Connected Career Women Series

How Employable Are You?

Gone are the days of one employer for life. Whether you like it or not, the future of work is already here - and more and more people in the workforce are confronted with shorter-term and less stable employment. We are moving towards what is called the “gig economy". So how can we survive and thrive in this new era? Beyond employment, there is employability. The prior refers to whether one has a job or not; the latter is about whether you are capable of obtaining new employment or new assignments. The prior is a snapshot, the latter is more sustainable. How can you make sure that you get new employment after your current contract ends? By working on your employability! So how can you make yourself employable? Read on and find out how.

Upskilling Starts Today

Just as you should not start networking when you need a job, you should also not start up-skilling and re-skilling when you are unemployed.

Rather than a measure of last resort, working on your skill-set should be an ongoing priority. It will help you progress in your current company as well as find new employment if the need arises.

Skills that will be helpful for any employment, and will even help you pivot to a new industry, are some of these: writing skills, public speaking skills, negotiation skills, leadership or coaching skills. These are transferrable skills. It also makes sense to invest in technical, industry-based certifications that are internationally recognized – allowing you to seize opportunities beyond the borders of your own country.

As lifelong learning will be the way of the future, it is worth investing in a course on the meta-skill of learning how to learn. We cannot stop learning and the faster we are able to adapt to or pre-empt changes in our environment, the better we will do professionally.

Employability depends less on what you already know and more on how well you can learn, apply and adapt.

Mara Swan
Build Your Network

A LinkedIn connection once told me, “Nothing happens without people.” I know this to be true.

Whether you are trying to be the most effective and productive in your current role or whether you are looking for a new challenge, you will need people.

Investing in relationships is worth the effort, because no one makes it alone.

Often networking is misunderstood and people feel it is not working, if they meet a lot of people and none of those meetings immediately convert into a sale or a hire. This is not how networking works.

You could imagine you are planting seeds. You first need to plant them under good conditions, provide them with regular water and perhaps some fertilizer. You will need to be patient and some of those seeds will grow and one day you will be able to harvest. Other seeds will perish.

Relationships are like those seeds, they need regular attention: you need to start by giving, and some will grow into mutually-beneficial relationships, and others will perish. That is how you grow a network.

Venture beyond your immediate environment to include people in other industries and from other countries, for example. Self-interest should not be the driving force. Self-interest will not allow relationships to blossom. Instead, genuine empathy for others and generosity are the driving forces behind good relationships.

My advice for folks on networking is give, give, give. You will later receive. But you are really planting these seeds. Some of them will die, and they won’t become anything. Many of them will take many, many years before they pay off for you if at all.”

Sallie Krawcheck
Build a Professional Brand

My final advice for you to become more employable is to build your personal professional brand. You are not your job title and it is important that you are much more than that. Depending on your current position and title for your self-worth and financial survival, puts you in a fragile position.

Instead, you want to be broader than your current job. Your personal professional brand should encompass your current role, but leave room for your next chapter.

It should be developed around your strengths, interests, and ambitions. Having a personal professional brand is not a question of vanity. In fact, we all have one.

Jeff Bezos has been quoted saying, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” It is what people find when they Google you. Rather than leave it up to chance, you want to steer it. If you have a strong personal professional brand, it will become a stabilizing factor throughout the ups and downs of a career. Ultimately, it will allow you the freedom of choice – choosing the next chapter you see fit, without the pressure of your immediate survival.

Your personal brand serves as your best protection against business factors you can’t control.

Dan Schawbel

So, how do you know if you are employable? You know it, if you are more than your job.

In fact, true employability is measured not by whether or not you are currently employed, but by how quickly you rebound when you lose your job. Employment is having a job, employability on the other hand, is having a career.

As a career woman, I opt for the latter. What about you?


Lucy Schalkwijk is a women’s empowerment champion, a connector and a skills development enthusiast. She is passionate about connecting and empowering women in the workplace and writes about careers, networking, women’s empowerment, and leadership.

Want to join a tribe of successful women who have your back? Contact the Career Women’s Network Kigali: info@careerwomensnetwork-kigali.com and +250783719431.

{Featured image courtesy of CIO}


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