Hi Kally,

As you know, the economy is not very good right now, there are very few jobs in the market and many new graduates hunting for any kind of available jobs.

Recently, my company is going through a revamp and restructuring. I have been in this company for the past 15 years. I am an administrative assistant in a shared pool of administrative and secretarial staff. I love my workplace, my job and the people that I am working with. From the shared pool of 40 staff, we have dwindled to 20 this past year. Some left because of personal reasons, but many left because they are retrenched.

During my appraisal, I asked my supervisor about this issue. As you can tell, my worries that I may one day left without a job. A job that I love so much. My supervisor told me to upgrade myself and make myself useful around the company. I’m quite baffled by his advice.

Upgrade myself? I don’t think I have the means to put myself through school again. Frankly, at my age (I’m reaching 50 soon), the last thing I want to do is to go back to textbooks. And what about the advice of making myself useful? I thought I’m pretty good at doing my job. Ain’t that useful to the company?

At this point, other than to write to you, I don’t know what else I can do. Can you kindly spare some time to explain his advice to me?

Helen G

Hello Helen,

To be in a company for 15 years takes a lot of loyalty from you, and probably unnerving to see your colleagues departed one by one over the year, particularly during this restructuring exercise.

I can imagine your frustrations when you tried to seek advice from your supervisor, only to hit a brick wall. The advice of upgrading yourself isn’t a bad one, but perhaps he can explain it further and point you to resources so that you can take it further. Since he didn’t do that, please allow me to point you in the right direction.

Upgrading is one way to make sure that you remain relevant to the work you are doing. As much as we are doing great in our roles, expanding yourself by having new skills will allow you to branch into different business areas. So even if your current role is made redundant, your supervisor will be able to fit you into other business areas that require help.

The good news is that you don’t need to go back to physical school. Many skills can be upgraded through online courses, and some of them are free! These courses are accredited by top universities around the world so you will be getting top-notch education with some of the best lecturers with the best course materials. Many of these online courses can be taken at your comfort pace, so you don’t need to feel that you are constantly struggling with time management or keep up with your younger peers.

Here are some free online courses that you can consider taking:
Google Project Management
Excel Skills for Business by Macquarie University
Business Writing by UC Berkeley

Besides upgrading yourself, I have always emphasised creating a valuable network in the industry that you are working in. To stay relevant with the current trends and movement in your industry, do attend networking events to mingle with the right crowd. Not only will you gain insights and knowledge, but building a strong network will also help you in future, should you need to look for another job.

I hope with the above explanation and resources you can better navigate yourself through the retrenchment period. Good luck!


Looking for career advice? Look no further, drop me an email at Kally@MiddleMe.net. Meanwhile, here are some A Word of Advice posts:
A Word of Advice: Talent Stuck in A Wrong Job
A Word of Advice: Expensive Office Theme
A Word of Advice: Living from Pay Check to Pay Check

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16 replies on “A Word of Advice: Upgrading My Skills

  1. I can understand Helen very well. After I was in my job for 14 years as Office manager in one school, may I say my dreamjob, I was in charge and ran the school very well , my job was deleted through a restructure and I was offered a job with more resonsibility in a school nearby which had merged with the shcool I was working for, or stay there with less responsibility and less money. I opted for the change of school even though I didn’t want to go to that school. The new school was double in size and totally different to work with and I was still in charge of the old school. I had suddenly 4 others to line manange and had to learn a lot additionally . I dreaded it. It was exteremely hard to start with but it worked out in the end. As I am retired now, I look back at this time in the second school as a valuable experience. I have learnt so much about people, leading and about life. It is always good to learn and upskill – well worth it if you want to stay in you job you love.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much, Ute for sharing your precious experiences with us. It’s so great to hear that you are positive even when facing challenges and you came out of it much stronger and better.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is very sound advice. The world is fast changing and workforce is drinking. New technologies replacing many people and availability of outsourced services always a constant threat. There’s a need to continually add value and add to our competency set as you’ve advices and the free resources your shared is a great place to start.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Helen, I spent the best part of forty years working in an assortment of retail/warehousing roles. Eventually I decided I was ready for a career change, and started studying records management. I was on one side of Australia and my tutor was on the other side, but distance education, studying in my own time, suited me.
    I had some trouble getting work to complement the study. Eventually though I fell into a contract role with a global accounting firm and turned an initial two-month engagement into two years. Recently, at the age of 60, I secured a full time permanent RM role with a law firm.

    Change is a challenge late in life, but it is possible and you can be successful. Look at your job with a broad perspective; maybe there’s something, a peripheral element, that you can develop. I started by filing invoices in an expanding file. I got a taste for pulling order out of chaos and it gradually developed from there.

    Good luck to you!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Well done Kally, great advice as always. I think simple things like offering to help out colleagues, supervisors and/or managers. Ask if there’s anything you can do, and if you don’t know how to do what they’re asking, get someone to show you. Putting yourself out there will get you noticed 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I can understand Helen too, Kally! It is clear that she was shocked. In fact, you grow together with the company, and this offers opportunities for further training. After all, it is for the benefit of the company. Thanks for your good advice to Helen. It is of course to be expected from a supervisor that he specifically states what he wants in the future. I wish Helen all the best! Michael
    P.S.: Some companies are currently trying to put people under pressure. But this will not pay off, because there is no substitute for loyalty, that has lasted for years.

    Liked by 1 person

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