Back to top

CONTACT OUR CORPORATE ACCOUNTS TEAM
Email: corporatetraining@getsmarter.com
Tel: +27 21 447 7565

The Great Career Reset

Sign up

How South Africans are building their skills to guide their next move

Share this:

Why South Africans are being driven to adapt

The shift in emotions

There has been a disproportionately negative effect on women, with 36% more South African women in our sample reporting feeling more uncertain than they did in the previous year. Men also seem to have drawn more energy from recent developments, where fewer than a quarter of women feel the same – instead reporting a growing sense of “apprehension”. There could be any number of explanations for this discrepancy, including the increased burden of full-time childcare, and the exacerbation of long-standing challenges faced by women in the workplace.11

Emotional changes by gender

When reviewing the data by generation, it’s Generation X (born 1965–1979) that appears to be taking the most strain, with 43% of respondents citing a negative career impact. This could be attributed to their struggle to maintain relevance in a fast-changing workplace, while still juggling things like homeschooling teenage children during lockdown and caring for their aging parents. Millennials in comparison seem to be the most energized, most likely due to many having long craved the now available increased flexibility to work remotely.

Emotional changes by generation

The significant impact the last year has had on careers has shone a spotlight on the need for South Africans to remain adaptive. While globally, many professionals are taking the opportunity to shake up their career paths, for most South Africans the drive to stay agile is more out of necessity as their prospects and daily realities continue to shift.

A deeper dive into these contrasting emotions can be found in this article:

Career advice | Future of work

The Great Career Reset: Why Some Thrive While Others Barely Survive

How to future-proof your career

COVID-19 has shown that no industry is immune to change. Professionals need to respond proactively, developing themselves to either move forward and adapt in their career or to pivot their career entirely. When looking at it on a profession level, there are a number of skills that are becoming increasingly crucial for remaining relevant in a fast-changing world.

HR professionals

Finance and accounting professionals

While critical in the day-to-day running of organisations, finance and accounting teams are increasingly doing more than just balancing the books. These professionals can add valuable input as businesses plan their strategy and long-term sustainability. It’s this future-focus, where finance professionals can firmly establish themselves by:

Technology and data professionals

The rise of the digital office has meant technical experts are having to stretch themselves in other areas to ensure that they are meeting the rapidly changing needs of the business. This means expanding their skill set to include:

Find out more about how recent changes are affecting professionals in this article:

Career advice | Future of work

The Great Career Reset: The Positive and Negative Impact of COVID-19

The changing career landscape

COVID-19 accelerated change in an already distressed job market in South Africa.1 Company closures, retrenchments, and furloughing have forced many professionals out of their jobs and their comfort zones.2 More than ever, South Africans are looking to switch to roles that offer greater industry stability, earning potential, and opportunities for growth. In fact, up to 55% of South African respondents indicate that they’re "likely" or "very likely" to change jobs in the next 12 months alone, and a large portion expect to change job function or business area completely. This has highlighted a pressing need for professionals to upskill and/or reskill as they take on new challenges and opportunities for growth.

Career trajectories have changed as companies can no longer ensure a safe, predictable climb up the corporate ladder. Professionals, especially younger generations, have abandoned the traditional career plan for shorter and more fluid career paths.3 This is reflected in our research, where 38% of respondents indicate that their career plan is fluid or does not exist, while 40% say that it’s mapped out for the next three years only.

Career plan or vision

While, on the surface, these numbers may appear to betray a lack of planning, it’s much more likely a reflection of an uncertain future in which responsiveness and flexibility are key. Indeed, while they may not be plotting their careers out in the traditional sense, professionals are planning and preparing through the acquisition of new skills and pursuit of lifelong learning.

Explore how people are reacting to workplace change in this article:

Career advice | Future of work

The Great Career Reset: Pivoting From a Career Plan to a Skills Plan

Responding to change: Setting up career building blocks

This fluid approach to career growth has meant that professionals now need to focus on creating a broader skills development plan. This should begin with an audit to critically assess what transferable skills they already have that can be used in new jobs, as well as which skills they still need to gain. Much like how one set of LEGO bricks can create a unlimited number of new constructions, professionals can develop their own set of ‘building blocks’ for the future. These can be stacked up, reconfigured, or taken apart and reused in different work contexts throughout their careers.4

To assist with this change in career development, the Getsmarter Skills Hierarchy acts as a guide for expanding on existing skills or learning new ones, which should help create a focused development plan. It can help professionals either move forward in their current field, or pivot completely into a new area.

LinkedIn top trending skills in South Africa

However, while functional proficiency certainly hasn’t diminished in value, there’s a growing understanding that true resilience also calls for a broader tool kit of more ‘human’ soft skills,7 such as creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.8 According to GetSmarter's research, most recruiters agree that the biggest skills gaps today lie in interpersonal skills (51%) and critical thinking (49%),9 with a third of respondents agreeing that leadership and soft skills are likely to be by far the most crucial competencies in 2021. Importantly, these skills are also largely transferable across roles.

Take the next step

Learning and development professionals globally report that the challenges of the past year have been met with a groundswell of enthusiasm for skills advancement.10 Across industries and demographics there appears to be a stronger appetite for supercharging careers through upskilling and continuous learning than before COVID-19 took hold.11

In today’s disrupted work environment, the professionals who enhance their resilience and relevance through upskilling will be best placed to thrive.

Stay competent, confident, and informed

Sign up to our monthly newsletter to receive the latest course information, expertise from renowned thought leaders, and a summary of our most recent blog articles.

Grow in your career with an online short course from the University of Cape Town.

Browse the portfolio

Share this:

Topics in this report:

The changing career landscape

The majority of South African respondents say they’re likely to change job function or business area in the next 12 months. Pre-defined career trajectories are increasingly being replaced by more flexible skills plans and the pursuit of continued learning.

Setting up career building blocks

Find out why it’s crucial to build a tool kit that combines both technical proficiency and soft skills. As industries evolve in new and surprising ways, transferable skill sets that can withstand and facilitate career pivots are now the priority.

While uncertainty has redefined the global careers landscape, the impact of the pandemic on people’s careers has been varied. Discover how respondents are adapting to an evolving work climate.

Why South Africans are being driven to adapt

How to future-proof your career

Discover which skills are going to be most important in different industries and job functions. Explore the next steps needed to move your career forward and broaden your professional offering.

Read more

Read more

Read more

Read more

For the vast majority of South African professionals, the consequences of COVID-19 will impact them for the rest of their lives. Unsurprisingly, our research reveals that “uncertainty” was by far the most widely felt emotion globally in 2020. However, existing fluctuations in the job market means that South Africans were already experiencing more career-related stress than the rest of their global counterparts before the pandemic started.10 This was still very much the case by the end of the year, but the increase was less marked than for the international sample. This smaller jump could perhaps be attributed to professionals in this region having more experience with an uncertain business landscape, and therefore being more resilient in the face of unrelenting change. 

Globally, the research reveals that 35% of respondents are currently distressed by their career situation (up from 28% a year ago), with only 22% now feeling self-assured (down by 4%). In the SADC region specifically, the distress level of respondents also rose, but only by 3% (up to 36%). This smaller jump could be attributed to professionals in this region having more experience with an uncertain business landscape, and thus having developed more resilience in the face of change. Southern Africans actually report feeling more self-assured and more energized than they did a year ago, suggesting a general shift towards a more active and agile embrace of whatever the future may hold.

The great career reset:

How South Africans are building their skills to guide their next move

I have faith in the strength and resilience of ordinary South Africans, who have proven time and time again – throughout our history – that they can rise to the challenge.

– President Cyril Ramaphosa

The great career reset:

How South Africans are building their skills to guide their next move

I have faith in the strength and resilience of ordinary South Africans, who have proven time and time again – throughout our history – that they can rise to the challenge.

President Cyril Ramaphosa

The great career reset:

How South Africans are building their skills to guide their next move

I have faith in the strength and resilience of ordinary South Africans, who have proven time and time again – throughout our history – that they can rise to the challenge.

President Cyril Ramaphosa

View sources

The year 2020 will long be remembered as one of unprecedented uncertainty. Within some dramatically destabilizing months, long-standing conceptions of how, where, and why work is done were turned upside down. This global change, set in motion by technological innovation and inflamed by the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic, has had vast and significant ramifications for the future of work. 

To determine how we can best support professionals, GetSmarter, a 2U, Inc. brand, set out to explore what this change might mean for people’s development and careers in 2021. We asked 648 participants from around the globe (including 236 from South Africa and a small number from surrounding countries) how COVID-19 has impacted their attitudes and approaches towards their careers. We then analyzed our own data to understand how the courses that South Africans were enrolling for began to shift during 2020. The results reveal the need for a new set of skills for surviving and thriving in this ‘new normal’. This guide examines the findings to bring you relevant insights and practical, real-world advice.

The likelihood of changing jobs in the next 12 months

GetSmarter Skills Hierarchy

Here’s one example how a professional might move from a career in finance to a career in marketing.

A skills plan for pivoting careers

GetSmarter’s previous research revealed that those in hiring positions are looking for evidence of continued learning above all else on an applicant’s CV.5 Recent LinkedIn data suggests that a set of core functional based skills remain the most in demand, these include financial and business operational related skills. Outside of these, software development skills remain in high demand, while a strong increase in demand for teaching skills is itself fascinating in the current context.6

Developing the skills of tomorrow

Women feeling the pressure

Never before has HR and Talent Management, had a better opportunity to play a more strategic role in the direction of business. Critical shifts brought on by the last year have meant that these professionals are now primed to take their place at the most senior decision-making table. These include:

When considering what skills you could focus on to move your marketing career forward, there are some areas in particular that would help to build on your digital marketing or brand management expertise:

Marketing professionals

The Great Career Reset

How South Africans are building their skills to guide their next move.

Share this:

GetSmarter, a 2U, Inc. brand, conducted a survey about how COVID-19 has impacted their career growth in 2021. This guide examines the findings to bring you relevant insights as well as practical, real-world advice.

The budgets allocated to digital advertising, and the continued desire to build efficiency across these channels, brings with it a need to be strong analytically. Data analysis skills are a great start. For those with a vested interest in data, upskilling from there to business analytics and then data science  would expand your career prospects

Product management is an opportunity to stretch outside of the traditional marketing focus and gain a holistic understanding of all the steps involved in developing, branding, launching, and managing a viable product.

Another trend currently playing out in marketing is the increased focus on the consumer and how to better appeal to them in a competitive landscape. While this has always been an important pillar in marketing, developing a proper understanding of market research offers marketers an opportunity to boost their professional toolkit.

1

The often complex yet vital need for leading diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

The urgency to upskill and reskill large parts of organizations has established training and development as one of the top items on the CEO’s agenda.

Organizations are going through large-scale change at an accelerated rate. This is putting pressure on HR professionals to upskill in change management and learn to coach leaders on how to guide and support their teams through disruption.

Building their capability in business analytics, including becoming a skilled storyteller when delivering insights to leadership.

Developing the ability to effectively forecast the financial future of a business through financial modelling and analysis and presenting various financial scenarios and the routes to get there.

Contributing to the organization’s digital transformation by exploring opportunities presented by both fintech and blockchain.

Effectively implementing digital transformation initiatives, which is more than rolling out software, and the adoption of new technologies. The human element is an added layer, which requires a strategic view of change management and the ability for professionals to lead their own teams.

Understanding how data can be used strategically and competitively within an organization.   Establishing a data science team can be potentially transformational for an organization.

The ability to influence and effectively communicate with business decision-makers. This can act as a potential career accelerator for many technical professionals.

2

3

1

2

3

1

2

3

3

2

1

The likelihood of changing job function/business area in the next 12 months

Source: Skills data used to build the above model supplied by Burning Glass.

Career advice | Future of work

The Great Career Reset: Why Some Thrive While Others Barely Survive

Compare the contrasting experiences that men, women and different generations have had over the past year in this article: