5 steps to future-proof your business: how a skills audit can help you grow

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Are you in between jobs or thinking about your next career move – or about going freelance? Perhaps you simply want to upskill, so your current job is more ‘future-proof’? I recently chatted to marketing expert and ‘Google Goddess’ Gillian Whitney about this on LinkedIn Live. We talked about how a skills audit, as well as continuous personal and professional development, can help you shape a future-proof career you will enjoy long-term. See our video and my additional tips about this below.

Step 1. Check your existing skill set

Image of man and different skill set images

As I mentioned in the video above, many people underestimate the skills they have. Don’t be one of them! I thought I’d share my own, quite simple way of ‘future-proofing’ my business with you. Hope it’s helpful.

First, sit down with a nice cuppa and take a few minutes to think about all the work experience you have. (Unpaid jobs count, too!) Going through a copy of your CV will help during this process. There are also some free skills audit templates available, which can be a useful starting point. See, for example, this general template by the University of Sheffield (not just useful for students!).

Which skills that you used in your previous and current jobs are easily transferable and valuable?

They might be:

  • administrative
  • project management-focused
  • editorial
  • social / people-oriented (networking, listening, empathy, etc.)
  • creative
  • specialist (e.g. translation, marketing, finance, copywriting, photography, etc.)

You’ll probably find that you have quite a long list of skills you can draw from.

Step 2. What do you enjoy doing?

Image of smiling woman in front of laptop

Now you have a list of skills, divide them into these two categories:

Skills I enjoy usingSkills I don’t enjoy using
e.g. writinge.g. finances, admin

You might e.g. really love applying your creative skills but not finance-related skills (like me 😅). For this exercise, let’s just focus on the skills you enjoy. However, keep in mind anything you don’t enjoy doing – these could be tasks to outsource at some point!

Step 3. Which other skills would you like to learn?

Image of man looking at papers on notice board

You now have a list of existing skills you actually enjoy using. But, are there any new ones you’d like to learn? These may be skills that are closely related to your existing ones, or some that you’d love to learn from scratch. Make sure you choose topics you’re unlikely to get bored with in 6 months’ time. These should be skills that you really are interested in exploring and deepening.

Do some research online. How long will it take you to learn your new skill(s)? Which potential courses, books and other resources are out there? (Shop around and ensure these are of high quality.)

For example, you may enjoy writing and would like to look into developing copywriting skills. There are many good copywriting courses out there. You could start with a short and affordable course that will give you a good overview (e.g. Andy Maslen’s excellent Breakthrough Copywriting course). Alternatively, you could research diploma-level, accredited courses, some of which are listed and reviewed here.

Add these to your list.

New skills I’d like to developCourses / books / other resourcesTimeframe
e.g. SEO copywritinge.g. College of Media & Publishing, ‘The Art of SEO’, specialist blogs6 months

Tip: LinkedIn has published a ‘Skills Path’ tool, which you may want to check out, too. (Thanks to Gillian Whitney for this tip! 😊)

Step 4. How future-proof are these skills?

Image of someone making a pro / cons list

Are you putting all your eggs in one basket?

Do your research. How future-proof are your existing skills – and the ones you’d like to learn more about? Are they likely to be needed? Will they sell?

  • Example 1: if you enjoy doing social media marketing, are you currently focusing on one platform only? This could be an issue, as the social media world changes quickly. (Think of the sudden decline of Vine or Google+…). You may be better off investing your time and resources in learning more about and establishing a presence on another one or two social media platforms. Ensure you keep up-to-date with all developments in social media. The Social Media Examiner, HubSpot’s Marketing Blog, or Target Internet’s Digital Marketing Podcast are all good sources.

So, don’t just concentrate all your efforts into one area.

What about AI?

Is AI (Artificial Intelligence) likely to have an impact on your skill set?

  • Example 2: some translators fear for their future, as machine translation is steadily improving. I don’t think we’ll be completely replaced by computers anytime soon, but it’s true that machine translation already has a big impact on translators (and not always a positive one). For instance, they often only get paid a fraction of the standard fee if they’re hired to ‘tidy up’ poor machine translations – although this task can take longer than translating from scratch. So, specialising in revising machine translations may not be a particularly thankful task, or one that’s future-proof.

Technical changes

What about likely technical advancements, changes or disruptions in your chosen field?

  • Example 3: you might be interested in niching down into SEO copywriting. It’s an excellent skill to have at the moment, but will it still pay the bills in 5 – 10 years?
    It depends on a few factors: for example, whether Google will still be the main search engine we optimise keywords for – and whether SEO keywords actually will still have as high an impact on overall rankings. Neil Patel argues that the future of SEO lies elsewhere.

I would recommend doing your research quite thoroughly at this point. What are the pros and cons of upskilling in your preferred subject?

Relevant paid memberships and free networking groups in your chosen field will be helpful while doing this research, too. Ask questions and find out how more experienced colleagues in your subject area see the future and what they do to stay one step ahead.

Finally, there are quite a few interesting books and resources on ‘future-proofing’ that you may find useful. A good example is applied futurist Tom Cheesewright’s website and books.

Pros of upskilling in subject areaCons of upskilling in subject area
e.g. short-term need for SEO copywriters,
ability to optimise your own website,
opportunity to teach others
e.g. May not work long-term as there are likely to be changes to SEO in the next 10 years.

Step 5. Put it all together

Image of hand putting together a puzzle

It’s time to use the research you’ve done above and decide on your path. You may conclude that there are a lot of short- and medium-term benefits of learning a certain skill, even if the long-term future is not particularly promising.

Short-term goalsMedium-term goalsLong-term goals
e.g. Learn SEO copywritinge.g. Improve other copywriting skills, tooe.g. Be an expert copywriter (blogs, e-books, magazine articles) in my chosen niche

Or, you may decide to invest time in learning not just one, but two or three skills, and becoming a true expert in these. After all, it’s unlikely that all areas of your expertise will fail at the same time.

A positive attitude is important here. It’s good to keep pros and cons in mind, but don’t let the cons overwhelm you.

In my case, I decided a while ago to not only offer translation services, but also build on my skills in copywriting and social media marketing. I now have three skill sets I can use, and I continue to take courses and stay up-to-date in these areas. For example, I’m currently working towards an SEO content writing qualification, though I am unlikely to focus just on SEO copywriting in the future.

Let me know how this exercise works for you – just leave your comments on my socials below. 😊

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Claudia Kozeny-Pelling

Claudia Kozeny-Pelling

Owner, Translate Digital Marketing

I especially love working with ethical, fairtrade and green small businesses.