The Decade Ahead: Committing To Lifelong Learning


Alvin Toffler once wrote, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

LinkedIn’s Canadian Emerging Jobs report for 2020 leverages LinkedIn data to highlight jobs experiencing tremendous growth—specifically the Top 15 jobs that have emerged in the last five years. The report also highlights skills associated with these roles and why they are important.

What struck me about the results was how heavily the technology sector was represented, not only the job titles themselves, but also the prevalence of technology skills in non-tech related jobs.

Now, more than ever, there is a need for fluency with data—where to find it and how to understand it, use it and present what it means to others.

Where HR Should Focus

HR practitioners and leaders need to be more and more proficient with applicant tracking systems (ATS), human resources management systems (HRMS), social media platforms, cloud-based talent learning management (LMS) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. You may also need to be familiar with structured query language (SQL) to generate effective metrics.

Data is everywhere and the days of stating your proficiency with MS Office on your resume are over—you need to be better than that.

As technology and data are increasingly woven into the fabric of our workplaces, the challenge to keep up becomes more of a problem. Indeed, it is becoming more difficult to organically keep up with the changes.

People are also less tolerant of the excuse, “I don’t know how that application works,” or the question, “How do I run this report?” Figuring out how software works or how to fix or learn something independently has become an essential skill.

My 12-year-old daughter taught herself how to play the ukulele using an app; I taught myself how to run CRM reports and bleed the brakes on my motorcycle by watching YouTube videos. Not sure how to add a background photo to your LinkedIn profile? Use Google to find out.

As the pace of change accelerates, learning how to learn is more important than ever, and is something that employers’ value.

The Risk

As an outplacement consultant who supports people through unexpected career transitions, I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it can be for people who haven’t kept their skills up-to-date to reintegrate back into the labour market.

Trying to play competency/credential catch-up after a significant amount of time can have catastrophic career consequences.

On the other hand, it’s another story for those that have continued to keep their hard and soft skills sharp, as they can easily demonstrate their relevance in today’s market and how they can be of value to a potential employer.

The good news is that you don’t have to enrol in a 13-week university course to learn a new skill or further develop a competency. Just as essential skills and job titles have evolved, so too have the ways in which learners can gain access to new information.

Online Learning and Professional Programs

Since (now called LinkedIn Learning) started offering courses online in 2002, there are more and more online learning platforms to choose from.

Many of these skills-based courses are free and can take as little as five minutes to complete; with platforms like LinkedIn and Coursera, major obstacles to learning, like time and money, have been removed. These courses are easy to access and reasonably priced, and they are becoming more widely accepted by employers.

Lifelong Learning

Another way to stay relevant in the marketplace is through a professional program offered by a college, university or institute of technology that provides full-time employees an opportunity to add to their credentials by taking evening or online.

I’m currently enrolled in the graduate certificate in executive coaching at Royal Roads University, a seven-month program. Just nine days are spent on campus, with the remaining learning taking place online.

I’m pursuing the coaching certification to keep my soft skills in communication sharp, expand my professional network and build on my existing credentials with an internationally recognized coaching credential.

It hasn’t been easy balancing work, family, academic and other responsibilities, but I see tremendous value in the energy I am investing in the program.

Wrapping Up

There are many job titles that exist now that didn’t 10 years ago.

If you are not working to stay up to date with the rapidly evolving workforce, it will be more difficult to be effective in your role, lead change in a data-driven marketplace, and convince recruiters that you have the right stuff.

The prevalence and ease of online learning platforms and professional programs removes all excuses, and they guarantee that there is a learning experience that fits with the time and resources you have available.

Albert Einstein said, “The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

Unless we keep pushing ourselves to continuously learn and face new challenges, not only will we be unable to solve today’s problems, but we may also struggle to stay relevant in the decade ahead.



Howie Outerbridge is vice president with LoganHR, a full-service career transition, compensation and talent management firm and member of VF Career Management.

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