Job types: know what you’re aiming at, then tailor your skills

Learning more about the kinds of jobs that are out there could help you to focus your skills and training more effectively

By way of an icebreaker for this skills-focused blog, see what you make of the following job titles…

  • Senior safeguarding manager
  • MS dynamics CRM developer
  • Head of storytelling
  • Full-stack programmer
  • Growth hacker

Somewhat niche-sounding, wouldn’t you agree? Indeed, to anyone who hasn’t been schooled in the relevant fields, it wouldn’t be 100% clear at first glance what those titles even mean – let alone what kind of skills you’d need to carry out the actual jobs. So before we go on, allow me to be of service…

A senior safeguarding manager is a child-protection post that typically exists in social-welfare charities, and is worth between £30k and £40k a year. An MS dynamics CRM developer role requires technical, software-based skills that could earn an experienced contractor £350 to £500 per day. Head of storytelling is an increasingly common job type within content marketing, describing someone who blogs, tweets and stages long-term campaigns to build a narrative of a company’s success; a three-days-a-week role in that vein, advertised earlier this year by recruitment firm Digital Mums, offered a decent, pro-rata annual salary of £40k.

Full-stack programmers command a median salary of £47,500, according to – as befits experienced software techs who can create and manage every level of a digital experience, from the back end that operators work with to the front end that users see. And growth hackers, who blend skills from technology and marketing to increase a brand’s customer base, tend to net anything between £35k and £50k per annum, if recent ads are anything to go by.

So, what does all that tell us?

Open goals
First of all, that our increasingly fast-paced world is becoming ever more reliant upon specialist skills areas and technical know-how, as organisations look to strengthen their hands in specific fields.

Secondly, that this is producing a wave of ever more technical job categories, replete with non-traditional-sounding titles that may, on the whole, seem a little confusing – even to those who, at best, sort of get the gist.

Thirdly, that a lack of knowledge about the markets that exist for our skills and talents may be preventing us from putting them to use in tangible and successful ways. There may be open goals out there that we’re not even aware of – jobs that could make perfect matches for our CVs, and bring in healthy salaries.

Textiles manufacturer Stormline had a bit of fun with this recently, publishing an online quiz on job titles that asked people to see if they could figure out which of a listed selection were real, and which were taken from Hollywood films.

According to its results, more than 75% of participants were unable to correctly identify whether the given titles were real or fictional, getting at least one wrong. Ironically, the real titles were quoted from the Home Office In-Demand list: a record of hard-to-fill jobs in the UK economy that the government advertises to stimulate interest from overseas professionals with the necessary skills.

Living in the future
There are two, crucial issues here. On the one hand, job titles – and job ads in general – could do with some serious de-cluttering on the jargon front. But on the other, applicants can’t just carry on in ignorance of the types of jobs that are developing out there in the employment landscape. They need to find out about them – just like I found out about the job types I listed at the beginning of this blog.

Amid the rapid growth of new technologies – whether we’re talking about software, or new hardware-based industries like 3D printing – the mantra that’s emerging from employers and workplace experts time and again is that, in five to 10 years’ time, the schoolchildren of today will be doing jobs that haven’t even been invented yet.

But this birth of new jobs in new technologies for a new era has already been underway for some time. Disciplines are now emerging that require an in-depth knowledge of two or more specialist fields that haven’t cross-pollinated to such a large extent before. For example, artificial intelligence is becoming a major force in the legal and accountancy sectors; as we speak, there’s a growing need for legal professionals and accountants who have more than a passing familiarity with sophisticated types of intuitive software. This is one of those moments when you realise you’re living in the future.

Essentially, it’s not enough to simply accrue talents and skills. You have to know how they can be applied in practical terms, too.

Tactical learning
I would therefore say that it’s incumbent upon professionals to research different job types in their specialist fields, and find out what those jobs involve. That will encourage individuals to think more carefully about how they could deploy their skills and insights within those jobs. Once armed with that knowledge, professionals may also find that they will begin to have more and more ideas about which existing skills they should hone and refine, and which new ones they should acquire. That will lead them to think about their learning and development in far more strategic ways.

In addition, if you nurture a habit of constantly keeping tabs on different job types, it’s unlikely that you will find job searches as alienating or off-putting as they can sometimes be if they’re done only every six or 12 months. The problem with that “every once in a while” approach is that whenever you dip back in after a long absence, the job titles and requirements would have moved on quite dramatically from the last time you checked.

This applies every bit as much to new entrants to the jobs market as it does to seasoned career-builders. I have always found it very interesting that when you ask any young person about their future career ambitions, they see their options as somewhat limited. The truth is, there are already tens of thousands of possible avenues to explore, with weird and wonderful new occupations being created every day.

It is better to find out what they are than get left behind.

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