You Must Own Your Own Talent Gap!

Remaining highly employable is a choice each person must make for themselves. Either have a well-crafted and ongoing plan for continuous professional development, or harm your future ability to provide for your family.

The talent gap is the difference between the skills employers want and the skills job seekers and employees possess. As Gallup and others have pointed out, after more than a decade of being aware it exists, the talent gap has not been eliminated, and in some cases, has widened. Not only has secondary and post-secondary education has not been able to fully sync up with employers to close it, but the target is continuing to move.

Who is Directly Affected by the Talent Gap? You are, if you are an employee, and employer, or a job seeker. You’re indirectly affected when you purchase or consume the products and services of an employer or provider. The talent gap is industry and age agnostic, impacting virtually every walk of life and every age group. Its impact can be measured in a loss of income, opportunity, and standard of living, and is only felt once it has occurred. Once detected, the accumulated losses are real and cannot be recovered.

Employees and job seekers have the most at stake, especially those who are in the earlier stages of their careers. But even mid-career professionals are paying a huge price to not keep current.

Consider the case of Melissa Smith, a 35-year old customer service representative who looks forward to retiring at age 65. She’s got 30 years of employment ahead of her. When she turned 34, her employer offered to send her for training in some of the new systems it planned to use to serve its future customers. She declined the training. Now at age 35 she is earning $51,500 for full-time employment. Had she participated in the training, her HR department had budgeted a base salary of $59,200 for the position, or $7,500 more than her current salary. Since her paid benefits are worth roughly 30% of her base, this is equivalent to a $10,000 annual difference. What is this decision worth to Melissa for the balance of her working career, in terms of lost income? The answer may surprise you! Melissa’s decision to stop her talent development will cost her $664,388 in earnings for the remainder of her career. I used the lifetime earnings calculator from CalcX and entered the $10,000 difference from age 35 onwards, plus an average of a 5% increase (the value of all annual increases and promotions or new jobs), and let the calculator measure the value of filling the talent gap over her remaining career.

Try it yourself with your own assumptions and you’ll see that the cost is much greater than you think it will be.

Employers and providers also pay the price – they have to hire additional staff, or may opt to automate parts of the job where people lack the requisite skills or talents. This means operating less efficiently, with the increased costs to operate passed on the consumers of their goods and services. This isn’t rocket science, its Economics 101.“It is Not About Them, it is About ME!” Lest we jump to the conclusion that Melissa’s employer is at fault, or government training programs are the answer, or some other factor outside of Melissa’s control is the culprit, Melissa needs to take a long, hard look at herself in the mirror.

My own talent gap is my primary responsibility. Your talent gap is your primary responsibility. Melissa’s talent gap is her primary responsibility. The talent gap will never be solved in the absence of self-responsibility.

There need be no future victims when the power to solve the talent gap rests in each of us.

How to Eliminate Your Own Talent Gap. Here are four very simple steps anyone can take to close their own talent gap. Others may be able to help, but the sole owner of each person’s talent gap is that person, themselves.

Step 1. Identify the Skills You’ll Need. There are plenty of sources for this data. Start with a realistic self-assessment of your own skills and you should be able to identify some areas where your learning has not kept pace with your job. Ask HR or your supervisor to help identify the skills or talents that they would add to your job description if they were going to fill your position. Google job descriptions for the positions in which you see as your next career step, identify the required skills, and compare them to your skill set. Google articles on the skills gap and most in-demand skills you’ll find current and future lists of skills that employers are seeking from their new hires. Join LinkedIn groups and associations affiliated with your profession to learn what skills employers value (and will value). Bottom line: this is a relatively easy step to take.

Step 2. Develop Your Plan to Acquire, Develop, and Master Those Skills. You employer wants to help, and they’ll do so by offering in-house training and may even pay for the costs associated with outside training relevant to your job (a tuition-assistance benefit). Add to this all the free and ultra-low cost online courses – just Google low cost and free online courses. In under a second I located over 18 million entries, including ones with intriguing links like 10,000+ Free Online Courses From Top Universities | OEDb, Open2Study: Free Online Courses For Everyone , and UoPeople – The world’s first tuition-free Accredited Online University . A little diligence in searching for specific skills training and you can find free or low cost resources. Bottom line – this is also a relatively easy step to take.

Step 3. Acquire the Skills. American founding father Benjamin Franklin once advised, “Empty the coins in your purse to fill your mind, and you mind will fill your purse.” He was right – investing in yourself provides a return on investment (ROI) of several thousand percent. True regardless of whether or not your employer offers to subsidize part or all of the training you’ll need to possess all of the skills necessary for present and future assignments. With so many low-cost or no-cost learning options, your primary investment will be that of the time and effort required to learn, practice, and master new skills. A suggested best practices is to create an ongoing schedule for learning so that you have set aside the time (a professional development schedule). Then make the wisest decisions of what learning to plug into your professional development schedule.

Step 4. Make Yourself Attractional. You’ll need to take steps to ensure your current employer knows of your ongoing learning. Communicate frequently with both your supervisor and HR about what you are learning and your course completion progress. Make sure your personnel records reflect all certifications, degrees, completions, and awards. You also want to include the same information on your social profiles, electronic portfolio, and résumé, in order to make yourself attractional to prospective employers and members of your networks who may help you in your career pursuits. Because personal branding includes your credentials and the way you present them, keep in mind that you want to have a ready narrative for why you are adding skills and how those skills can benefit employers and organizations to which you belong.

Bottom Line. It is well within your grasp to become the proud possessor of a zero talent gap. The smaller your talent gap, the more employable you will remain, and the more opportunities will come actively seeking you.

This article is taken from my new book, Get a Better Job Faster™, now available on in two editions, one for college students and recent grads, and one for experienced professionals and skilled workers. Each all-new edition explains more than 3,000 job search and career launch best practices.

I help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s acclaimed career development tools help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job search. I also work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. To find out more, , please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


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