ways to upskill

A question I am often asked is, should I be upskilling? And this question has never been more prevalent than now, as so many people are rethinking their careers. Now I am a passionate learner, I am always tempted to say yes. But the truth is, the decision to upskill is one that warrants thoughtful consideration. After all, upskilling is not always the most appropriate route for professional development. So in this blog, I’ll cover:

  • What is upskilling?
  • Things to consider about your professional development; and
  • How to upskill – 6 ways to get you started

So keep reading to find out all about upskilling and if it’s right path for you.

What is upskilling?

Upskilling is the process of gaining more advanced skills through training and education. The idea is that you build on existing knowledge to create more expertise.

It has the benefits of increased career advancement opportunities and employability, earmarking you for progression and allowing you to future-proof your career (as much as that is possible).

Upskilling is often confused with reskilling, though they are different

Reskilling refers to acquiring new skills and knowledge, different from your current abilities and job requirements.

Obviously, both upskilling and reskilling have their benefits but is important to be aware of the distinction when considering your future so you make the right choice for you and your career.

Things to consider about your professional development

I am a firm believing in self-improvement and life long learning. But when considering if you should upskill, it is important to ensure your motives are aligned with your broader objectives. Because while upskilling certainly provides opportunities for career advancement, it also has its limitations.

So ask yourself the following question to make sure your effort is directed appropriately:

1. Do you enjoy the work you do?

Yes – brilliant, forge ahead. Grow and develop your existing skills.

But if you don’t love what you’re doing now, then consider focusing your efforts on working out what would excite you rather than investing in a future that you don’t really want or feel excited about.

2. What is your desired outcome?

Is your motivation to gain a promotion within the same field that you currently work in? If so, upskilling is an excellent way to gain more expertise and increase your profile. However, if you are considering moving into a different field or profession, reskilling may be more appropriate.

3. What does the future of your industry and/or role look like?

Will it exist in 5, 10 or 15 years time? For many people, the answer is no, in which case now may be the time to reskill rather than gain additional expertise in an area that may soon become obsolete. (For more on reskilling, stay tuned for next week’s blog).

4. How transferable are my skills?

Are the existing skills you have transferable to another industry or sector? And would a more advanced knowledge help you if you were to change field?

Once you are clear on these things you can ensure your motivation aligns with your professional development plan and long-term goals.

How to upskill

There are countless ways to develop your skills through formal and informal channels.

Here are 6 ways to upskill to get you started:

  • Join an industry or professional association – This can be an excellent source of industry knowledge, training and networking, all of which is aligned to your specific industry or profession. Your involvement can vary from casual participant to enthused volunteer and organiser, depending on your interest, time and desired outcomes.
  • Take on a ‘stretch’ project or opportunity at work – Discuss the opportunity with your manager to take on a stretch project with the intention of developing your skills. Be clear on the objectives and responsibilities and be sure to ask how you can get support and what opportunities might arise in the future as a result.
  • Seek a mentor or coach – unlike a sponsor or manager, a mentor or coach’s role is specifically to help guide you and your career development. They will have insights on how to improve your skills specific to your circumstance.
  • Find and consume relevant information – Find books, podcasts, news or online tutorials on relevant topics and make time to review the material.
  • Seek internal training opportunities – Many organisations have free internal training courses. Discuss with your manager and/or Human Resources department about what you can access.
  • Pursue formal external training – This could be a short course, a diploma or a university program. Research what is available and talk to your employer to see if they’d be willing to support your training financially. Be sure to provide detail on how your upskilling will provide direct benefit to the organisation as well as your own development.

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