment below.

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