Best Tips To Upskill Your Career
Does your career seem stuck? Are you not moving as fast as you’d like up the career ladder? Are you lacking the skills you need to move forward at work? Two things matter most for you as you consider what steps to take in order to upskill your career:
The first is that technology is developing at an extremely fast past. That doesn’t mean that it is going too fast for you to keep up, but it does mean that you may need to hustle to catch up before you can keep up. The jobs many trained for are gone, and many industries are in decline. But the new technology is creating new employment needs and new job opportunities. As well, there are many jobs that robots can’t take over.
The second is that in a world of fast-paced technology, soft skills are almost more important than hard skills. Artificial intelligence, for example, manages so many of humanity’s repetitive tasks. But as it happens, the development of AI is naturally forcing both engineers and users to better understand one another’s (and their own) hidden needs.
Additionally, technology is changing how teams and team members interact. More and more companies are outsourcing to freelancers or hiring remote team members. Emotional intelligence, collaboration, and communication are more critical to the world economy than they’ve ever been.
How Upskilling Can Help Your Career
Upskilling will benefit both you and your employer (or your prospective employer if you’re job searching). Upskilling & Reskilling research, conducted by TalentLMS, Workable, and Training Journal, reports that:
- 91% of companies and 81% of employees say upskilling/reskilling training has boosted productivity at work.
- 80% of employees say that upskilling/reskilling training has boosted their confidence.
- 62% of employees hoped that reskilling and upskilling training would positively affect their job level and/or salary. 33% and 35%, respectively say there’s been a significant change in compensation and growth within the company.
How to Upskill Your Soft and Hard Skills to Enhance Your Career
You will need to take ownership of your own professional growth for development in both hard and soft skills, but in many cases, it’s not hard to upskill your career on your own. Here are some ways you can do that.
How to Nurture Your Soft Skills
Don’t expect the average employer to initiate training for you on the skills necessary to keep your job or to advance. Instead, take charge of your career and work on enhancing your skill set on your own.
Show Initiative: Take the initiative and approach your employer to ask for more responsibility. If you do this, you may be told that there are gaps in your experience or job performance. That is perfect, because now you can ask your manager specifically what you can do to improve. Make it known that you are available to take on more responsibility and ask for feedback on your performance.
If your manager is unresponsive or unwilling to give you more responsibility, then approach your peers. See if they need help, and offer to assist.
Gain Leadership Skills: If you work for a large company, chances are that they provide internal and external training opportunities to you for free. The purpose of this is to grow more leaders within the company.
Become familiar with “project manager” courses, such as Six Sigma certification. Many companies relish having personnel that are Six Sigma certified. Project management is frequently a role desperately needed in every industry, as these managers have the skills to oversee team members from different departments.
Participate in Teamwork and Get a Mentor: Whenever possible, cross train with peers that have the skills and experience you long for. If you’ve built good relationships with coworkers, approach the ones you admire and ask them if you can learn from them.
Sometimes, the person you most admire is a superior. Consider asking them to be your professional mentor. Before you ask them outright, buy them coffee. Approach them regularly with thoughtful questions. This will allow you to see if they seem interested in mentoring someone.
While you do want there to be chemistry, don’t let it feel like dating. You need to feel professionally challenged in your interactions with a potential mentor.
Develop Your Emotional Intelligence (EQ): Developing emotional intelligence can often feel more like “being spiritual” rather than creating a new skillset. That is because EQ is all about nurturing a deeper awareness for the emotions in yourself, and by consequence intuiting the deeper needs of yourself and other humans around you.
For some, this means getting a therapist and practicing new habits such as mindfulness meditation and yoga. For others, it means reading and creating margin for yourself to think deeply about your emotions throughout the day.
To get started, PositivePsychology.com has in-depth information to learn more about emotional intelligence and how it is assessed, along with a list of of downloadable PDFs and reliable tools you can use to increase your emotional intelligence.
Think Creatively: Schmidt and Rosenberg wrote How Google Works as a tribute to their personal journey of organizational development and culture at Google.
They coined the term “smart creative” to describe the kind of person that fuels the healthiest environment of creativity and innovation (two buzzwords that every boss loves to hear). Much of the content in the book is unique (even odd), but the underlying principles are groundbreaking.
In this day and age, it doesn’t work to “crack the whip” and expect a healthy culture. Management has become the science of curating the right environment where smart creatives want to spend their time. You should know how to nurture the right environment for those that work with you and below you.
Work on Stress Tolerance and Management: Learn how to detect burnout in yourself and in others. Contrary to popular opinion, burnout is not merely long work hours. The truth is, human beings will spend inordinate amounts of time doing the things they love without ever feeling burnout.
In addition, there are more and more employers that have done their homework on what burnout is and how to avoid it. Seek those career and growth opportunities that value team development over “results at any cost.”
How to Upskill Your Hard Skills
Also be prepared to work on your hard skills throughout your career. Industries change, jobs change, and those changes can happen quickly. Even if you have a degree, don’t expect your college education to fully train you on the skills required to build a great career.
Stay involved in your industry and those industries auxiliary to your line of work. Set goals, know the terms for hard skills in your industry, and position yourself for career success.
Sign Up for Low-Cost Educational Opportunities
Look for Free or Low-Cost Training: For example, you should check out Career One Stop for free, government-sponsored training in your area. You might also visit your local community college for free seminars relevant to your industry.
Consider Getting Certified: Check out certificate program for in-demand jobs and for blue-collar jobs. Many of them can equip you for a new career with a smaller investment and much faster than a four-year college degree. In addition, Microsoft Office certification can be a valuable addition to your resume and skill set.
Take Free Online Courses. In this digital age, some of the best training is simple to access online. Consider using Coursera, Udemy, and iTunes U for cheap or free courses relevant to your industry. If your basic computer skills and software skills aren’t up to speed, there are quick and easy ways to upgrade them.
Set Learning Goals
As you gather some of the free and low-cost training available, you should build a curriculum (learning schedule) for yourself. Look for books that can supplement classes and tutorials. Take notes on a word document and save them for future reference.
Hold yourself accountable. Your sense of accomplishment will energize you to go far in developing new, relevant skills.
As you complete goals in your training, publish your educational achievements on your LinkedIn profile. Use LinkedIn’s hard and soft skills list to expand your profile and resume.
Spend Time Networking
Career networking is anything that you do to connect with peers in your industry. If you are still learning, don’t be afraid to ask “dumb” questions. You will find that many professionals are eager to help new talent.
Consider participating in local networking groups and optional work events. Use social sites like Meetup to connect with other professionals in your area.
Explore Vocational Training
There is likely vocational training for the job you are in or the job you hope to get. For example, this site lists 24 well-paying careers that have certification programs for relatively low-cost. The benefits of vocational training are two-fold:
- These programs are run by formal schools but for shorter periods and lower tuition
- It is more practical, hands-on experience. Sometimes you can even build a good portfolio to improve your chances for advancement or hiring.
Get Formal Education
You may need formal education to move your career forward. But, before investing in a college degree – or a second one if you’ve already graduated, consider the many pitfalls in higher education. This study by Gallup notes that “only 35% of college students say they are prepared for a job, and over half of recent graduates are unemployed or underemployed… Meanwhile, as of 2017, 44 million Americans carry $1.3 trillion in student loan debt.”
Know for certain that your job merits the cost of a college degree and will return your financial investment before making the commitment of time and money.
Freelance Your New Skills
Experts predict that full-time freelancers will jump from 10%-30% of the job market in the next year. Technology, in short, has opened the door to full-time freelancing, where studies show that over 20% of American freelancers are already making six-figure incomes and the gig economy continues to expand at a fast pace.
While you are still learning, you may want to put your new skills to good use and tap into the freelance marketplace. People that hire freelancers are often willing to work with rookies in the field. It can help you gain experience for the job you want.
Or who knows? You may rock in the freelancing world and decide to stay there. Often, freelancing on the side leads to lucrative careers in full-time freelancing.