the upside of downtime: learning new skills to grow your career.

  • career advice
  • March 23, 2020

If you find yourself looking for work during the coronavirus pandemic, you're not alone. Workers around the U.S. are being furloughed or laid off as states increasingly mandate non-essential employees stay home. We know this period of uncertainty is challenging, but there can be a small silver lining: if you use this time to learn some new skills, you can improve your prospects once things return to normal — or normal-ish, anyway.

While there's no way to know when that will be, if you're proactive and use your social-distancing time to acquire new skills, you might just find better opportunities in tomorrow's workforce. Here's what to keep in mind.

don't wait on an employer to train you

The current climate may be in an uncertain state at the moment, but one thing is very clear: skilled talent is in short supply. For employers, it’s more difficult than ever to find  workers. But for employees, there's a real opportunity to seize the moment, learn new skills and advance your career.

That said, it's going to be up to you to do your own upskilling. Our study shows that the majority (82%) of U.S. workers believe continuous learning and development is important, but 40 percent say they do not have access to adequate training opportunities through their current employers. That means it's on you to teach yourself the skills you'll need to drive your career forward. And now that you've likely got some downtime, you've got a great opportunity to teach yourself the skills you want but can't get through an employer.

take charge of your own growth

Randstad’s research also uncovered some interesting differences between generations in their expectations around upskilling.

  • Sixty-six percent of U.S. employees between 18 and 34 years old say they need to strengthen their interpersonal skills.
  • Seventy percent of U.S. employees 45 years and older say that vocational skills are the most critical to their development. Only 28 percent of this age group say they need to improve their interpersonal skills.

It’s clear that upskilling needs can vary significantly with age, but no matter what your generation, here are some tips to help you get the skills you need

do your research

Think about the types of jobs you want — one year from today, and perhaps five years from today as well. Do some research online, or check out some of Randstad's job postings to see the specific qualifications, including education or certifications that are required for the job.

It’s also good to know what’s going on in your town or city since it can impact the type of opportunities that might be available to you.

In a recent study, 83 percent of recruiters reported having difficulty finding skilled candidates in the previous year, and 52 percent said they thought the skills gap had worsened in the previous two year. With skilled talent in such short supply, spend some time reading through local job descriptions, and note the in-demand skills that appear again and again. Your market might, for example, have a shortage of licensed forklift operators or Java developers or graphic designers. In each of those cases, there are clear skills to learn or certifications to pursue — and you don’t need an employer to help you get there.

know where to go

Once you determine the skills you will need, you need to know where to go. You can learn through internship programs, vocational schools, technical colleges, on-the-job training or online.

Online, or e-learning, platforms are popping up everywhere, offering course options for nearly any skill you need to master. Because e-learning can be accessed on the go, you can progress at your own pace.

Most educationalof these websites offer free trial periods for new users, so you can view lessons or courses for free for a few days or up to 30 days, depending on the website.


This isn't an easy time for anyone, but there can be an upside to social distancing and self-isolation — and if you use this time to pursue new skills, you'll have a real opportunity to improve your career once the pandemic passes. We can't say when that will happen, but once factories, offices, shipping facilities and others reopen their doors and business resumes as usual, skilled talent will be in high demand. So why not put Netflix on pause and use this time to improve your prospects down the line?

find your next job today