the process of learning new skills or of teaching workers new skills
We have spoken a little bit about skills here on this blog. We have spoken about transferrable skills, we have spoken about what skills to add to your CV, we have even done some deep dives on specific skills.
What we haven’t spoken about much is how to actually build these skills. That’s where upskilling comes in.
You are quite literally upgrading your skills.
Long before the pandemic, employers were recognizing the need for continuous skilling to stay ahead/on top of emerging technologies.
The usefulness of professional job skills was once 10-15 years.
Today, it’s about five years, and it’s even shorter for technical skills (software languages, technology, etc).
That means your skills need to be constantly topped up, relearned, updated, upgraded etc.
A recent survey of 951 employers found 77% are more likely to shortlist a qualified candidate who upskills regularly.
In normal words, if you keep updating your skills, you’re more likely to get hired.
Also, 96% of the 1,253 professionals said upskilling was “very important” or “important” and 35% were aware of the technology and digital changes to their job or industry.
However, there’s still time to get the jump on your competition. Only 14% of people upskill weekly, 18% monthly and 20% quarterly.
You really don’t be part of the 24% who upskill only once a year, the 20% who do so even less often or, worse yet, the 4% per cent who never upskill.
How to upgrade your skills
We live in a constantly changing world. In fact, even our kids are preparing for jobs that don’t exist yet.
We need new skills that are constantly changing to meet new expectations.
A great example of this is technology. Technology keeps changing at such an incredible rate, there is a constant need to keep your skills and knowledge sharp to be able to create new apps, build new gadgets, and more.
So, the first step is choosing which skills to learn, or upgrade.
Let’s take this step by step.
- Look at what skills you already have
- Look at what skills are going to be needed for your career/industry
- OR look at skills needed for a brand new career in a brand new industry
- What are you passionate about, and what you’re willing to invest in
- Make a plan
- Do the plan!
Think about your skills
When it comes to upskilling the first step is deciding what skills to upgrade or learn.
Have a look at the skills you already have, are there any that could do with improving, or fine-tuning?
By improving the skills you already have you are going for the easy wins that will keep your opportunities open.
Are you thinking of going up in your career? If so what skills are vital for those positions? Find them, and focus on them.
These steps may seem simple but even just writing down what you want to do will give you a good head start on what you want to pursue.
Make A Plan
We love a plan here at Morgan Jones. Keep it simple, but make sure you understand that this plan needs to be updated to make sure you’re constantly improving your skills.
This plan is for your career and for where you want to go. One of the things you have to think about is what skills you need to have.
These plans are often called fancy things like Personal Development Plans, Career Planning, or Continuous Professional Development. They’re all slightly different but all do the same thing.
Sometimes these are done completely solo and sometimes these are done with the involvement of the company.
However it happens, making a clear plan can give you focus and direction, helping you achieve more.
Ways to upskill and learn
Here’s a list of the most common ways you can learn new skills quickly, and make sure you can apply them in a practical setting.
First up is a classic: volunteering. It really is very very good, and very useful.
This is great if you’re trying to break into a brand new industry and need experience and skills.
Volunteering your time you will gain not only plenty of practical experience but also a chance to use your skills in an environment like the one you’re trying to get into.
Overall it’s a great way not only to learn new skills but also how to use them properly.
Read A Lot, Write A Lot
Ever heard the phrase “Leaders are Readers”? Yes, it’s cheesy and horrible, but there is a grain of truth in it.
You can grab lots of books in bookstores and from Amazon for pennies and they can give you the knowledge, theory, and even step by step guides to practice your new skills.
Or you can use the library, where there are plenty of textbooks available that can help.
Not only this, you can always Google your skills and find blogs and websites dedicated to providing information that can help you improve.
By reading professional resources, papers, journals, books, and more you can develop a huge wealth of knowledge.
Reading is only one half of it. To truly keep that knowledge in your head, you need to write about it.
It could be a word document on your computer or a cheap notepad and pen, but by writing things down you are much more likely to not only keep the knowledge in your head but gain a better understanding of how to apply your skills.
It can also provide the information and revision notes for you to be able to pass any technical exams as you are already practising and committing these skills to memory.
Keep an eye out for webinars, podcasts and live events
Webinars and podcasts are great. Why? Because they’re usually run by people with expertise in their fields. Look out for the podcasts or webinars that people keep reviewing as highly helpful or valuable.
Also, there’s usually a recording so you can tune in when and wherever is convenient.
Another great thing is that these experts often provide practical applications for what they are talking about. They will give you examples of how they did it and what made it happen.
You’ll be absolutely spoiled for choice on pretty much any subject you can think of.
Live events or one-off masterclass teaching does mean you do have to spend a little travel time and money, but you’ll get the double benefit of face to face teaching and meeting new people.
Some of these masterclasses even provide a certificate to prove you’ve taken on your new skill.
Make sure you remember to take a notepad and pen so you write down your newfound knowledge and skills. This is another great way of learning from the experts and building your own know-how.
Networking is great for not only making new friends, or making new business. It’s also great for learning new skills and opportunities.
Talking to experts in their fields you might be able to talk to them about what it truly takes to get where they are. I mean, who better than someone who has been there, done that, got the t-shirt?
More often than not people are happy to talk about what they’re good at, and as such you can gain a huge wealth of knowledge of practical expertise, as well as what pitfalls to avoid.
This could then lead to mentorships or a more formal arrangement, but it all starts with networking.
Ever heard the phrase “little and often”? Well, it works well with learning new skills.
OK, this is more a way of learning rather than a strategy to learn. But it’s still useful.
A lot of us are tight on time, so learn in short “micro” bursts.
Only got a 10 minute break? Watch a quick youtube video.
Commuting on the bus or the train? Read a book and make some notes. Even if it’s only 1 page.
By having these short bursts throughout the week you can learn new skills quickly as these little snippets will quickly add up.
Learning doesn’t have to be stuck in a classroom for hours on end. Sometimes it’s just learning something new quickly and then applying it.
There are lots of ways of doing this such as dedicated apps, online tutorials, instructional videos or even just reading a blog.
Keep it short, keep doing it frequently and consistently and then build up from there.
Lunch and learns
Your lunchtime is your break time, it’s a chance to rest. However, if you’re passionate about upskilling, there can be opportunities for you to attend Lunch and Learns.
Sometimes these are offered by companies or employers, or sometimes you have to search them out. However, all of them usually focus on a single topic as a deep dive.
You’ll be surprised by how much collaboration and ideas sharing takes place in these sessions.
These can be useful if you’re going for a promotion and want to make use of your break to do something different.
Master and Apprentice. Yoda and Luke. Gandalf and Frodo. Having a mentor is fantastic.
It’s a system that has worked for thousands of years for one simple reason: IT WORKS!
The dynamic of having a mentor guide you in building your skills is a great way of fast-tracking your learning. This works particularly well for training up in brand new skills as you are less likely to make the mistakes that would derail you by learning it on your own.
Pairing up with an experienced person gives you the chance to benefit from their know-how and experience is invaluable.
Ask for stretch opportunities at work
Taking on a project outside your usual job description is a great way to develop new skills. This gives you the benefit of practical experience as well as new knowledge.
Be careful though to not bite off more than you can chew. You don’t want to burn out or cause issues.
If working on a project with people from other teams, you’ll also hone important collaboration and problem-solving skills, some of the most asked for job skills.
One survey revealed 75% of professionals view on-the-job stretch opportunities as the most effective method of upskilling.
To find an opportunity, start a conversation with your boss. Often managers are the key to having your name put forward to be part of an internal project. Alternatively, be proactive and identify an area where your company could benefit from focused attention and what you could do to contribute.
Make sure you think through how working on a stretch project will impact your current workload before approaching your boss.
Stay plugged in
You can always stay online and follow industry leaders and thinkers via LinkedIn, TED Talks, YouTube feeds, Twitter and other social media.
Of the professionals surveyed, 52% read articles or professional literature to keep up-to-date while 49% attend conferences, seminars or webinars and 33% listen to relevant online content such as TED Talks and podcasts.
A further 25% view content online shared by connections, while 23% read books and seek coaching and mentorships. 16% have joined a LinkedIn Group relevant to their sector.
Don’t forget to ask mentors and the colleagues you admire for recommendations.
Join an industry or professional association
Joining or being a member of a professional association or industry group can tick a lot of the boxes for skills and career building.
They usually offer a lot of courses or resources that mean you can grow your skills usually at a discounted rate. They also ensure you meet a standard that always looks good on your CV.
Before joining an association, ask about its continuous learning program as well as networking events and even mentorship programs.
Many associations offer reduced fees for those just starting or tiers to grow through.
Relevant courses outside of the workplace
Formal courses are used as a way to acquire knowledge and skills by 47% of our respondents but there is much to consider before you embark on any study.
According to research from consulting firm Deloitte, the half-life of learned skills is falling so make sure you research any potential course for its relevancy to your industry before signing up.
Consider short courses such as specialised certificates aligned closely to developing trends in your sector. There are also a plethora of online tutorials on how to use technology and software applications too.
Check out “Moocs” – the nickname for Mass Open Online Courses. MOOCs allow you to study for free with some of the leading educational institutions in the world. Some of the top tech companies also offer courses.
While you probably won’t end up with a formal qualification, you will acquire the latest information impacting your sector.
Employer supported external study
Some companies have an established and active education and personal development policy. Don’t be afraid to ask for this as they can actually help pay and organise courses for you. Imagine that, getting paid to learn?!
Like all skill building, do your homework to find out where the skill trends are heading for your role. This will ensure the knowledge you acquire is likely to stay popular for a while and that the business can make use of them.
Also, think about courses that will build on your current skills to boost your job role or position you as a knowledge leader in your existing sector.
Your Skills – Redefined & Upgraded
It doesn’t matter if you read all of this or not (most likely not) but what you should take away from this is that there are plenty of ways you learn, adopt, and improve your skills. These will all help create a better career and better prospects for you.